Bishop Augusto Bonetti on the talks with Theodosius, the Metropolitan of Skopje
Bishop Augusto Bonetti on the talks with Theodosius, the Metropolitan of Skopje 4th December 1891
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
The original kept at: A. della S. C. P. F. Roma: "Indice della Potenza" - Marzo 1892-1893, Somm. XV, f. 132 - 141.