Theodosius, the metropolitan of Skopje, to Archimandhite Dionysius
Theodosius, the metropolitan of Skopje, to Archimandhite Dionysius
22nd June 1891 To His Grace Dionysius,
Skopje, 22nd June 1891.
My dearest brotlier 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 Christ'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 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 latter, the perpetual. Is this 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 will be pecked by hens, but some will find fertile soil and grow. Every beginning is difficult and every great cause requires sacrifices. If God commands, let me be the first victim, but let it be beneficial for my people.
I have had an opportunity 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 Macedonian Diocese 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 tides, nulla fides, 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 motherв'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 diocese 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. I arranged through Tomo Janakiev a meeting with Paissi and told him my plan about the Archbishopric of Ohrid. At first, he started to disagree, 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 diocese, 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 I shall write you again. But you must be ready in any case to stand at the head of the Nevrokop Diocese. 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
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.
- "The Greek faith, no faith at all."