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Move echoes political reconciliation with a country many Bulgarians see as their little brother.13 April 2018
The Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew issued a strongly worded rebuke to the Bulgarian church Wednesday after it agreed to stand as the “mother church” of the unrecognized Macedonian branch of Orthodoxy.
“The action of the sister church of Bulgaria was wrong. It complicates matters. The mother church of all Balkan nations is that of Constantinople,” Bartholomew said, according to Greece’s Ekathimerini.
Improving ties between the Macedonian and Bulgarian churches echo better relations at the political level as well since a new government took power in Skopje last year. Its close historic and linguistic links to Bulgaria have sometimes been uncomfortable for the smaller neighbor, which is also embroiled in a long-running dispute with Greece over its official name.
In a landmark treaty last year, Bulgaria committed itself to backing the former Yugoslav republic’s bids to join the European Union and NATO, but Athens has blocked its NATO path because of the name dispute.
In November, Bulgaria’s Orthodox hierarchy reacted favorably when the Macedonian church asked it to become its symbolic “mother church,” Reuters reported.
The Bulgarian church had a “sacred duty” to take all necessary steps to bring recognition to its Macedonian counterpart, the church said in a statement.
The Macedonian Orthodox Church has never been recognized by the Orthodox mainstream since it broke away from the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1967, The Sofia Globe writes.
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