Yesterday, 27 December 2023, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew commemorated the feast of Saint Stephen by leading the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Bulgarian-speaking Orthodox Community in Balat, Constantinople.
This marked a significant milestone since the reconciliation of the 1945 schism between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Bulgarian nation, as it was the first time an Ecumenical Patriarch conducted a service at this Church, now under Constantinople’s spiritual and canonical jurisdiction.
During his homily, the Ecumenical Patriarch reflected on the honoured Saint and addressed the historic significance of this Patriarchal Divine Liturgy.
“The Holy Great Church of Christ tirelessly spreads the message of salvation for all God’s people, free from human biases and self-interest,” he emphasised.
The Patriarch further noted, “The Great Church of Christ acknowledges its challenges, openly addressing its problems, struggles, and disillusionments over the centuries. The past two centuries have been challenging for the Orthodox Church, influenced by social, philosophical, and political ideologies that, while seemingly positive, created issues within the Church. This includes the heresy of ‘tribalism,’ condemned by the Great Council of 1872 for contradicting the teachings of the Gospel and our revered Fathers’ sacred canons.”
“The Great Church of Christ in Constantinople faces numerous challenges, experiencing successive setbacks. Coordinating between precision and pastoral solutions is paramount,” he added. “The pastoral organisation of local Churches under the Ecumenical Patriarchate becomes a pan-Orthodox demand, involving the cooperation of the other three Eastern patriarchs.”
“The pursuit of autonomy, under the guise of easier pastoral care, has escalated, making the status of so-called Autocephaly a critical matter within Orthodoxy. Regrettably, the Great Church of Christ has been misunderstood, mistakenly perceived as incapable of resolving such issues. However, with time and the spiritual experience of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, these misconceptions are able to be corrected,” he emphasised.
“Unity is what we seek,” the Ecumenical Patriarch said, adding, that “understanding and coexistence among local Churches are now crucial, rectifying past mistakes and fostering a deeper understanding of Orthodox ecclesiastical life.”
“Today, from this sacred sanctuary, we extend an invitation to all to walk together in unity, not solely during the Eucharist but in all aspects of ecclesiastical life,” the Ecumenical Patriarch urged. “We express our readiness to engage directly with all local Orthodox Churches and contribute to resolving inter-Orthodox issues within traditional ecclesiological principles.”
Closing his homily, the Ecumenical Patriarch expressed gratitude to Bishop Tikhon of Tiberiopolis, Assistant to the Patriarch of Bulgaria, as well as to the Hierarchical Head and President of the Bulgarian-speaking Community in Constantinople, along with its members.
Following the service, the Community President, Mr. Dimitrios Yotev, warmly welcomed the Ecumenical Patriarch, and in attendance were Consul Radoslava Kafedjiska from Bulgaria, members of the Bulgarian-speaking Community of Constantinople, and esteemed pilgrims from Bulgaria.
Photos: Nikos Papachristou / Ecumenical Patriarchate