Bulgarian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Neofit and his guest Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew jointly celebrated a liturgy on November 8 in Bulgarian capital city Sofia’s landmark Alexander Nevsky cathedral.
Bartholomew, regarded as “first among equals” among the Patriarchs of the Orthodox Christian Church, is on an official visit to Bulgaria for several days at the invitation of Neofit.
Bartholomew said that the Bulgarian people were the first to accept the message of salvation in Jesus and be baptised en masse.
He said that today and always, Jesus saves and blesses with rich gifts pious Orthodox Bulgaria and its people.
Bartholomew said that the work of Saints Cyril and Methodius among the Bulgarian people had been so deep and ineradicable that even after 500 years of Ottoman rule, the country had not lost not its identity and unity thanks to Orthodoxy, which connected the two churches.
Neofit said that for him and the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, it was a double joy, a great honour and a pleasant duty to give a fraternal welcome to Bulgaria to Bartholomew.
Those in attendance at the liturgy included Simeon Saxe-Coburg, representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church, diplomats, seminarians and numerous members of the public.
According to the official website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the title “Ecumenical Patriarch” dates to the sixth century and historically belongs to the Archbishop of Constantinople.
As Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew occupies the First Throne of the worldwide Orthodox Christian Church, presiding in historical honor and fraternal spirit as “first among equals” of all Orthodox Primates.
These include the ancient Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, as well as the more recent Patriarchates of Moscow, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Georgia. Beyond these, the Ecumenical Patriarch has the historical and theological responsibility to initiate and coordinate common activity among the Orthodox Churches of Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Albania, the Czech Lands and Slovakia, Finland, Estonia, as well as various Archdioceses and numerous Metropolitan dioceses throughout the world, such as in Europe, America and Australia.
Moreover, he is responsible for convening pan-Orthodox councils or meetings, facilitating inter-church and inter-faith dialogues, while serving as the focal point and primary spokesman for Orthodox Church unity as a whole. “Transcending national and ethnic borders, the Ecumenical Patriarch is spiritual leader to 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide,” according to the website.
(Photos: Patriarchate of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church)