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U.S. Branch of Bulgarian Church Denounces Holocaust, Anti-semitism

The American branch of the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church formally denounced anti-Semitism in a declaration presented to the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

Metropolitan Joseph, head of the New York Diocese of the church, which reports 100,000 worshippers in the United States and seven million throughout the world, said: “We declare that anti-Semitism and the Holocaust are sinful, anti-Christian and contrary to the will of our God and Father who loves us all. ” He urged ” all the faithful to reach out to our Jewish neighbors to create relationships of mutual respect and to work for common concerns.”

A spokesman said that Joseph intends to forward the declaration to the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church for consideration at its meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, next June. In his statement, Joseph noted that thanks to ” the heroic stand ” of the Bulgarian Church and people during World War II ” none of the Bulgarian-barn Jews was deported or killed.”

Accepting the document, Nathan Perlmutter, ADL national director, thanked the Metropolitan for a “Historic statement of church policy.” Perlmutter said that ” this action by the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church will serve as a light for millions.”

CULMINATION OF SELF-SEARCHING

The Rev. Hieromonk Paul W. V. Ischi, pastor of St. German of Alaska in Setauket, L.I., said the church’s denunciation of anti-Semitism was the culmination of years of self-searching . He said “it comes 15 centuries too late, but at least we’ve made a beginning.” Father Paul added that the effort “crystallized the crucial need for a purging of the churches of Eastern Orthodoxy of any association with acts of hatred of group, nation or race.”

Kalen Koicheff, president of the Diocesan Board of Trustees, indicated that the adoption of the declaration was particularly noteworthy for him because of an incident which occurred in Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria, in the summer of 1943. As he recalled it he and thousands of other Bulgarians poured into the city’s central square in response to the pealing of church bells by every house of worship in Plovdiv. So many people massed, he said, that “the Nazis were prevented from carrying out the mass shipment of Jews which they had planned.”

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