Info

convoke a major synod of Orthodox patriarchs in order to consider the question. The synod met in Constantinople and its proceedings lasted from 29 August to 17 September 1872. It was presided over by the ecumenical patriarch Anthimos VI, with the patriarchs Sophronios of Alexandria and Hierotheos of Antioch and Archbishop Sophronios of Cyprus and twenty-four prelates of the church of Constantinople participating. The synod pronounced the Bulgarian exarchate schismatic and it defrocked the leaders of the movement among Bulgarian bishops. The Bulgarian claims were rejected as lacking a canonical basis, in that they demanded an independent church of their own not on account of political independence (Bulgaria still being an Ottoman province) but on account of ethnic and national particularity. This the synod described as 'ethnophyletism' and condemned as a heresy.24

Despite repeated attempts to resolve the problem the Bulgarian schism survived until 1945.25 Although Bulgaria became an autonomous principality in 1878 and an independent kingdom in 1908, its church remained outside the communion of Orthodox churches because nationalist passions had run so high that no one was prepared to go through the procedural formalities required for the accession to autocephaly. Passions between proponents ofthe patriarchate or the exarchate, between Greeks and Bulgarians, led to serious conflicts in Macedonia and Thrace, in Eastern Rumelia, and in Constantinople itself. In the early twentieth century, with the flare-up of the 'Macedonian Question' (1903-08), blood was spilt over the control both of shrines of Orthodox worship and of the consciences of the faithful. All this gained Orthodoxy its identification with nationalism; and Balkan politics its grim reputation. What was at stake in the struggle was power and territory, not religion, and the stakes were set by the modern states that were using the churches to fight out their own conflicts.26

The schism was revoked in just over a month, once the newly elected Exarch Stephen wrote on 21 January 1945 to Constantinople asking Patriarch Benjamin to forgive and rescind the schismatic status imposed on the Bulgarian Church. On 25 February 1945 Bulgaria was welcomed back into the

24 Metropolitan of Sardis Maximos Christopoulos, The oecumenical patriarchate in the Orthodox Church (Thessalonike: Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies, 1976), 303-9. The pertinent official documents are collected by M. Gedeon (ed.), "Eyypa<pa naTpiap-XiKa Kai auvoSiKa nspi too BouAyapiKoO ^rTV^aTos (1852-1873) (Constantinople: Patriarchal Press, 1908).

25 E. Kophos, 'Attempts at mending the Greek-Bulgarian ecclesiastical schism (1875-1902)', Balkan Studies 25 (1984), 1-29.

26 P. M. Kitromilides, 'Imagined communities and the origins of the national question in the Balkans', European History Quarterly 19 (1989), esp. 177-85.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment