Bulgaria: Laity gather for prayer, call for reopening of Russian representation church

Sofia, September 29, 2023

Photo: dir.bg Photo: dir.bg     

After the Russian Embassy in Sofia announced the closure of the Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Sofia, the Russian representation church, following the expulsion of two priests and an employee, dozens of laypeople gathered in front of the locked doors, leaving flowers and praying in front of the church.

The church is home to the relics of the Holy Hierarch and Wonderworker Seraphim (Sobolev †1950). The faithful have also left notes with prayers and wishes, reports the Bulgarian outlet dnes.dir.bg.

“St. Seraphim, pray to God for us sinners!” read one of the notes placed at the locked front door.

The church has served as a representation of the Russian Orthodox Church for many years, but two priests and another church employee were branded threats to national security and expelled from the country last week. The former rector, Archimandrite Vassian (Zmeev), was also recently banned from entering North Macedonia.

Photo: dir.bg Photo: dir.bg     

There is now a debate in Bulgaria about who owns and is responsible for the church. His Holiness Patriarch Neofit appointed Bulgarian priests to serve in the church earlier this week, as it is within the territory of his Metropolis of Sofia, but the Russian embassy in Sofia holds a deed to the church that it was granted in 1997, the legality of which is being investigated by Bulgarian authorities.

According to the office of Russian Ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova, the embassy will decide how long the church remains closed.

The laity who gathered at the church began to petition for its doors to be reopened.

Comments left on the article varied, with many decrying the expulsion of the clergy that led to the closure of the church.

“SHAME! And the faith was defiled… It’s like some kind of film,” reads one comment.

Others read:

“The communists used to close churches; now their grandchildren are closing them again.”

“A shameful act, disgracing Bulgaria.”

“Grandpa Seraphim won’t leave us. There are no walls or barriers for him and the grace of God! Trust in the Lord, brothers and sisters. And pray through closed doors. Amen!”

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