Visit of His Eminence Metropolitan Andrew of Arkalochori (Patriarchate of Constantinople)

God’s self-abasement and condescension to mankind, through the incarnation of the Son and the Word of God, is an event of incomparable existential importance for all of humanity, but also for each person individually.

The joy of that unspeakble act of God’s love towards mankind, which filled both the material and the spiritual space at the Bigorski Monastery in these holy and bright festive days, was enriched by the visit of the Most Reverend Metropolitan Andrew of Arkalochori, Castelli and Viano, accompained by the Archimandrite Philoteus and Hiermonk Andrew, who arrived with the blessing of His All Holiness the Archbishop of Constantinople the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

The esteemed guests arrived at the Monastery on Thursday in the afternoon, and according to the most authentic monastic typicon the Archbishop was welcomed with a solemn reception. In the Holy temple, our Elder and Abbot, the Bishop Parthenius of Antania, adressed His Emience Metropolitan Andrew of Arkalochori with the following words:

“Most Reverand Bishop and brother in Christ, your Eminence Metropolitan Andrew, welcome to our Holy Monastery!

I greet you with great joy and love and thank you wholeheartedly for bringing us the prayers and blessings of the All-Holy Ecumencial Patriarch Bartholomew. Although we have known you for a long time, through your deeds and achievements, as well as through your significant reseraches and beautiful texts for our most holy Church, the Ohrid Archbishopric, today we are especially glad to meet you personally. We know about your sincere love for solving our church issue, for which we express our great gratitude. We believe that from now on our friendship will be even greater and we will continue to pray together so that the long-lasting issue of our Church will very soon be finalized by granting us the Tomos for autocephaly from the First Throne, the Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Namely, following the already established practice, according to the canons and the ancient tradition, exactly the way all the other Local Churches received it, of course with the exception of the ancient Patriarchates.

Let me express once again my gratitude to you personally, as well as to the honorable Archmandrite Philoteus and Hiermonk Andrew, for this fraternal and to us very joyful visit. I wish you a nice stay in our Holy Bigorski Monastery.”

His Eminence Metropolitan Andrew of the Arkalochori Diocese of Crete, who is also an esteemed professor of ecclesiastic history at the Theological Studies of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, has done extensive research on the history of the Ohrid Archbishopric. Therefore he greeted and addressed our Elder and Abbot, the Bishop Parthenius of Antania, the present monks and faithful, emphasizing the most important historical moments of the Ohrid Archbishopric to which we should pay particular attention:

“Very dear and especially beloved brother in Christ, Bishop Parthenius of Antania,

I consider a great blessing your invitation to visit the Monastery, as well as the chance for communion in Christ with your respected person, with your brotherhood and also with all the faithful people here who have come to worship at this Holy Monastery.

The spiritual struggle you are facing is of the highest level and it is apeaced by the Comforter and the mystery of the Holy Trinity. It is a great blessing that here, in North Macedonia, there exists now a canonical Church – the Ohrid Archbishopric. Our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, whose good wishes, blessings and love I convey to the dear Metropolitan Timothey of Debar and Kicevo, to you personally, dear Abbot, to your monastic brotherhood and to all the present faithful, celebrated the Liturgy together with His Beatitude Stefan, who is titled the Archbishop of Ohrid. Our Ecumenical Patriarch offered to the Church of North Macedonia one of the most precious spiritual and civilizational gems from his Patriarchal Mitra – to be titled as the Archbishop of the Ohrid Archbishopric. The Ecumenical Patriarchate made use of the Ekliton as its canonical right, so His Beatitude Stefan Archbishop of the Ohrid Archbishopric is now in communion with all the Orthodox Churches.

The history of the Ohrid Archbishopric is divine and exceptional. Let us mention the Saints Clement and Naum. They were disciples of Saints Cyril and Methodius, whom Constantinople sent to Christianize the Slavic world. Saint Theophylact, Archbishop of Ohrid, wrote the Life of Saints Clement and Naum, who are buried in Ohrid.

We, the Orthodox Christians, since 330 AD, when Constantinople was founded by the autocrator Constantine the Great, continue and participate in the sacred spiritual heritage and tradition, through the Eucharistic unity and the canonical order, which is guarded by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as the center of the Orthodox world, through constant prayers.

And we expect “Glory to God in heavens and peace on Earth” to prevail in the tempted Ukrainian country as well.

Coming from Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, to your Holy Bigorski Monastery, I saw many mosques on the way. In this 21st century, we are called to live with love, reconciliation, peace and mutual respect of the cultural identity and towards one another.

And I wonder: the mosques I saw, as the Muslims in the Balkans, aren’t they also a continuation of the new reality, that was formed in Constantinople, when, after the painful and sorrow caused by the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Muslim Sultan took over there? Therefore, let’s find the pace of peace, coexistence and reconciliation, within the framework of respecting and preserving the cultural identity and religious consciousness of each of us. Let’s also not forget the Jews who lived in the region, and who settled in Israel after the establishment of the Israeli state.

Brother Parthenius, Bishop of Antania, here at the Monastery I feel as if on the Holy Mount Athos, where you lived for some time, under the spiritual guidance of the blessed departed Abbot of the Holy Gregoriou Monastery, the forever mentioned Elder Georgios Kapsanis. The Orthodox tradition is common to all of us, regardless of the borders of the state and homeland in which we live.

We are called to preserve and continue this Faith of ours in Christ, just like, by the grace of God, you, holy brothers, are doing this, as an example.

With these thoughts, once again I would like to express my heartfelt joy for my visit today to the Holy Monastery of the Venerable Forerunner and convey my heartfelt wishes, prayers and love from our All-Holy Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Ohrid Archbishopric and to its Archbishop, His Beatitude Stefan”.

His Eminence the Metropolitan Andrew of Arkalochori accompanied by the Archimandrite Philoteus and Hiermonk Andrew, stayed at our Holy Monastery for a few days. On Friday the 13th of January 2023, they were received by our dear and respected Bishop, His Eminence the Metropolitan Timothy at the Metropolis of Debar and Kichevo residence. During their visit in Ohrid our guests had the oportunity to visit the most sacred churches there and worship many Holy Relics.