Lovech, Bulgaria, February 26, 2020
While the announcement that the Bulgarian Church would not send any representatives to today’s fraternal gathering in Amman was issued “from the chancellery of the Holy Synod” of the Bulgarian Church, there was, in fact, no discussion of the matter by the Holy Synod, His Eminence Metropolitan Gabriel of Lovech revealed in an interview yesterday with Bulgarian National Radio.
According to Met. Gabriel, the two letters of invitation sent by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem to His Holiness Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria were never even brought to the attention of the members of the Holy Synod, but were immediately forwarded to the Synodal Commission established in the fall of 2018 to consider the Ukrainian issue.
Thus, the hierarchs of the Bulgarian Church only learned about the date of the meeting in Amman from the media.
Though the Commission, headed by Metropolitan Metropolitan Cyprian of Stara Zagora, was created nearly a year and a half ago, there has been no statement from the Bulgarian Synod on the Ukrainian matter, and it is not clear whether the issue has even been discussed by the Synod in any depth. In June of last year, Met. Gabriel revealed that the matter had not yet been considered in depth by the Synod.
Met. Gabriel also noted in yesterday’s interview that a group of four metropolitans tried to get the question of the participation of a Bulgarian delegation in the fraternal gathering to be brought before the Holy Synod, but it never happened.
Only a few days before today’s gathering, when it would already have been difficult to physically gather all the members of the Synod on such late notice, the Synod’s office spoke with the bishops by phone, with most saying they did not consider it necessary to send a delegation to Jordan.
Thus, the matter was not discussed conciliarly, and there was no decision by the Holy Synod in accordance with the statutes of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
Met. Gabriel himself supported the initiative of the Amman gathering, quoting the words of the Lord: For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them (Mt. 18:20).
In his view, it remains quite possible for the Local Churches that are not participating in today’s meeting to join the process of discussing the Ukrainian issue in the future.
Met. Gabriel, who studied with His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine at the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, has been one of a handful of Bulgarian hierarchs who have taken a strong and outspoken stance in favor of canonical Orthodoxy in Ukraine and in favor of working to resolve the issue in concert with the other Local Churches.
Together with Metropolitans John of Varna and Daniil of Vidin, Met. Gabriel urged the Synod to call for a pan-Orthodox council at its session in October 2018, though the motion did not pass. The three hierarchs issued a statement a few days later explaining their reasoning.
After the Patriarchate of Constantinople unilaterally decided to receive the anathematized and unordained schismatics of the “Kiev Patriarchate” and the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” into the Orthodox Church, Met. Gabriel explained that this action was contrary to the sacred canons of the Church.
Concelebrating with His Eminence Metropolitan Nikodim of Zhytomyr and Novograd-Volyn of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on December 6, Met. Gabriel said of the hierarchs, clergy, and people of the Ukrainian Church: “They are especially close to me now because they are confessors and martyrs, because they have proved their loyalty to the Church, the canonical Church.”