Constantinople, the City of the Mother of God, the eye of the world, the capital of the Roman civilization, the New Rome, which watered the whole universe with the Divine teaching and the saving dogmas and enlightened the world with wisdom higher and earthly, does not cease to shine even today with the evangelical and spiritual light, through the Primate Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate. From its seat in Phanar, it continues to shine like a true lantern for the whole Orthodox body.
It is precisely from it, from the holy Constantinople’s Patriarchate, headed by the wise Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness, the Archbishop of New Rome Mr. Bartholomew, that our glorious Ohrid Archbishopric was blessed today with the blessing of unity with the fullness of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
<pNamely, in the afternoon in the ancient and holy patriarchal, stauropegic Monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos, dedicated to her Life-giving Spring “Balaklya”, a Vespers service was held on the occasion of the memory of the Holy Apostles Bartholomew and Barnabas and the feast of the icon of the Mother of God “It is truly meet”. At the same time, on this day, His Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Mr. Bartholomew celebrates his name day. The Vespers service was celebrated by Archimandrite Mr. Agathangelos, and by the many present guests, church dignitaries, public figures and faithful, who came to pay tribute to the Patriarch Mr. Bartholomew. Among them were our Archbishop, His Beatitude Mr. Stephen, also the Prespa-Pelagonian Metropolitan Mr. Petar and the Debar-Kichevo Metropolitan Mr. Timotej, as well as the Heracleian bishop Mr. Kliment and our Elder, Mr. Parthenius of Antania.
At the end of the Vespers service, the Ecumenical Patriarch Mr. Bartholomew solemnly presented our Archbishop Mr. Stephen with the Patriarchal and Synodal Act for the reception of the Ohrid Archbishopric into liturgical and canonical unity, since four years ago our Synod submitted an appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as the Primate Mother Church in Orthodoxy.
At this solemn celebration, the Ecumenical Patriarch Mr. Bartholomew, in his holy and appropriate speech, pointed out:
Most Holy Archbishop of Ohrid, Mr. Stephen, with your honourable company,
Venerable representatives of the Local Churches of Jerusalem and Cyprus,
Holy and God-loving brothers hierarchs,
Your Excellency Mr. Minister,
Honourable Archons officials of the Mother Church,
Children in the Lord beloved,
…Today, my brothers, when fulfilment of the great day of Pentecost is approaching, the long-awaited and the much-desired hour has come for the solving of a long and painful schism in the Body of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Today, among us here, in the venerable and all-seen Catholicon of our holy, patriarchal and stauropegic Monastery of the Life-giving Spring Balaklya, is our Most Holy brother in Christ, the Archbishop of Ohrid Mr. Stephen and his honourable company. They are here to receive from our hands the Patriarchal and Synodal Act of restoration of the church communion with their Mother, the Great Church of Christ, and through it and by it, with the other Local Churches of God, through the bond of love, unity and the Eucharistic rapprochement through mutual respect.
Today there is great joy in heaven, because the long-torn robe of our Lord is renewed, whole and intact, sown with the needle of the Holy Spirit.
Today the multitudes of the Orthodox rejoice for the return of the Christ-bearing people in the embrace of the Mother Church.
Today the Constantinople Great Church of Christ proclaims joyfully: – Come and see the Mother who rejoices for her children.
Today the souls of our predecessors here, the ever-commemorated Athenagoras and Dimitrios, rejoice, because they enjoy in the Church of Heaven this moment, which they have been waiting for fifty-five years.
Today we are convinced of the accuracy of our faith, because the value of the church dyarchy and the indissoluble connection between its Oros and Canons is most clearly shown.
Our responsibility for Ecliton, which you, Holy Archbishop of Ohrid, reminded us of in your recent letter of gratitude to your Mother Church, signed by all the honourable Hierarchs around you, is not a privilege, but a sacrifice and exhaustion, for the salvation of the faithful.
The responsibility for Ecliton, as determined at the aforementioned Fourth Ecumenical Council, and confirmed by the other Ecumenical Councils, but, most importantly, as interpreted, used and sanctified by the Church over one and a half millennia, without any disagreement or misinterpretation, is not an empty letter and a primacy of honour, as some uneducated and deluded try to claim lately.
