Bulgarian Orthodox Church Patriarch: We must accept the outstretched hand of the Macedonian church

Bulgarian Orthodox Church Patriarch Neofit, speaking ahead of a November 27 meeting of the Holy Synod scheduled to decide whether to accept a request to become the mother church of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, said: “We must accept the outstretched hand of Macedonia”.

The Holy Synod, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s governing body, is to consider a letter from the Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric sent on November 9 asking to be recognised as an autocephalous church and for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to be its mother church.

Neofit, answering questions from the media on arrival at the Holy Synod’s headquarters in Sofia, said that a decision on the Macedonian Orthodox Church had been delayed for many years because it was complicated and had to be very carefully considered.

“The Macedonians are our brothers and accepting the outstretched hand of the Macedonian Orthodox Church is the least we can do,” Patriarch Neofit said.

The overture from the church in the neighbouring country comes amid a warming in official relations between Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav republic. In August 2017, a bilateral treaty on good neighbourly relations was signed between the two countries, the culmination of many years of effort to achieve this, and in November 2017, the two countries’ governments held a joint sitting, a first for them and which saw the signing of nine agreements in various areas of governance.

Outside the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod building, about 100 campaigners in favour of the church accepting the Macedonian church’s request held a silent vigil.

The Metropolitan of Skopje and Archbishop of Ohrid, Stefan was invited to attend the inauguration of Bulgarian Patriarch Neofit in February 2013, although he did not participate in the general worship. His presence was in the general atmosphere of the desire for good relations between the two churches, even though they lacked eucharistic fellowship at official level.

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