Abbot of the Holy Bigorski Monastery
The Bigorski Elder and Abbot, Bishop Parthenius (Fidanovski) was born on 29th October 1970 in Bitola, in a Macedonian Orthodox family which eagerly cherished the traditional Christian values, as well as the patriotic and freedom-loving spirit. Endowed by great love of God, ever since his early childhood, he begins his spiritual path, at first as a student of the “St. Clement of Ohrid” Seminary in Dracevo, Skopje. Later, being driven by a thirst for greater spiritual knowledge, he graduates from the Orthodox Theological University in Skopje, on the topic of St. John the Baptist.
God’s Providence wanted him to get a closer and more direct insight into the Orthodox monastic experience, therefore brought him to the Gregoriou Monastery on Mount Athos, where he lived for a certain period, under the profound spiritual guidance of now the late Elder Georgios Kapsanis, the Abbot of Gregoriou. Having obtained the Elder’s blessing, the then 24 year old boy from Bitola, Zoran Fidanovski, returned to his country by the end of July 1995. So with the permission of the diocesan Bishop, the Debar-Kichevo Metropolitan Timothy, he began his monastic task to revive and continue the centuries-old tradition in the ancient Macedonian sanctuary – the Bigorski Monastery. This spiritual revival was more than necessary, because after the departure of the last monk and Abbot Fr. Spyridon in 1948, the monastic life in Bigorski had been completely gone, the divine services discontinued. The church of St John the Baptist was totally neglected and dirty, the monastic building Lower Palace was just an inappropriately half-built object, the Upper Palace was decaying, there wasn’t any proper electrical installation, nor pluming, not even the basic conditions for life. Spirituality disappeared altogether.
Bishop Parthenius was tonsured a monk by the hand of Metropolitan Timothy, on 5th August 1995, in the eve of the day dedicated to St Martyr Christine. The very next day after the tonsure, he was ordained a Hierodeacon, and the same year, 9th August, in the church of the Most Holy Mother of God Perivleptos in Ohrid, was ordained a Hieromonk too. The next year, on the Nativity of St John the Baptist, he became an Abbot, and in 1998 was presented with a cross and given the Archimandrite dignity.
The wise Providence of God, Who governs and brings all things towards the salvation of humankind, exhibited once more, on The Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, 2020 year of our Lord, His magnificent philanthropy. The ancient and breathtaking temple of the Wisdom of God, the cathedral church of Ohrid’s Archbishops, the undisputed witness of our ecclesiastic history – became the host and a monument of another heavenly event. Namely, in the course of a nationwide social and spiritual celebration, at St. Sophia church in Ohrid, on the Feast of the Holy Renowned and Supreme Apostles Peter and Paul, our beloved spiritual Father, Elder and Abbot Parthenius took upon his shoulders the cross of apostolic ministry and was ordained to the highest priestly rank – the episcopal one, with the new title Bishop of Antania. The background of his episcopal title is the ancient town Antania, which used to be an Episcopal See in the late Roman era.
The arrival of Abbot and Bishop Parthenius to the Monastery, after the long period of spiritual desolation and material decay of the Synodia, which resulted from the attitude of the previous social regime, signified the resurrection of the interrupted monastic life. Having in mind that the spiritual rebirth of every monastery begins with, above all, the revival of liturgical life, Bishop Parthenius introduced the Orthodox cycle of regular Divine services, according to the Athonite Constitution and Typikon of services. He has given particular attention to the gorgeous and festive vigils during the greater holidays, especially to the graceful and unforgettable spiritual experience of the Paschal service, which ever since 2009 has been enriched with the reception of the Holy Light. All this helped Bishop Parthenius to create good fertile soil for the rebirth of Christ in the souls of many young people, who saw the Monastery as a new hope and a way out of the absurdity of modern existence. In a short period of time, the first spiritual fruit could be seen: the Synodia began to grow rapidly. Now it consists of almost thirty brothers and is one of the biggest monastic fraternities in the Balkans. Certainly, the most precious and especial Divine gift and blessing for our Holy Synodia is the revival of the Orthodox Spiritual Eldership, which is a crown of the Christian life. Today Elder and Bishop Parthenius, beside the Bigorski Synodia, is a spiritual father of three other monasteries: the convent in Rajchica dedicated to the Great Martyr St George the Triumphant, the convent dedicated to the Annunciation of the Mother of God, called Prechista, and the one dedicated to St George in village Knezhino, Kichevo. The monastic life continued there mainly because of his efforts, and on the request of Metropolitan Timothy.