The responsibility for Ecliton for the Constantinople Primate is his daily participation in the cross bearing sacrifice of our Lord and in the joy of His Resurrection.
The responsibility for Ecliton of the Constantinople Patriarch throughout the centuries has supported the Orthodox Body and through it preserved the unity and accuracy of the faith. In both favourable and unfortunate historical times, that constant fact kept the Eastern Church of Christ moving and from it and only through this constant sacred-canonical security, which is not negotiable, the present intra-Orthodox reality has been formed. If Orthodox unity is interpreted through the prism of social and political patterns and is considered a commonwealth and federation, then we have fallen away from the truth.
We understand your difficulties, the arisen dilemmas, the internal considerations, the changeable different opinions; but the decisions require sacrifice and courage. Thus, we feel the joy of all of you for the achieved progress. From today on, we hope that when you receive a position and service in the all-holy Body of the Church, you will prove equally worthy of the benevolence of the Great Church of Christ towards you.
With these many and good hopes we crown you. We bless the People of the Most Holy Archbishopric of Ohrid. We greet the visible, good and brotherly disposition of the Most Holy Church of Serbia towards you. We expect an official notification from you about the progress of the dialogue between you. Finally, we present you with the restorative for the church communion Patriarchal and Synodal Act and we anticipate the co-service with you on the upcoming Sunday of Pentecost, “and may the God of peace be with you all, amen.” (Rom. 15:33).
His Beatitude, the Archbishop Mr. Stefan, in his address to the Ecumenical Patriarch, among other things, said:
All-Holy and Divine Archbishop of Constantinople, of New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, Mr. Bartholomew,
With joyful hearts and filled with admiration we came to the Imperial City of Constantine from our ancient Ohrid, which, in its glorious years, had 365 altars, as many as the days of the year.
We came to you, we believe the time has come, the time in which you heard the cry of our heart and felt the longing of our souls! We came to you and we are very happy because of that. We came to express our longing for Christ, whom, as Orthodox Christians, we have, and to express the respect, honour and gratitude before your throne – to proclaim loudly, here, under the dome of the Constantinopolitan Church, before the all-holy Ecumenical throne, our love for the whole Universe.
Therefore, standing today before you and with the privilege to stand with you, we came to tell you a heartfelt thank you! Behold, on this very blessed evening, which contains in itself many graceful events: the feast of the Apostles Bartholomew and Barnabas and the Council of the first Athonite icon “It is truly meet”. Also, this stavropegion in which we are right now and the living water born from the Life-giving Spring. The reposed in the graves and we, the dead who have risen; the ecliton that we have sent to you and through the justification of which you have accepted us in communion with you and with the entire Orthodox world. Finally, you, the Archbishop of Constantinople, your privileges and your heart full of love.
The Patriarchal and Synodal Act for our return from the suffering in isolation is a good foundation and we will make sure it remains the basis on which we will build our future, always adhering to the wise advice of the Mother Church of Constantinople. This we have demonstrated also by fulfilling the obedience that you have directed us to – overcoming the misunderstandings with the sisterly Orthodox Church of Serbia, which was confirmed by the joint holy liturgies.
However, May 9th will always remain for us a day of spiritual and national commemoration, a day of benefaction, a day of honour and reminiscence – a spiritual and national feast.
Many years to you, Your Holiness! Your children from the Holy Archbishopric of Ohrid – the hierarchs, the clergy and the people, headed by my humble self, bow their knees before you as a sign of gratitude, appreciation and respect, wishing you that our Most Holy Lady grant you many more years at the helm of the First-Throned Constantinople Church and of the City. Then the people bearing Christ’s name may rejoice and we could exclaim together with them: “Such a hierarch we needed!” Amen!
Many years to you, Most Holy Father!
Then, His Beatitude the Archbishop Mr. Stefan, in a sign of gratitude, served a Trisagion before the tomb of the blessed departed Patriarch Dimitrios, for all the departed Constantinopolitan shepherds buried in the same cemetery.