Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

III. The Orthodox church

5. Religious Feuds really Racial Conflicts

There is one common illusion regarding the Churches of the Balkans which Mr. Balfour has done much to popularise. He has written and spoken as though the rifts and feuds among Eastern Christians were the result of their religious differences. That is an exact inversion of the facts. It is true that the old feud between Greeks and Latins still survives, but even this had its origin not in the theological differences, which were more than once composed, but rather in the bitter memories of the Crusades, when the Christian chivalry of the West turned aside from the road that led to the Holy Sepulchre, to sack Constantinople and destroy the Eastern Empire. But there are virtually no Catholics in European Turkey outside Albania and the Levantine sea-ports. The battle of the Churches is simply a political or more properly a racial conflict, which assumed an ecclesiastical colour only because of the curious theocratic conditions which prevail in Turkey. There is between the Greek and Bulgarian Churches no shadow of difference either in doctrine, ritual, or constitution. The only difference between them is that the "Greeks" acknowledge the authority of the Greek Patriarch and are inscribed in the "Roum" Millet, while the Bulgarians reject his


supremacy, obey the Bulgarian Exarch, use the Slavonic language in their services, and are enrolled in the Bulgarian Millet. Persecution there is in plenty, but it cannot properly be called religious persecution. Villages are "converted" by force, by threats, or by persuasion from one "Church" to another, but the process means no more than a transference of allegiance from one political propaganda to its rival. The whole Bulgarian schism has of course been excommunicated by the Greek Patriarch, but the absurdity of this use of spiritual weapons in carnal warfare is so patent that "Greeks" and "Schismatics" frequently share the same church, and say Mass on alternate Sundays in Greek and Slavonic from the same altar. [1]

One can understand this singular feud only by remembering that Turkish institutions render impossible the formation of any kind of party or combination except on an ecclesiastical basis. A group of men who may wish to create any nationalist or political association in Turkey must choose between the alternatives of founding either a Church or else a secret society. When the Bulgarians wished to emphasise the fact that they were a race separate from the Greeks, the only possible procedure was to make a schismatic Church which should give them a right to claim recognition as a new Millet, for the Greeks refused to recognise their language or to appoint Bulgarian Bishops. The success of the Bulgarian propaganda owes more to the adoption of this drastic and uncompromising course than to anything else. The Servians have never ventured to throw off the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and though after an incredible expenditure of backsheesh and much diplomatic intrigue they succeeded, in 1897, in procuring the nomination of a Serb as Archbishop of Uskub, they are still confounded with Greeks, Vlachs, and Orthodox Albanians in the "Roum" Millet. The Vlachs are in a still more anomalous position. They have no Church and no hierarchy of their own, yet the few priests who dare to say

1. Tournefort, the botanist whom Louis XIV. sent on a long cruise in the Levant, reports that even Greeks and Latins shared the same churches in the islands of the Archipelago.


Mass in Roumanian are promptly excommunicated by the Greek Bishops.

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