In the meantime, one could also see the results of the material revival as well. In somewhat more than two decades of continuous work, Bishop Parthenius and his brothers in Christ managed, with the help of God, not only to restore the previous glory and beauty of the Monastery, but also to increase even more the splendor of this Divine home. Fully engaging himself in the mission of restoring the previous dignity of the Bigorski sanctuary, Abbot and Bishop Parthenius continued the legacy of his renowned Abbots-predecessors. As a result of this dedication of his and ceaseless efforts, first in 2001, in the time of great insecurity and hardship, the monastery Metochion – convent dedicated to the Great Martyr George in Rajchica was fully restored and spiritually revived. Now this convent is a home and place of fit of a dozen nuns. Only two years later, together with the monastic fraternity, he engages himself in a very complex and painstaking project: a complete reconstruction and restoring of the authentic appearance of the Lower Palace – the monastic building which was destroyed in a fire in 1912. His efforts were rewarded in 2006, with the ceremonial consecration of this new gorgeous building. After this endeavor, Abbot and Bishop Parthenius eagerly dedicated himself to the new construction project. Namely, in 2009, due to some circumstances, including the great fire of the Upper Palace, a construction of a new monastic building begins, the one called the Eastern Palace. Simultaneously, the authentic reconstruction of the burned Upper Palace is also taking place, under the careful supervision of Bishop Parthenius, who does not permit any changes in the previous unique architecture of the building that was destroyed in the fire. After five years of intense work, the results are visible in the recognizable appearance of the new building, which got reconstructed on the foundation of the surviving walls. From time to time some other construction projects attract his attention – like the building of the impressive wooden church in Russian style dedicated to St Seraphim of Sarov, located in the Skete near the monastery orchard, the construction of the wonderful church in Byzantine style dedicated to the Most Holy Mother of God, in the village Rostusha, as well as the creation of the new monastery Metochion “St Cyril and St Methodius” in village Bitushe, where the Abbot, with his visionary spirit, gradually prepares a place for the spiritual education of the youngest.
But far more important than the construction ventures, are his spiritual and social activities, carried out with the same intensity in these past two decades. As an experienced and well educated spiritual leader, investing himself in this noble but very hard endeavor for the sake of others and of the fatherland, Bishop Parthenius managed to help thousands of people in Macedonia and abroad in finding comfort, peace and solution to the existential problems in this time of great spiritual crisis and general decline of moral values. Due to the spiritual enlightenment and the active pastoral and humanitarian activity of Bishop Parthenius, there are more and more families and individuals who managed to save themselves and escape the ill fate. Among these activities, the one that particularly stands out is the mission of Bishop Parthenius in helping people, mostly of the younger generation, to overcome their heavy addiction to narcotics, alcohol, gambling etc. Hundreds and hundreds of young souls, not only successfully liberated themselves from the claws of death, but also managed to rehabilitate and re-socialise so that to become useful members of our society. The care of Abbot and Bishop Parthenius for these individuals doe not stop upon their leaving the Monastery. He keeps regular contact with them and continues to assist them in all of their future achievements. Thanks to him, many of them became healthy and morally strong persons, created their own families and are still contributing to the general well-being of the society.
Bishop Parthenius, inspired by his fatherly care and love, makes provision also for those who have been prevented by their bad financial situation to continue their education. Thanks to his good contacts with the Athonite monastic community, as well as with esteemed ecclesiastic dignitaries of the Greek Church, dozens of our students have already graduated from, or are still studying at the renowned Theological Faculty within “The Aristotle University” in Thessaloniki. They all contribute now to the affirmation of our country and of the Ohrid Archbishopric, revived in the image of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, both in Greece and abroad. Also, of great importance for the promotion of our country and culture, but also of our Holy Orthodox Church in its struggle for the official recognition of its Autocephaly, are the numerous and good relations which Bishop Parthenius keeps not only with the Holy Mount of Athos, but also with the Ecumenical, the Bulgarian, the Antiochian, the Jerusalem, the Romanian, the Russian Patriarchate and other Churches. Due to these deep relations of his, the Orthodox world is already well acquainted with the history of the Macedonian ecclesiastical issue and the years-long problem with the Autocephalous status of MOC-OA.
As a great connoisseur and admirer of the Macedonian history and cultural heritage, Bishop Parthenius constantly advocates for their greater affirmation and presentation. He is one of the most merited church activists who have achieved a reintroduction of our traditional Eastern-Orthodox ecclesiastic chanting in our churches and in the educational facilities of MOC-OA. Beside that, Bishop Parthenius is also behind the organization of several public debates regarding some contemporary spiritual and social issues. He is equally involved in the publication of spiritual literature, the editing of the monastery website… He is actively engaged in the promotion of certain distinguished individuals of our national and ecclesiastical history, such as: Archimandrite Anatolius of Bigorski and Zograph, Bishop Parthenius of Zograph, Archimandrite Arsenius of Bigorski, Fr. Oventius Frchkovski etc. Was the chief initiator for the first canonizations of Saints in MOC-OA.
His sense for high aesthetic and love for beauty contributed to the enrichment of our artistic and cultural milieu. Namely, based on his initiative and with his efforts, in 2012, for the first time in the history of Macedonian music, a blend was made of the Eastern ecclesiastic chant and the Western musical philharmonic system. This resulted with two excellent spiritual concerts which took place in the Universal Hall in Skopje. The first concert, named “Easter spiritual concert”, was organized in 2012 and Bishop Parthenius dedicated it to our Mother Church – the Ohrid Archbishopric on the occasion of the 45th jubilee since the reestablishment of its Autocephaly in the image of MOC. The second concert, “Passion of Christ”, happened the next year, 2013, and marked the participation of the renowned Greek singer Nektaria Karantzi as a special guest. Bishop Parthenius dedicated this concert to the 1700th jubilee since the Edict of Milan of the Holy Emperor Constantine the Great, as well as to the 1150th jubilee of the Morava mission of the Holy Equal to Apostles Teachers and Educators Cyril and Methodius. One should stress out the fact that such successful and grandiose orchestration of the Eastern-ecclesiastic chant has never been done before in any other Orthodox country. In addition, at a request of Bishop Parthenius an orchestration was made of certain ecclesiastic chants, which enhanced the dignity and the splendor of the ceremonious Litany in Struga, that takes place a day after the monastery holiday of St. George the Triumphant (7th May). This traditional and centuries-old Litany of Struga, which only a few years before was totally forgotten and on the verge of extinction, was reinstated and revived with the initiative and effort of Bishop Parthenius and additionally enriched with some new elements, such as the orchestra, the floral epitaph with the relics of St George, brought from its convent in Rajchica etc. This revived Litany over the last years grew into an immense and gorgeous religious, but also a cultural manifestation, usually participated by thousands of guests from all around the country and abroad. Another revived tradition which owes its flourishing to the initiative and efforts of the Bigorski Abbot and his brothers and sisters, is the announcement of the Nativity of Christ, through the so called Christmas Eve procession and the singing of Christmas carols by many thousands of children all around Macedonia.
As a promoter of peace and love towards everyone, no mater of his religious, ethnical and racial determination, Bishop Parthenius turned the Bigorski Monastery and the convent in Rajchica into true centers of coexistence in the Miyak-Rekan area of our country. With his philanthropic attitude towards everybody, he managed to make the Bigorski Monastery an important factor for the stability, safety and peaceful coexistence in this area, so now this sanctuary became a spiritual shelter and a cultural site, not just for the Orthodox faithful, but also for the Macedonians of Islamic religion and for the ethnic Albanians from Macedonia, who have equally great respect for the Monastery and its Abbot.
This overall engagement of his Reverence, Bishop Parthenius, has already been noticed by numerous individuals, organizations and institutions, who by now have publicly presented him with multiple honors and rewards for his unceasing efforts. Thus Bishop Parthenius is a winner of several state honors, such as: the reward of the city of Bitola for lifetime achievement “4th November” (2011), the reward “Person of the year“, presented by the newspaper “New Macedonia” after the electronic voting, which won him the greatest number of votes (2012), the Reward for Humanitarianism, presented by the Society of Macedonian and Bosnian-Herzegovinian Friendship and Cooperation “MaB&H” and the Embassy of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Macedonia (2014); the Medal of honor “St Naum of Ohrid” presented by the Debar-Kicevo Diocese (2015); several certificates presented by the humanitarian association “Samaritan”; the rewards for the person of the year of several magazines and internet portals, the reward for permanent values – the highest reward of the newspaper “Bitolski vesnik” (2018); “European Citizen’s Prize” – the highest honorary prize of the European Parliament (2018); the “Ilinden” award from the Macedonian association “Ilinden” in Tirana (2019); Acknowledgment Plaque from the local community in Galichnik (2019); Acknowledgment Plaque from the local community in Tresonche (2019); Recognition Plaque from the Macedonian Emigration Agency (2021) and others.