Приветствена реч на Негово Високопреосвещенство Пловдивският митрополит Николай

pptv | Saturday 17 July 2010 - 11:42:35 |

Orthodoxy and tolerance
salutatory speech
of His Eminence
Plovdiv metropolitan Nikolay
His All Holiness
the Archbishop of ConstantinopleNew Rome and
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Your All Holiness, Your Eminences and Right Reverends, dear Governor, dear Mayor, dear guests, God loving brothers and sisters,

In this blessed and joyful day of spiritual happiness, the delivered Divine Liturgy enabled us to experience the joy of our God and this nice and bright celebration of the glory of Saint Virgin Mary, who visited us through Her miraculous image, located in the grave of Christ in the holy town of Jerusalem, on the occasion of the temple celebration of our metropolitan church “Saint martyr Marina”.

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of Jesus”, we sing for You – Your Holiness and all prelates of our holy Church and guests who share the happiness of our celebration, we are gathered here from different parts of the orthodox world in order to send a humble prayer and praise the Lord here in the temple and on the celebration day of Saint martyr Marina. We thank the Lord for he has built our destinies with thought and for this blessed meeting with the high hierarch of the Holy Ecumenical Patriarchy of Constantinople. A blessed meeting with honest and wise prelatic host of representatives of local orthodox churches and the Holy Synod of Bulgarian Orthodox Church. I will hardly be mistaken if I say that for all of us orthodox prelates, who are gathered here it is a great joy and exceptional honour to deliver together the divine liturgy led by His Holiness the Archbishop of Constantinople and ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew.
Your All Holiness,

On behalf of the clergy and laity of Plovdiv eparchy, I would like to address you with these words:
Welcome, Holy Bishop!

The throne of Tzarigrad-Constantinople, established by Saint Apostle Andrei, was a mighty messenger and protector of Orthodoxy during all the centuries of its long historical existence. Ever since the times of the first bishop Stachius, the Church of ancient Byzantium has been supporter of the teaching of Christ into purity and strength, although sometimes there have been attacks of the hostile spirit against the divine service. The apostle throne of Constantinople, through its great and holy representatives, has a remarkable share in the elaboration and active protection of the Nikeo-Constantinople symbol of faith, valuable treasure of the Holy Orthodox Church and evidence for the constant apostle professing of the faith of Christ.

The apostle throne of Constantinople has hosted men who have been diligent in faith and wisdom, luminaries of the Church of Christ. Such is Saint Gregorius, who was participant and chair of the second ecumenical council (381) in Constantinople. The apostle throne has also hosted the great Saint John Chrysostom, a theologian, a wonderful preacher, sufferer for the faith of Christ and the dignity of the Church as “a pillar of support for the Truth”. There have been many more holy pious and educated men, who have come out of the core of the Holy Church of Constantinople, who have bequeathed to the entire world the values of superior theological thought, ascetic wisdom and deep spiritual revelations. Your Holiness, being the Orthodox high hierarch, has a place amongst the high hierarchs of Constantinople, as you have devoted your thoughts and actions to serve righteousness, truth and peace. Selflessly preaching love for mankind and tolerance by means of great patience for the demanding patriarchal service.

Your All Holiness,

It seems like Plovdiv, the ancient Philipopolis, although it is not one of the most prominent centers of the orthodox world, is a place blessed by the mercy of the Holy Spirit. The sounds of conflicts, which have started somewhere on the basis of belief and religion, fly by this place as something alien and unknown. It would not be too much if we say that here in Plovdiv we not only haven’t had any displays of religious or other intolerance, but quite the opposite – Plovdiv has provided numerous examples of the fact that love for mankind and solidarity between people is above any religious or other differences.

To a great extent this refers to the bishop’s episcopacy, and we humble ones carry its historical burden in accordance with all our strength. Not so long ago our predecessor, the Plovdiv metropolitan of blessed memory Kiril, who was later Bulgarian patriarch, placed himself ahead of the nation-wide movement of church and people, which in the darkest of years of the second world war protected our brothers, the humans which profess Judaism. Thanks to that movement of orthodox hierarchs and the clergy and laity led by them, the worldly authorities were not allowed to send any Jew to the camps of death, of the ones living on the territory of any of the existing dioceses, which were under the administrative rule of the exarchate.

Furthermore, in the years after the first world war, the former metropolitan of Plovdiv Maxim had been providing shelter in the monasteries to human beings of other nations, which were chased out of their homelands – and then he was once again led by his belief that humanity is the first obligation of every orthodox Christian.

Maybe their deeds were inspired by the feat of other predecessors of ours: the metropolitans of Plovdiv of blessed memory Paisius and Panareth, which during the 60s of the ХІХ century used the words “Wherever the people go – we go there as well!” and thus defended the right of their believers in Plovdiv to praise God using their own Bulgarian language and then paid for it with humiliation and exile. By the way, tomorrow we shall experience the joy of praying together at the Sunday divine service in our cathedral temple „Saint Virgin Mary”. It is precisely there, that 150 years ago our predecessor of blessed memory Paisius saw to the commencement of the movement, which led to the restoration of the autocephaly of Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the recognition of Bulgarian people as independent, but integral and equal part of the orthodox family.

Are we tolerant, because others have been tolerant towards us? No. This question is not subject to taking and giving, of utilitarian reciprocity. We are tolerant because we are orthodox. Because orthodoxy, being ecumenical creed of the faith in our God Jesus Christ does not know any other state and condition. Furthermore, the history of this city and the history of this episcopacy represent one of the visible pieces of evidence for that.

It is a fact that Bulgarian Orthodox Church, in its millennial devoted journey has kept the gift of the Holy Orthodox faith, pure and intact from the temptations of centuries of vicissitudes. With this we demonstrate our dignity, being the first-born spiritual daughter of the Holy Ecumenical Church of Constantinople, from which streams of divinity have been drawn, and we keep gratitude and recognition for that.

Dear brothers,

With the help of God, each of us preaches orthodoxy daily. We preach what it is. However, many times we have reflected upon the reverse question: what orthodoxy is not. What orthodoxy does not allow. What the history of Orthodox Church does not include.

Orthodoxy is not a creed which would in any way tolerate violence. Regardless whether it refers to one nation against another, or one man against another, either physically or intellectually. The Orthodox Church has never exercised by itself, nor has it tolerated on behalf of worldly authorities actions of persecution, torture, not to mention killing of people because of their difference – either in faith, nation, scientific beliefs or social and political beliefs. There is only one historical exception which proves the rule, and it was condemned and reproached by the majority of the orthodox clergy at the very moment it occurred. The history of our church has always included free discussions on theologian issues and never on religious wars. The Orthodox Church has never measured the immortality of human soul using money as a measure.

The Orthodox Church has never accepted nor blessed any Christian army when it raised its sword against other Christian brothers or human beings in general while driven by the pursuit of conquest or robbery. The museums of our countries do not have any sacred objects, which have been stolen from other churches. By the way, there are wars, originated by others against orthodox people. However, any war which was started against God-loving and believing Orthodox people in the long-run of historical perspective was lost by the ones who provoked that war. Orthodoxy is a religion of peace, as it was said: “And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3, 18).

We are tolerant, because we are orthodox. If there have been any moments, when in separate countries included in the mission of the One, Holy, Ecumenical and Apostle Church there have been displays of intolerance, then it was always because the respective weak, earthly figures have stepped away from orthodoxy. If, nevertheless, there was ever a war or other abuses to originate from a country, which called itself orthodox, then it was only in unfortunate short historical periods, when the ruling church senate had stepped back from orthodoxy and has been a servant to the devil. This was a worldly, not church intolerance. If the church had any blame to take for that, it could only be regarding the fact that the church was not diligent enough when preaching peace and truth, or for being silent when it should have been shouting the name of Christ and for not ringing the bell of orthodox consciousness sufficiently loud. Every time the Orthodox Church was strong, the countries in which it was active have always enjoyed peace and prosperity.

Orthodoxy serves its mission, by means of practicing the love bequeathed to us by Christ. Tolerance can only be preached with love. Not from the viewpoint of power, regardless of its nature and origin. Here is something else, which orthodoxy is not: orthodoxy is not a creed, which can be preached by force or be professed by force. If we notice a mistake in the teaching, we are obliged to point it out and use our brotherly love to invite the one, who has mistaken to make a correction. However, we never even think of imposing the truth that we profess by force, because then it will no longer be truth. This is something, which the Orthodox Church has never done. That is why today the Ecumenical patriarch has no reason to apologize to anyone. The ecumenical orthodox church does not need to justify itself to anyone. On the contrary, all of us orthodox people are in it, because we are united by love and peace.

