The History of the Church in Bulgaria

We got an email from an Orthodox Christian that said:

i am born in Bulgaria but I live in Quebec now (I'm sorry for my english wich is very, very bad :(. I am christian (orthodox) but when i came to catholic Quebec i sow that we are not diferent at all and that the diffrence came from the (I call it )"the human" factor in the church... ...You now, I have a lot a friends-maronits here in Quebec and they are married  orthodox women, so one sunday they go to a maronith mass, next sunday they go to the orthodox liturgy and they say it's one church and only peoples mess everiting :) Me , I think that our 2 churches are the 2 sides of the same nikel so I'am realy hoping that one day we'll be one again.

In regard to the origins of the Church in Bulgaria, the first Christian Tzars in Bulgaria were all in full communion with Rome, but later became isolated from Rome and dependent on Constantinople for political reasons.  The Bulgars, unfortunately, embraced Christianity during the very beginning of the struggles between Rome and Constantinople.  In this, Constantinople was interested in keeping Frankish (German) Christians out of the Balkans because the Franks claimed to have a rival Christian Empire, and the Byzantine Greeks were concerned for their national security.  Because of this, Patriarch Photius of Constantinople began to attack Roman customs and beliefs and caused trouble between the East and West, until he was deposed by the Greek Emperor Basil, who was obedient to the Pope of Rome and defended him against Photius. At this time (actually just as it was beginning), King Boris of Bulgaria (his son Symeon was the first to claim the title Tzar) wanted to form Bulgaria into a third Christian Empire, alongside the Byzantine (Greek) Empire and the Frankish (German) Empire in the West.  To help in this political goal, Boris asked Pope St. Nicholas to make Bulgaria into a patriarchate, so that it would be equal to Constantinople.  But, when Pope Nicholas refused to do this (because he didn't want to alienate the Byzantines or the Franks), the Byzantines offered to recognize the leading Bulgarian bishop as a patriarch if the Bulgars would accept the Patriarch of Constantinople as "Ecumenical Patriarch" --a title which Rome also denied to the Greeks.  And this is why Bulgaria sided with Constantinople against Rome. But, like Constantinople itself, Bulgaria still remained in communion with Rome and the entire Western Church until well after 1054.  Bulgaria even reaffirmed its communion with Rome in 1204, but sided with the Greeks thereafter.  And while the Pope did excommunicate the Bulgarian Tzar (Asen II) and launched a crusade into Bulgaria to depose him in 1238, Rome never excommunicated the people or clergy of Bulgaria itself, nor did Bulgaria ever excommunicate Rome.  Rather, as with Romania, Russia, and some other Eastern Orthodox Churches, there was never any formal excommunication issued between Bulgaria and Rome.  So, technically, we've always been in full communion. We just don't act like it, and we have been isolated from each other for about 1,000 years. 

Note: We have an entire section of articles written in Bulgarian.

Charis kai eirene (Grace and Peace)

Mark Bonocore

Edited by Hugh