Sofia, October 4, 2018
Interference by the state in the affairs of the Church leads to serious consequences both for the Church itself and for the state itself, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church stated yesterday.
Nearly 20 years of a politically-provoked schism in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is testimony to this conviction, the bishops emphasized in a statement posted on the official site of the Bulgarian Church.
The Synod’s statement in connection with a number of amendments and additions to Bulgarian law on religious confessions reads: “History proves that democratic relations between the state and Church, based on mutual respect and the Church’s guaranteed right to self-rule, is a guarantee of national security.”
“The experience of nearly 20 years of a politically-provoked schism in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church proves that any interference by the state in the internal affairs of the Church leads to serious consequences both for the Church and for the state itself,” the hierarchs believe.
The Synod is referring to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church-Alternative Synod, which considered itself the legitimate Church in Bulgaria from 1996 to 2015. It was created after the new Bulgarian government declared Patriarch Maxim’s 1971 election as primate to be illegal because it had been approved at the time by the communist government. Three bishop’s called for Pat. Maxim’s deposition and went into schism, creating their own “church.” The schism was healed in April 2015.
In their words, “historical experience also shows that whenever the state tries to exercise control over the activities of the Church or to fashion internal Church life in accordance with its secular criteria, it ends in failure. The Orthodox Church is an institution with 2,000 years of history, founded by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Periods of persecution by the state alternated with periods of peaceful coexistence.”
His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine made a similar statement in an interview posted on the Ukrainian Church’s site yesterday.
“The use of the Church for self-serving purposes is cynical. It does not lead to anything good,” he said.
Attempts by the authorities to create ‘their Church’ took place even in the Old Testament times, but even then it turned into a widespread disaster, the Ukrainian primate added, referring to the life of the Prophet Elijah, when the Kingdom of Israel was divided into two parts because of the policy of King Rehoboam, the heir of Solomon. Only the tribe of Judas and part of the tribe of Benjamin remained with Rehoboam. The other ten tribes established the Kingdom of North Israel, whose inhabitants continued to visit the temple in Jerusalem.
“Then the newly elected king of the Kingdom of North Israel, Jeroboam I, decided to introduce another religion, that is, ‘his Church,’ as they say today. He did so: He put idols in his Kingdom, began to worship them, and to force others to do so. Israel fell into paganism, and the Prophet Elijah was sent there. But people did not listen to him, and for this they received a well-deserved punishment—a drought that lasted three and a half years. After that, Elijah denounced all the pagan priests and false teachers. According to his prayers, God gave rain, and all the people professed the true faith,” Met. Onuphry recounted.
According to him, this scenario has repeated itself often throughout human history, “but God’s truth won every time. I believe that it will be so now.”
His Beatitude Metropolitan Rostislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia made the same warning about politics in regard to Ukraine in May, and His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus (Greek Orthodox Church) did the same two weeks ago.
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