The External Exarchate

In 1878, after the liberation of the main Bulgarian lands from Ottoman occupation, the pastoral jurisdiction of the Bulgarian Exarchate covered three distinct political entities: the Principality of Bulgaria under the suzerainty of the Sultan, Eastern Rumelia (an autonomous region under direct Ottoman military and political rule until 1885), and Macedonia and the Adrianople region of Thrace that remained within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. Exarch Joseph believed that the episcopal seat of the exarchate had to remain in the capital city of Constantinople, since about a million and a half Bulgarians still lived in the Ottoman Empire. In order to preserve the integrity of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Bulgarian Exarchate, the Constituent National Assembly, which met in Turnovo in 1879, formulated and adopted Article 39 of the Constitution of the Principality of Bulgaria. According to this, so far as the Church was concerned, the principality was 'an integral part of the Bulgarian pastoral area' and would be governed by its supreme spiritual authority regardless of its geographical location. In that way two separate exarchal jurisdictions were created: an internal and an external one - at least from the perspective of the Bulgarian population of the principality. In principle, they were the constituent parts of an organic whole but, de facto, had different forms of government developed in different ways and with different objectives, while pursuing the same overall strategic goal: the consolidation of the Bulgarian nation. The external exarchate was funded by the Treasury of the Bulgarian Principality. Money was allocated on an annual basis for the maintenance of the exarch, the exarchal administration in Constantinople, as well as the teachers and clergy employed by the exarchate.

Exarch Joseph believed that his mission was to unite all Bulgarians within and without the borders of the principality, and particularly to gain rights for the Church in Macedonia, where between 1.2 and 1.5 million Bulgarians lived. The ideal of the Bulgarian spiritual leader and his 'sublime duty' to be a tower of strength to the Bulgarian national feeling and to unite all Bulgarian sees in the fold of the Exarchate had largely come to fruition. Before the outbreak of the Balkan wars in 1912, the exarchate had seven dioceses under its jurisdiction headed by metropolitans, as well as eight in Macedonia and one for the region of Adrianople governed by 'vicars of the Exarch', namely: Kostour, Lerin (Muglen), Voden, Salonika, Polena (Koukoush), Seres, Melnik, Drama and Adrianople. This vast pastoral area included 1,600 parish churches and chapels, 73 monasteries and 1,310 clergy, whereas in the Principality of Bulgaria there were 1,987 churches, 3,101 chapels, 104 monasteries and 1,992 clergy. Besides, the exarchate managed to open and maintain in Macedonia and the Adrianople region of Thrace 1,3 73 Bulgarian schools, including 13 high and 87 junior high schools with a total of 2,266 teachers and 78,854 students. Of all the teachers only 19 were not born in European Turkey. It is interesting to note that the Statutes of the Exarchate adopted in 1871, which provided the basis for the operation of the Bulgarian Church, had not been approved by the Sublime Porte. A reply - either positive or otherwise - was never received. Thanks to Joseph's constant efforts, the exarchate published its own newspaper for 22 years, 'a paper political, scientific, literary and spiritual'. The first issue of Novini (renamed Vesti in 1898) came out on 2 7 September 1890 and the last one on 9 October 1912. Because of its criticism of the Turkish government the paper was suspended on several occasions, but was finally replaced by another one entitled Glas.

The exarch built the magnificent iron church of St Stephan in Constantinople, which was solemnly consecrated on 8 September 1898. On his insistence the Adrianople school for priests was moved to Constantinople in 1891, and it gradually grew into a fully-fledged six-form seminary. In 1897 it acquired its own premises and extensive grounds in the Constantinople district of Sisli and evolved into a first-class theological academy. In the autumn of 1896 the construction of a Bulgarian hospital began, also in Sisli. It was completed and consecrated on 25 April 1902. The central administration of the exarchate occupied a large four-storey building in Ortakoy until the spring of 1907, when it moved to a magnificent house with a vast garden in Sisli. Still on the initiative of Exarch Joseph in 1912 a large plot was purchased in the district of Ferikoy and used for a dedicated Bulgarian cemetery.

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