Joseph Sokolsky

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Joseph Sokolsky, November 1872. Source: Bulgarian Archives State Agency

Joseph Sokolsky (Bulgarian: Йосиф Соколски, Gabrovo, 1786 – died on Kiev, now Ukraine September 30, 1879) was the first Bulgarian clergyman to convert to Catholicism and a pioneer of the Bulgarian Uniat Church. He was the founder of Sokolski monastery, near Gabrovo, Bulgaria. Sokolsky negotiated with Vatican a formal union due to Greek influences within Bulgarian Orthodoxy and gained Catholic recognition 1861 when Pope Pius IX named himself bishop to Bulgarians of the Byzantine rite, being soon accepted by Ottoman Empire. Sokolsky was imprisoned in a Ukrainian monastery for eighteen years, died under mysterious circumstances.


Born around 1786 in an Orthodox family in the village of Nova Mahala, today quarter of Gabrovo and his baptismal name was Ivan. Around 1802 he became a novice in the Troyan Monastery, in the same one 1806 he brought religious vows. In the 1920s visit to Mount Athos, where he brought the collection, which contained the life of the Gabrovo's Bulgarian Saint Onuphrius. On May 1, 1826 became abbot of Kalofer Monastery. In 1832, when he was Archimandrite Joseph Sokolsky leaves the Troyan Monastery and founded a monastery at a place called Falcon near the village Etar (now part of the city of Gabrovo ). Local monastery was to be called Sokolsky, apparently at the same time Joseph received his name. In the 1940s in the same area Sokolsky creates Joseph Convent. In 1836 in Sokol Joseph Sokolski Monastery opened a school for boys, at one time in this school taught famous Bulgarian enlightener Neophyte Bozveli. In 1860 the Bulgarian intelligentsia and clergy growing desire for independence of Bulgarian Orthodox Church of Constantinople. At the same time, among the Bulgarians in Istanbul as an alternative to submission to the Greek patriarch develops movement union of Bulgarian Church with Rome. Of this motion were Dragan Tsankov and Dr. Georgi Mirkovich. Joseph Sokolsky also been a supporter of the independence of the Bulgarian Church and the Greek hierarchy. Soon his countryman Nicolas Sapunov attracted him to the idea of a union with the Catholic Church. In November 1860, Joseph Sokolsky moved to Constantinople, where on December 18, 1860 became a member of the Bulgarian delegation, sent to Pope Pius IX with the request to establish an hierarchy to the Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church. On March 15, 1861 Joseph Sokolsky with Deacon Raphael Popov, Dragan Tsankov and Georgi Mirkovich went to Italy. On March 26, 1861 the delegation was received in Rome by the Pope. On April 2, 1861 the Sistine Chapel was held in the ordination of Joseph Sokolsky as archbishop and apostolic vicar for the appointment of the Bulgarian Uniates. Russian authorities, fearing to lose as a result of union influence on the Bulgarian church community, to develop a plan to kidnap Joseph Sokolsky. Abduction plan developed by the Russian envoy Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky, was carried out of found Gere and Petko Slaveikov lured Sokolsky on the Russian ship "Elbrus" who went on June 6, 1861 in Odessa. After arriving in Odessa Joseph Sokolsky delivered in Kiev and placed in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, where almost continuously lived until his death. After the uprising of 1863 in the grounds of the former Commonwealth of Chelm Greek Catholic Diocese expelled almost all Uniate priests. With the permission of the Emperor Alexander II, Joseph Sokolsky several times visits Hill, where a total of 72 Uniate priest were ordained. Joseph Sokolsky regularly filed an application for permission to return to Bulgaria, the last of which dates from 1878, but always refused. Joseph Sokolsky died on September 30, 1879.


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