Teodosij: Renewal of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, 1891!

This is a letter written by Teodosij who was a Metropolitan in the Exarchate church in Skopje. He wanted a Macedonian Church in which the language to be used should have been Macedonian.

Please read the letter:




Taken from Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770-1945) edited by Balázs Trencsényi, Michal Kopeček, page 191-193.

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22nd June 1891
To His Grace Dionysius,
Sofia Skopje, 22nd June 1891. My dearest brother in Jesus Christ, Mysterious is Gods providence and even more mysterious are His ways. Jesus Christ preached love amongst the people and went to the Cross for it, while we, the people, in the name of that Christв’s love and with His most sacred symbol – the Cross, spread extreme hatred among the people and oppress them both spiritually and nationally, persuading them that we are doing them good. Thus our Holy Exarchate headed by His Holiness Exarch Joseph I does everything possible to persuade the wretched Macedonian people that it has good intentions, that it cares for their present and future and that it wants to draw them out of the darkness of national unawareness and create holy Bulgarians of them.But I would not have to persuade you too long, my dearest brother in Christ, that our Holy Exarchate, with its religious and educational activity here, in Macedonia, in fact carries out a most miserable task, it deprives a people of its name and replaces it with another name, it deprives them of their mother tongue and replaces it with another, alien one, in order to allow its government and its Bulgarian masters to extend their commerce to foreign territories, too. And what else would you call this, my dear brother, other than a new slavery, even more, terrible than the Turkish one? The Turks take the property and the I lives of the people, but do not encroach upon their spirit. They destroy the body but respect the soul. And our Holy Exarchate kills the later, the perpetual. Is this a brotherly and a Christian attitude?

I have written this to you, so that you would not be amazed by my previous letter in which I stated my opinion that we clergyrnen, Macedonians in origin, should unite and urge our people to awaken, throw off foreign authority, throw off even the Patriarchate and the Exarchate, and be spiritually unified under the wing of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, their only true Mother Church. Is it not high time to put an end to the national movements of a single people among which some recognize the Patriarchate, some the Exarchate and some even bow to Mohammed? Is it not high time to put an end to hatred between
blood brothers? And how could this be achieved if not by way of our own national Church, by way of the Archbishopric of Ohrid? I shall be sincere, my dear brother in Christ, and shall openly declare to you: we, the Macedonians, do not suffer as much by the Turks, long live our Padishah, as by the Greeks, the Bulgarians and the Serbs, who have set upon us like vultures upon a carcass in this tortured land and want to split it up. (“And they parted Your garments, Jesus”).

Having said all this to you, I believe you will understand me. I have set off to restore the Archbishopric of Ohrid and there is no way back. I am not sure I shall be able to succeed, because much has been done by our “friends” for us to come to the present predicament. But it is time to start sowing. Some seed is going to fall upon stone, some I will be pecked by hens, but some will find fertile soil and grow. Every beginning is difficult and every great cause requires sacrifices. It God commands, let me be the first victim, but let it be beneficial for my people.

I have had an apportunity to take some concrete steps these days. You know that the Turks would never agree with us to establish a new Church. Yet, on the other hand, they do not like the Bulgarian either. I had the opportunity here to talk to the Vali extensively and he promised to help me with the Porte, if we placed our new Church under the patronage of another recognized Church in the Empire. Of course, my dear brother, he asks to be paid for his favour, but I cannot rely upon the local wealthy men, and what can I do alone, being so poor? I set aside two hundred lira from my subsidy and counted them out to him. Now I intend to find out how the Constantinople Patriarch will react to my plan. I met the local Greek consul in the vicinity of the town, in a bath. I expounded my view to him. I said that all the Macedonian eparchies were ready to renounce the Exarchate and recognize the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate, if we, the Macedonians, were granted the benefit of restoring our Archbishopric of Ohrid, which was at one time abolished by the powerful Patriarch Samoil III, the Hancer, with the help of the Supreme Devlet. We were ready to recognize the Patriarchate as a Universal Throne and obey it in everything as all the other Orthodox Churches obey it, but that it should not have the right to interfere in our affairs and should register the Archbishopric of Ohrid in the Codex of Autocephalous Churches, equal to the others, as it was in the past. But, Graeca fides, nulla fides”The Greek faith, no faith at all.”, and so the consul did not give me any kind of open answer, but only said he would inform his government in Athens and it should decide. He did not forget to remaind me that the local Greek Metropolitan, Paissi, should not know anything, because he would refuse to leave Skopje. As far as I was concerned, I said, he might as well refuse to leave Skopje if he were willing to recognize the Archbishopric of Ohrid (and why should he
not when he speaks our language well and is Macedonian in origin on his mother’s side?). Besides, he now has between two hundred and three hundred families in the town, and then (if he recognized it – editor’s note), he would become a Metropolitan of every Christian soul and his eparchy would be ten times larger. The consul answered nothing to this, either, but told me again I should not talk to Paissi.

