Bulgarian Holy Synod takes hard stance against attending any services during Pope Francis’ visit in May

Sofia, April 4, 2019

Photo: theorthodoxchurch.info Photo: theorthodoxchurch.info     

The Bulgarian Holy Synod examined the draft agenda for Pope Francis’ upcoming May visit to the Orthodox nation at its session yesterday, making a decision on what level of participation is appropriate.

According to the statement posted on the Patriarchate’s official site, the Bulgarian hierarchs unanimously resolved that there can be no question of conducting any joint services or prayers with Pope Francis, which is strictly forbidden by the sacred canons of the Church.

The Synod also did not bless for a deacon of the Bulgarian Church to act as Francis’ translator throughout his trip.

According to the statement, the hierarchs decided to write to Anselmo Guido Pecorari, the Apostolic Nuncio to Bulgaria, noting that as the invitation for the Pope’s visit had come from the state authorities, the main events should be coordinated with the authorities, though His Holiness Patriarch Neofit and the Synod members are prepared to receive the Pope at the Patriarchate on May 5, according to the draft program.

The Catholic primate’s itinerary also includes, “Private prayer before the Throne of Sts. Cyril and Methodius at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky,” though the Bulgarian Synod has announced that a visit to the Patriarchal cathedral “is possible, but we would like to emphasize that any form of shared liturgical or prayer service, as well as wearing of liturgical garments, is unacceptable to us, as the holy canons do not allow this.”

Accordingly, the Patriarchal Choir will not participate in any such visit.

The participation of any representative of the Bulgarian Church in any other events in the draft program is “impossible,” the statement reads. The Pope’s program of course includes several other services, including a “Prayer for peace with Bulgarian representatives of various religious faiths at Nezavisimost Square.”

Moreover, the hierarchs write to the Apostolic Nuncio: “Regarding your suggestion that Deacon Ivan Ivanov be an interpreter during the visit by Pope Francis to Bulgaria—the Synod does not give its blessing for this, except for the visits to the building of the Holy Synod and the Patriarchal St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.”

“It is not blessed for Bulgarian Orthodox Church-Bulgarian Patriarchate clerics to participate in all the other events of the program of the visit of Pope Francis in Bulgaria,” the statement concludes.

The Pope also visited Georgia in September-October 2016, where the Georgian Church showed the same restraint and respect for Orthodox sacred Tradition, meeting with the Pope but not participating in any joint services or prayers.

The Georgian and Bulgarian Churches are the two Local Orthodox Churches that have withdrawn from the ecumenistic World Council of Churches.

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