Why is the Orthodox Church so victorious, even though it is not aggressive? You know that in the entire Slavic orthodox world, the celebration of the holy equal to apostles Kiril and Methodius is celebrated with special solemnity. This celebration was started 150 years ago right here in Bulgaria, and not only was it in Bulgaria, but namely in the city of Plovdiv, in the Plovdiv school for men, which is located literally next to the walls of the “Saint Virgin Mary” cathedral temple. The work of St. St. Kiril and Methodius is indeed one equal to apostles. It is an act inspired by the Holy Spirit, when thanks to a titanic outburst of most great love, generosity, wisdom and – in fact – most supreme tolerance, three hundred million people have accepted orthodoxy in their hearts and souls. Moreover, it happened with joy, fervent prayers and anthems in glory of the All-giving and his Son. We do not have the right to forget that the merit for this act belongs to the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople. The merit belongs to the wise, generous and tolerant predecessors of our dear guest. This act was done in this way, and it has such a durable success, because it is the work of orthodox people, who sincerely profess Christ and practice his love not as scholasticism, but as a way of life and creativity. To these people the ecumenical church is what it is: an idea for the world peace in the name of Christ. It is not a tool for achieving minute political goals. The joining of the Slavic world to the Orthodox Church is the greatest work of the ecumenical patriarchate. Let all people have eyes to see, ears to hear and mind to understand, that it is precisely the manner in which this happened, that contains the indestructible strength of orthodoxy.

Someone may say that this is history, that the present day places new tasks and new challenges before us. “There is no such thing” we may say. “That which is has been already, and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.” (Ecl. 3, 15)” There is nothing new under the Sun of this world, except a little more self-importance. It brings along relativism. It shakes the foundations of the individual spirit, which is strong only in Christ. It then brings it to hesitation. And fear. And loss of freedom.

Orthodoxy is not any of the things we have just denied above, and it is precisely because of that fact, that orthodoxy does not know fear. It is not conformist. It is not relativistic. It has no reason to be. This is the faith of free people, preached with love and practiced daily by means of personal example for justice, love for mankind and solidarity.

According to our understanding, such is the idea of Orthodoxy. The idea of the ecumenical church, which is everywhere and shall be everywhere, as long as there are people who profess the faith and principles left to us by Jesus Christ, his apostles and the holy fathers of the Church. In our history and in our traditions we sacredly preserve the memory for the feats of our predecessors. We know that every time they have proudly raised the flag of Jesus, they have won. Regardless of the abuses and suffering, regardless of the time necessary to do this. And precisely because the Church shall be until the end of days, it does not have the right to measure time using human measures.

All of us, brothers, are minute links of an ever eternal, tightly-woven chain of the Holy Spirit. Its beginning lies in the Fiftieth day, and its end is on Judgment day. God may allow a certain link to become weak or drop off, but he will never allow the chain to be disintegrated. On the contrary, each weakened link makes cohesion between the rest of them to grow even stronger. We, being a modest successor of much more honourable hierarchs, who have kept the chain in Plovdiv-Philipopolis, together with you and your predecessors of two thousand years ago, we all know that we do not have the right to become weak. And we have no intention of doing that.

In the foundations of the Bulgarian notion for the mission of the church, there is a letter sent by Saint Patriarch Photius to his beloved spiritual son – the Bulgarian royal prince Boris – Mihail. In that letter he says:

„Of all good deeds, the most precious one is the firm and saving direction from God, who gives first and foremost the study of, and devotion to the pure and virtuous Christian faith... .
You, therefore, shall stand firmly on the stone of faith, on which God has safely placed you. You shall build your honest life and good deeds using your virtuous faith as foundation, instead of using wood, hay, reed, substance of sin, easily flammable and good for nothing else, but for burning... .  
Because this is the preaching of the apostles, this is the preaching of ecumenical senates, therefore it is not enough for you to think this way and believe in this way, but you shall also lead your subordinates towards the same true preaching, you shall direct them to the same faith and you shall not think, that there is anything more precious than this caring and diligence”.

This decree – namely to direct our people “in the pure and virtuous faith” we have adopted as our holy duty. And we see no possibility of diverting from this obligation of ours.

Your All Holiness,

We, being a humble archshepherd of the eparchial church of Plovdiv, as well as our clergy are very happy to welcome Your All Holiness and Your companions with most sincere joy and we ask you to accept our respect and love, this gift for our hearts, which we sincerely hand to you. Accept the true joy of our eparchial church for the fact that you are here and keep a devotional memory of us. We have another gift for you – a Patriarchal crown, hand-made by a nun in the eparchy of Plovdiv.

These are the gifts that we use to show our respect and love for you. However, we would like to assure you that there are more valuable feelings of respect and love, which inspire our humble prayer for the health and well-being of Your All Holiness for the glory of the Holy Ecumenical Patriarchal Throne and the fruitful work of your colleagues. This is the contribution of our hearts and we are convinced that you are going to accept it with reverence and blessing for the Eparchial Church of Plovdiv and all of us.

At the end I would like to ask you to join us in sending together a prayer for our beloved Patriarch, His Holiness Maxim, Patriarch of Bulgaria, who is not amongst us but we are certain that he is with us in our prayers and is thoughtfully blessing us.


Metropolitan of Plovdiv Nikolay