Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated a festive evening on June 9 at the Patriarchal Monastery “Living Source” for the feast of St. Apostle Bartholomew (June 11), when the patriarch also celebrates his name day. The service was held earlier because of the Assumption before Pentecost.
The service was attended by Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid, accompanied by Metropolitans Peter of Prespa-Pelagonia and Timothy of Debar-Kichevo, as well as Bishops Clement of Heraclea and Parthenius of Antanya, abbot of the Bigor Monastery.
In the presence of representatives of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Archbishopric of Cyprus, Patr. Bartholomew handed it to the archbishop. Stephen patriarchal and synodal act for the official acceptance of the local church led by him in canonical and Eucharistic communion.
The first service between the two will be on Pentecost in the presence of bishops from other local Orthodox churches.
In his speech, the Patriarch said: “Your Eminence Archbishop of Ohrid, Mr. Stephen, with your esteemed entourage, esteemed representatives of the fraternal churches of Jerusalem and Cyprus, holy and God-loving brothers hierarchs, beloved children of the Lord.
Today, my brothers, on the eve of the great day of Pentecost, the long-awaited hour has come to resolve the long and painful schism in the body of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
Today here among us stands, in the venerable cathedral of our sacred patriarchal and stavropigial monastery “Life-giving source” – Balakli, our Most Reverend Brother in Christ, Ohrid Archbishop Mr. Stefan and his venerable entourage, to receive from our hands to establish ecclesial communion of their mother, the Great Church of Christ, with them, and from her and through her – with the other local holy churches of God with the connection of love, unity and Eucharistic rapprochement through mutual respect.
Today is the great joy of heaven, because the long torn garment of the Lord is renewed, whole and unharmed, with the needle of the Holy Spirit. Today, many Orthodox rejoice in the return of the Christian people to the arms of the Mother Church. Today the great Church of Constantinople joyfully exclaims: Come and see the mother rejoice in her children. Today the souls of our ancestors who died here, Athenagoras and Demetrius, rejoice in the Heavenly Church, because they have been waiting for this moment for fifty-five years.
He also noted that “the right of appeal of the Patriarch of Constantinople, to which the Archbishop of Ohrid referred in his recent letter of thanks, is not a privilege but a sacrifice and a kenosis (humility) for the salvation of believers.”
The patriarch assured the archbishop Stephen, “The mother church of Constantinople is sick, praying, suffering for a long time, waiting and hoping, counseling and seeking a solution to your church’s problem.” We understand your difficulties, dilemmas, internal considerations, changing opinions; but decisions require sacrifice and courage. We feel the joy of all of you for the development that has taken place. From today, when you have received a place and ministry in the universal body of the Church, we hope that you will be equally worthy of the favor of the Great Church of Christ to you…
We bless the people of the Most Holy Ohrid Archbishopric. We welcome the good and brotherly mood of the Holy Church of Serbia towards you. We are also waiting for the official announcement from you about the course of the dialogue between you. Finally, we present to you the patriarchal and synodal act for the establishment of church communion and we look forward to the service with you on the coming Sunday of Pentecost. May the God of peace be with you all, amen! (Rom. 15:33) “.
For his part, Archbishop Stefan thanked with the words: “The patriarchal and synodal act for our return from the suffering of loneliness is – and we will continue to ensure – the foundation on which we will build our future, always adhering to the wise advice of the Mother Church of Constantinople , which we showed by fulfilling the obedience you directed us to overcome the misunderstandings with the sister Serbian Orthodox Church, which was confirmed by the joint holy liturgies. “
Impressive is the fact that Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Stefan did not mention the “tomos” of the Serbian Patriarchate, and the messages to the Serbian Church were peaceful as a participant in overcoming the schism. The word “autocephaly” was not mentioned, nor was the controversial point about the name of the local church in northern Macedonia. The Ecumenical Patriarch addressed the Archbishop Stefan as the head of the Ohrid Archbishopric.