I did not trust the consul and did not want to waste any time. l arranged through Tomo Janakiev a meeting with Paissi and told him my plan about the Archbishopric of Ohrid. He first started disagreeing, but as he is avid for money like any Greek, when I told him we would leave him in Skopje as a Metropolitan of the whole population, he became meek and promised personally to write to the Patriarch, and if he agreed, that I could go to Constantinople and talk to him personally about the problem. I also told him we had people worthy of becoming metropolitans for the majority of the eparchies, and where
we did not have any such, we would accept Greek bishops, too, as long as they knew our language, i.e. Macedonian. I had to make this, concession, since you know yourself that it is better to take Greek bishops who speak our language than Bulgarian-converted Macedonians who still cause us troubles. As far as the Greek bishops are concerned, as each of them vacates his post we shall replace them with our men. In addition the Patriarchate will sooner agree to this than our immediately turning our backs on it.

For the time being I do not know in what this business resulted, since I still have no answer. But there is one thing that does not make me happy. The Greek government acted in a very dishonourable way, as I might have expected. Wishing to put a dagger to my throat and exert pressure on me and compel me to recognize the Patriarchate unconditionally, it engaged the Greek associations and, as you already know, a huge number of Greek newspapers published the news that I admitted to being a schismatic and repented, imploring the Patriarch to accept me again into the bosom of the Holy Orthodox Church, and that I would pass with the whole of my flock from Macedonia under his jurisdiction. In fact this false news was intended
to upset the Exarchate and the Exarch; I should have been called to account and, having no other solution, I would have agreed to the Patriarchate dictating its conditions to me. You may be wondering why I have not denied the news through the press. I did not want to do that for several reasons. First of all, the articles of the Greek newspapers aroused from sleep our sleeping champions. During a period of 6 days I received around 180 letters from all the regions of Macedonia and from our people in Bulgaria, in which they asked what was true in the newspapers. I answered all of them that it was a lie, but I also mentioned the possibility for the restoration of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, if they believed it would be all right. Here I have about ten letters in which my idea is welcomed. I send one of them, from the community of Ohrid, to you so that you can personally see with what admiration they speak about the seat of SS. Clement and Naum, about the Archbishopric of Ohrid.

I did not deny the news also because I wanted the Great Powers to be intrigued by our question, especially Russia. And actually, in a few days several consuls visited me and all of them asked me if I really intended to bow to the Patriarch. I told them, too, that the news was an invention, but that if they were interested in my opinion and the opinion of the Macedonian people, then we could consider the future of this part of the Balkans. Then I described to them my plan for the restoration of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, and they promised to inform their governments on this.

And finally, I wanted Exarch Joseph to be acquainted, too, with my view. I immediately received an extensive letter from him in which he sharply reprimanded me because of my silence concerning such news, I replied that I could not forbid the newspapers to write, particularly because I had my hands tied. I wrote him that he believed more the various pamphlets and spies who attacked me, than he did me, his metropolitan. Then I let him know that his policy towards Macedonian was not very acceptable for the people and that he should not be surprised if the people renounced the Exarchate and demanded the restoration of the Archbishopric of Ohrid.

