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† Neofit
Patriarch of Bulgaria

Participants in the 42nd Annual Convention of the
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the United States, Canada & Australia
July 20-23, 2017 | Madison, Illinois, USA

Beloved in the Lord children of our holy Church,

We congratulate you with fatherly love on the occasion of the 42nd Annual Convention of the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the United States, Canada, and Australia.

It is indeed a memorable event in the life of the Diocese, since the host and organizer of the Convention is the first Bulgarian Orthodox Church outside of Bulgaria—Holy Trinity, in the city of Madison, Illinois, USA, where Ivan Malinov is parish priest and Ina Stamboldzhieva-Kutyanska is chairperson of the church council. We are glad to know that you unanimously accepted their insistent offer from last year to host the current 42nd convention at the Church of the Holy Trinity in honor of the 110th anniversary of its founding.

It is commendable that, in accordance with the Bylaws, every year in July, all parishes, missions and monasteries, through delegates of their choice, take part in the Convention of the Diocese, with the best intention of considering the current state of your Diocese and looking to continue practicing what is good and useful through the word of God and prayer.

It is a consolation for us, as your Patriarch, that you are laboring to grow in the spiritual life with hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10) like yourselves, who diligently are exercising in godliness, useful to all, because it holds promise for both the present life and the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8).

We, the clerics and administration of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate in Bulgaria, are looking back at the successes and trials we have undergone and are seeking to understand the inexhaustible mercy of God and His generosity towards us. With God's support, we are maturing in that which is good, practicing the good acts of faith, and working hard day and night toward useful endeavors.

In 2016, we were awarded a new intercessor before God's throne – St. Seraphim, Wonderworker of Sofia. For many years the Bulgarian Orthodox people honored him as God's benefactor, and now have added to this his ecclesiastical glorification. To our church calendar we have also added the feast of the Dorostolski Martyrs, which we will celebrate on Sunday after the Sunday of All Bulgarian Saints. In our presence, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the first Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Europe - Budapest. We also celebrated the anniversaries of the great Bulgarian saints - 1100 years since the repose of St. Clement Ohridski (July 27, 916) and 1070 years since the repose of St. John of Rila (August 18, 946).

As you already know, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate assessed the circumstances and insufficient preparation of the Great and Holy Orthodox Council in June 2016 in Crete and decided not to participate but instead to ask His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew to postpone it until the problems in the draft documents and the regulation for its conduct were solved.

We are glad and thank God in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) that you, too, in America, Canada and Australia, always stand-by awake, keep the purity of the faith, live an Orthodox life, keep in purity away from everything that deprives us of peace of mind and good conscience, but instead purse that which protects us from doing bad things, and teaches us to choose and follow the true and worthy path toward our salvation.

Our instructions to you as our beloved children are: to know and remember the words of the Savior: “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God and believe also in Me.” (John 14:1) “Keep in your hearts reverence for Christ as Lord.” (1 Peter 3:15) “Keep your conscience clear." (1 Peter 3:16) “For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will," (1 Peter 3:17) “for Christ also died..., that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but alive in spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18) “But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13) Serve one another, each according to the gift of God's manifold grace. “Whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11)

“And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)

May the God of all grace bless your 42nd Annual Diocesan Convention and may He "Himself restore, establish and strengthen you." (1 Peter 5:10)

† Neofit
Patriarch of Bulgaria

  42nd Annual Diocesan Convention

The 42nd Annual Diocesan Convention was hosted by Holy Trinity Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church of Madison, IL, July 21-23, 2017. His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph and His Grace Bishop Daniil were joined by clergy and delegates from a majority of the parishes, monasteries and missions of the Diocese in a three day gathering to strengthen the spiritual life of the Diocese and to discuss important Diocesan business.

The Convention coincided this year with the occasion of the 110th anniversary of the founding of Holy Trinity Church, the first Bulgarian Orthodox church established outside of Bulgaria, and consequently also the first established in the United States. The assembled clergy and delegates to the Convention congratulated the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Ivan Malinov and his Popadia Penka, together with Dimitrina Stamboldjiev-Kutriansky, the President of the Church Board, and all the parish faithful on this historic occasion. Many years!

Special commemoration was also made at the Divine Liturgy for the founders, clergy, benefactors and faithful who attended this church during these many years and who are now departed to the Lord, chief among them the V. Rev. Peter Stamboldjiev of blessed memory, who served this church so faithfully for so many years. Memory Eternal!

Friday evening began with a celebration of Vespers and a meal in the parish hall in preparation for a full evening of committee meetings. The Diocesan Mixed Council, Diocesan Board of Trustees, Diocesan Sisterhood, and Parish Board Presidents all gathered to discuss various items of business which were later reported during Saturday’s Plenary Session. A combined meeting of all in attendance was convened afterwards to discuss the important issue of religious education for our children, youth and young adults.

The Plenary Session on Saturday was preceded by a Moleben prayer service and breakfast for delegates and guests. During this all day session, the Patriarchal Greeting of His Holiness Neofit was read in both Bulgarian and English; His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph delivered an inspiring State of the Diocese Address; and the Diocesan Financial report for the past year was made and accepted. Brief parish reports were made by all attending priests, after which the various committees reports were made, including a report on the Popadias Retreat, a report on the activities and plans of the Bulgarian Orthodox Youth Apostolate (BOYA), and a report on the progress being made by the By-Law Commission.

After a short break for lunch, the Plenary Session moved into new business. At this time the delegates engaged in a consideration of budgetary needs for the Diocese for fiscal year 2018. Ways and means for increasing Religious Education continued to be a strong interest among the delegates, as was the support of missionary activity in those new communities which are still in need of clergy. After a thorough discussion, the Convention voted to amend the budget as proposed, among other things increasing funding for BOYA.

In addition to approving the 2018 Budget, the Convention established a Commission to study how parish dues are calculated and to propose changes that can be voted upon at the 2018

Convention. Parish Dues were frozen at the 2017 level while the Dues Commission does its work.

The Convention unanimously voted to establish an Ad Hoc Committee for Education, to be co- chaired by the V. Rev. Fr. Patrick Tishel and the V. Rev. Fr. Philip Tolbert. The purpose of this committee is to study the education needs of our Diocese and our Parishes and Missions and to return with proposals that can be voted upon at the 2018 Convention for how to meet those needs.

The Convention also accepted two new Bulgarian Churches: “The Comforter, The Spirit
of Truth” in Ontario, Canada; and “The 26 Zograph Martyrs” in Chicago, IL, as Diocesan members. Having successfully completed its business, the Plenary Session ended at 3:30 PM.

That evening, following a celebration of Vespers, everyone gathered for a special dinner and dance in honor of the occasion. The Diocesan Sisterhood held their usual drawing, the proceeds of which will support the Diocese’s charitable activities, and everyone enjoyed a special performance of traditional Bulgarian folk dance and the live music of the folk band, Bulgarika.

Sunday morning all gathered in the beautiful Holy Trinity temple for the Hierarchical celebration of the Divine Liturgy, during which Rev. Fr. Ivan Malinov was elevated by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph to the rank of archpriest. Axios! Dostoyn! Worthy! The day concluded with a festal brunch served in the parish hall and the departure of the delegates to their own homes.

Glory be to God, and thanks to all for a blessed and successful 42nd Diocesan Convention!

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