Orthodox communion.27 It took the carnage of the two World Wars and their bloody impact on the Balkans to establish the full significance of the 1872 edict condemning 'ethnophyletism' as an un-Christian ideology, incompatible with the teachings and ideals of Orthodoxy.
The broader significance of the Bulgarian ecclesiastical question consisted in showing the extremes to which the conflict between Orthodoxy and nationalism could lead. Although in Macedonia, Eastern Rumelia and Thrace the ecclesiastical conflict interlocked with the lethal antagonism between Greek and Bulgarian nationalism that ravaged the lives of ordinary people in those regions, the confrontation between the ecumenical patriarchate and the exarchate was not, as some historians have suggested, identical with the conflict between two rival nationalisms, Greek and Bulgarian. The ecumenical patriarchate was not acting as an agent of Greek nationalism, which it had resisted with the same determination that it was to show in dealing with the manifestations of nationalism in the Romanian and Bulgarian churches. It is true that in the Greek and Romanian cases no major synod was convoked to condemn their unilateralism as an uncanonical path to autocephaly. This can be explained by the fact that neither of these churches nor the respective governments went to the same extremes as the protagonists of the exarchate in challenging canon-icity and violating the formalities that expressed it in the life of the Orthodox Church. The fact that the Bulgarian hierarchy and the exarchate in its early stages were acting free of any checks that a responsible national government might impose on their behaviour will explain the extremities to which nationalist zeal led them and which made their solemn condemnation inevitable. The canonical conscience of the Orthodox Church as articulated in the condemnation of 'ethnophyletism' derived from a long tradition of Christian reflection on ecclesiastical order and was determined by a corpus of ecclesiastical law that could not be disregarded without risking a serious deviation from fundamental requirements of the faith. This is what secular historians often fail to grasp, when they charge the Orthodox Church with disguising its own peculiar nationalist motivations behind appeals to canonicity. This line of criticism is only possible if one disregards the Christian principles presupposed by ecclesiastical law, principles that are indeed ecumenical in outlook, transcendental in content and orientated towards the production of a universal community of faith and atonement. The condemnation of'ethnophyletism' reminded the world of two things: that it was precisely these principles that were incompatible with nationalism and that the Orthodox Church, as a Christian institution,
27 See K.Ware andG. Ivanov, 'An historic reconciliation: the role of Exarch Stefan', Sobornost 1 (1979), 70-6.
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