That is how matters stand for the time being, my dearest brother in Christ. When I receive the official answer from the Patriarchat shall write you again. But you must be ready in any case to stand at the head of the Nevrokop eparchy. Keep in touch with Kozma and tell him that they have already been collecting signatures for him. And now I do not know what else to write you. I wish you well and send you sincere kisses in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Your humble and unworthy brother, who prays for you.

Theodosius of Skopje
Source: The letter is kept in the Central historic Archive in Sofia, 176, op1, arh unit 595, l5-42; – published in Razgledi, X/8 (1968), str 996-1000

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Theodosius, the metropolitan of Skopje, to Pope Leo XIII4th December 1891To the Holy Father, Pope Leo XIII RomeI, the undersigned Metropolitan of Skopje, Theodosius, by Gods Mercy head of the Skopje eparchy, am submitting this request both in my name and in the name of the whole Orthodox flock of Macedonia, with which we are begging His Holiness to accept us under the wing of the Roman Catholic Church, after he has restored the ancient Archbishopric of Ohrid, unlawfully abolished by Sutlan Mustapha III in 1767, and put it in canonical unity with the Roman Catholic Church. Our desire springs from the historical right of the Orthodox Macedonian people to be freed from the jurisdiction of foreign Churches – the Bulgarian Exarchate and Constantinople Patriarchate – and be united in its own Orthodox Church, acquiring all the characteristic features of a people who have a right to independent spiritual and cultural life and education.Your Holiness, please have in mind the specific traits of the Orthodox religion, which the Orthodox people will never renounce; they are: independence as regards faith, the church services and the priests’ attire.I recommend myself to Your prayers and humbly bow to You, Your brother in Jesus Christ, who prays for You,

4th December 1891 Skopje

Theodosius, Metropolitan of Skopje

Bishop Augusto Bonetti on the talks with Theodosius, the Metropolitan of Skopje 4th December 1891SkopjeYour Eminence,After a tiring journey indeed I arrived in Skopje and stayed in the Bishop’s residence, in which two Franciscans only had been living, satisfying the religious needs of the few believers. Since you had recommended to me to get into contact with the local Consul of Austria-Hungary, Mr Schmucker, I did not even wait to have a rest, but sent Father Alois to him. The Consul was kind enough to visit me immediately in the residence. In our talk which lasted about two hours he informed me about the real situation concerning the conflict of the local metropolitan, Theodosius, with his immediate superior, the Bulgarian Exarch Joseph, and about his (Theodosius’ – editorв’s note) desire to take to the true path by acknowledging His Holiness (the Pope – editorв’s note) as supreme authority. The Consul gave me precise information on Metropolitan Theodosius, describing him as a man enthusiastic over a certain idea about the restoration of an old Church, abolished a long time ago by the local Turkish authorities and the Greek Patriarchate, with the sole aim of separating the people of Macedonia from those of Bulgaria, as a distinct people in the Balkans. The Consul indicated that Metropolitan Theodosius was in a very difficult position, persecuted for his nationalist activity not only by the Bulgarian Exarch but also by the Greek Patriarchate. The three Balkan governments, those of Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia, also stood against him. He believed that the Metropolitan was not able to choose in such a situation, since he has burned all his bridges and that he could make concessions in his demands.Yesterday, 3rd December, with the help of Consul Schmucker, I had a meeting with Metropolitan Theodosius in his residence, in a very modest building near the local river Vardar. We arrived around 8 o’clock in the morning and the Consul and I had to wait for our host for half an hour owing to his morning prayer he performs every day. Our meeting was extremely cordial. Perhaps the Holy Spirit was present there for a meeting between two prelates to take place after so many years after the departure of the Eastern Church from the true path of God.Having offered us coffee and some sweet preserves (according to the local customs), Metropolitan Theodosius immediately passed onto the problem. He first addressed Consul Schmucker and asked him whether he had had the honour of speaking to the representative of His Holiness. When the latter confirmed this with a nod of his head, he addressed me cordially with approximately the following words: “I believe that my esteemed friend, Mr Schmucker, has informed your Grace about the desire expressed by this to seek for us and for the whole flock of Macedonia the patronage of His Holiness, the Pope, for the restoration of the ancient Archbishopric of Ohrid, which was unlawfully abolished about 120 years ago. The desire of my people is to be freed from spiritual subjection to the Bulgarian Exarchate and the Constantinople Patriarchate and to have a national Church of their own.”

