Sofia, March 5, 2018
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia arrived in Bulgaria on Friday on an official visit for the celebration of the 140th anniversary of the country’s liberation from the Ottoman Yoke which came as a result of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.
During his time in Bulgaria, the patriarch concelebrated with His Holiness Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria and met with the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and important Bulgarian politicians.
On March 3, the anniversary day itself, the patriarchs of the Bulgarian and Russian Churches served a Moleben of Thanksgiving in the Church of the Nativity of Christ on Mt. Shipka, reports the site of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Shipka Memorial Church is dedicated to the Russian, Ukrainian, and Bulgarian soldiers that died for the liberation of Bulgaria in the aforementioned war.
The service was attended by Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, the Parliament Chairman Tsveta Karayancheva, as well as members of the Russian Orthodox delegation and a number of Bulgarian clergy, diplomats, guests from other countries, and many pious Bulgarians.
Addressing those gathered following the service, His Holiness Neofit spoke of the fraternal relations between Bulgari and Russia, saying,
Feelings of joy, pride, and gratitude fill our hearts on this festive day on March 3, when the whole of Bulgaria solemnly celebrates the blessed 140th anniversary of its liberation. The joy of freedom, in which we have lived for 140 years, the pride caused by the heroic events that we remember today, and the gratitude to God and our liberators, who sacrificed their lives for us in order to liberate our Orthodox people and for them to be able to build their own destiny again.
This temple, which is erected at the foot of the historic peak of Shipka, and which is based on the remains of hundreds and thousands of Russian and Bulgarian soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom, will forever remind future generations of the amazing feat of fraternal Russia and the sacrificial love that was witnessed by her sons, freeing our Orthodox people from the age-old yoke.
Pat. Kirill also addressed the crowd, saying,
I pray now that the centuries-old spiritual connection between our peoples, which manifested itself 140 years ago, will remain inviolable for all times and will find expression in fraternal consensus and readiness to make efforts to strengthen the unity of Holy Orthodoxy, preserve Christian values and the Orthodox traditions of the fathers. I cordially greet you all with this wonderful anniversary and a wonderful holiday for the Bulgarian and Russian people. Amen.
The primates of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church then visited the Freedom Monument at the top of the mountain, where they laid flowers at the burial place of the soldiers who gave their lives.
The Russian delegation headed by Pat. Kirill met with Parliament Chairman Tsveta Karayancheva later that day, and later with His Holiness Pat. Neofit and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov.
On Sunday, the Russian and Bulgarian patriarchs concelebrated the Divine Liturgy at the patriarchal cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Sofia, which was built in 1912 in memory of the Russian soldiesr who died during the liberation of Bulgaria. The primates were concelebrated by a number of Russian and Bulgarian hierarchs and clergy. The service was also attended by the head of the Bulgarian Royal House Simeon II Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
The Liturgy was sung by the Moscow Synodal Choir and the Choir of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The Gospel was read in both Church Slavonic and Bulgarian. Prayers were offered during the Liturgy for the repose of Tsar-Liberator Alexander Niklaevich of Russia, and for all the Bulgarian and Russian military leaders and soldiers. The Creed and the Lord’s Prayer were read by the head of the royal house.
Both patriarchs again addressed the gathered worshipers, giving thanks to God for the liberation of Bulgaria and commenting on the day’s Gospel reading.
Addressing Pat. Kirill after the Liturgy, Pat. Neofit stated,
Our unity, with the Lord between us, is an essential condition to carrying out [the] calling and mission of the Church. In this unity is the true pledge of our strength and our success. This holy unity must be preserved without allowing those hostile to the Lord and subversive forces to destroy it. As a chosen race, a royal priesthood (1 Pt. 2:9) we are called to always stand on spiritual guard and to spread the light, shone once in our grievous world with the Incarnation, earthly ministry and glorious Resurrection of our one true master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Pat. Kirill in turn reflected,
A true miracle of God sometimes occurs when all human forces are exhausted―in response to the last effort of human will. That is where it is really necessary for human life, for his salvation. It requires a reciprocal action from man, to pray with conviction and to strive for God, and to commit himself to the will of God.
In memory of the end of the war, which 140 years ago brought liberation to the Bulgarian people, a verse from the Psalm was embossed on Russian medals: Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Thy name (Ps. 113: 9). It is the humble recognition of God's will, the recognition of the Divine miracle that took place in the events of war, and the help of God that filled the infirmity of human strength.