I attentively listened to the Metropolitan and attentively answered him that I had been sent by my leaders to hear his desires and forward them. I indicated that all the decisions would lie with His Holiness. After my statement Metropolitan Theodosius seemed to subвside a little. He seemed to have believed that matters would be settled with me, without delay, since, as I have already said, according to the comments of Consul Schmucker, he had burned all his bridges. However, he proved not to be too inclined towards concessions, which is a common chracteristic of all Eastern prelates as far as obstinacy is concerned. He produced a paper from his desk and started reading certain conditions of transfer to union with our Holy Church. Mr. Schmucker was so kind as to translate them for me into German, word by word. The conditions can be summarized mainly as follows: to restore the Archbishopric of Ohrid, at the head of which will be he, Theodosius; the clergy -both high and low – should be Macedonian, appointed by him; the borders of the Archbishopric should conform to the borders of the province of Macedonia; the Catholic missionaries in Macedonia should not interfere in the internal matters of the Archbishopric; the rites of the church service, the attire of the clergy, etc., should not be changed, and so on.

After I had attentively listened to the Metropolitan, I said I would forward his demands to Rome, so that His Holiness could decide. However, I did make some remarks as a result of his unfamiliarity with the rules and dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church. The obligations of such an Archbishopric to His Holiness were not present in his exposition; then there was no mention of what was to happen to the Uniate Bishopic in Macedonia; and what he intended to do with our educational and charity institutions in Macedonia. The Metropolitan asked me to elaborate more fully all my remarks. He then sat down and composed a new text of the conditions of transfer to union with the Roman Catholic Church, which I send herewith enclosed. Then, upon my insistence, he also wrote a request in his name and in the name of his flock to His Holiness about transfer to union with the Roman Catholic Church.

Having done all this, I considered there was no need to stay there any longer, since a great deal of time had already passed. We took leave of each other cordinally. The Metropolitan asked me to inform the Holy Father as soon as possible. I replied that I would do it that very day and stated my opinion that I hoped for the successful completion of these holy matters.

Your Eminence, I inform you that I am today leaving for Constantinople and leave it to You to see to the further development of these matters. According to the opinion of the Consul of Austria-Hungary, there should be prompt action in making a decision, since any delay may be fatal for Metropolitan Theodosius. My personal opinion is that Metropolitan Theodosius is undertaking this action quite sincerely and that there are objective preconditions that he will be followed by the whole flock of Macedonia.

I remain forever faithful to Your Eminence, recommending myself to Your prayers

Augusto Bonetti
Source: A. della S. C. P. F. Roma: “Indice della Potenza” – Marzo 1892-1893, Somm. XV, f. 132 – 141.

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The conditions of transfer of Macedonian eparchies to Union with the Roman Catholic ChurchEnclosed letter4th December 1891, SkopjeIn my name and the name of my Macedonian flock, I, the undersigned Metropolitan of Skopje, Theodosius, request that the following conditions of transfer to union and canonical unity of the Orthodox flock of Macedonia with the Roman Catholic Church be respected:1.To restore the ancient Archbishopric of Ohrid, which will be in canonical unity with the Roman Catholic Church, with the immediate blessing of the Holy Father, the Pope;2. I, Theodosius in person, will be at the head of the restored Archbishopric of Ohrid, as an autocephalous head of the Church;

3. The other officials of the high clergy (bishops, monk priests and world priests) should be born Macedonians and appointed by me, as the Archbishop, while the bishops could be only confirmed by Your Holiness;

4. The borders of the Archbishopric should conform to the present borders of Macedonia, and the division of the eparchies should be retained as it is at present;

5. The old uniates ot the Kukus-Poljana and Strumica eparchies should be excluded from the jurisdiction of the Uniate Archbishop in Constantinople, His Grace Nil Izvorov, and be included as eparchies under my jurisdiction;

6. New Catholic missionaries, apart from those who already happen to be in the educational and charity institutions in Macedonia, should not be accepted, while those who already happen to be here should not interfere in the internal church and educational life of the Archbishopric.

Such are our requests which we believe to be justified and on which we cannot make any concessions whatsoever. We hope that they will be approved as such and respected forever and all times.

Theodosius, Metropolitan of Skopje
Source: Archivio della S. Congregazione de Propaganda Fide – Roma: “Indice della Potenza” – Marzo 1892-93, Somm. XV, f. 132-141.

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The congregation for the propagation of the faith to Augusto Bonetti24th February l892Holy Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith No. 12342 20th January 1892 RomeTo the Apostolic Delegate H. E. Archbishop A. Bonetti ConstantinopleYour Excellency,Your letter has arrived in the department responsible. Since, owing to the complexity of the problem concerning the request of Metropolitan Theodosius to pass with his Macedonian flock into Union, the College of Cardinals has decided to study the question more fundamentally, we advise You not ta take any steps to meet the Metropolitan and to leave everything to time. If the deed is in God’s will, it will never be too late to be fulfilled.

Cardinal Ramponi
Source: A. della S. C. P. F. – Marzo 1892-93. Somm. XV, f. 132-141

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Augusto Bonetti to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith12th March 1892Apostolic Vicariate No. 278 12th March 1892 ConstantinopleTo the Holy Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith RomeYour Excellency,In connection with Your esteemed letter of 20th January 1892, No. 12342, I inform You that the Metropolitan of Skopje, Theodosius, was yesterday deprived of his Skopje throne by decision of the Exarchate Religious Court and it was determined that he should be immediately sent to Sofia, for a forced stay in a monastery. During his sojourn in Constantinople, Metropolitan Theodosius attempted on two occasions to see me, asking in this respect our priest, the reverend father Ivan Nelidov. I, however, declined to meet him in person, indicating that I was awaiting the reply of His Holiness, who was the sole person to decide upon the question. I am taking the liberty of stating my opinion here, Your Eminence. If we had acted more effectively, we could have celebrated an important success for God’s work. Please let me recommend that we should not in future reject the idea of accepting the Macedonian flock under the wing of our Holy Church. It would be good to recommend our archbishop in Plovdiv to get into contact with the Metropolitan staying in Sofia.

Your Eminence, my suggestion is based upon confirmed reports from Macedonia, where the congregation of the Skopje eparchy, as well as the whole of Macedonia, reacted strongly against the replacement of Metropolitan Theodosius and declared that they were ready to pass into union with our Holy Church.

I recommend myself to Your prayers and remain faithfully

Yours Apostolic Delegate Augusto Bonetti
Source: A. della S. C. P. F. – Marzo 1892-93. Somm. XV, f. 132-141

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The congregation for the propagation of the faith to Augusto Bonetti – Second letter1892Holy Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith No. 13452 RomeTo the Apostolic Vicariate ConstantinopleRef. to No. 278 .We thank You for the information You have sent us in connection with the fate of the former Metropolitan of Skopje, Theodosius. We regret we are not able to help him; yet he found himself in such a plight not by our fault, but owing to his personal concepts concerning the Church question in Macedonia. We shall forward Your recommendations for maintaining further links with him to our competent bodies.

As regards the national movement in Macedonia concerning the acceptance of union with Our Church, please leave the question to the responsible Uniate Archbishop Nil, in whose charge the union lies.

Cardinal Ramponi
Source: A. della S. C. P. F. – Marzo 1892-93. Somm. XV, f. 132-141

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