Bulgarian priests and faithful denounce episcopal concelebration with Ukrainian schismatics

Bulgaria, May 27, 2024

​Bulgarian hierarch Met. Nicholas of Plovdiv embraces “Archbishop” Evstraty Zorya of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” one of the main enemies of Orthodoxy in Ukraine. Photo: ec-patr.org ​Bulgarian hierarch Met. Nicholas of Plovdiv embraces “Archbishop” Evstraty Zorya of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” one of the main enemies of Orthodoxy in Ukraine. Photo: ec-patr.org     

On May 19, five hierarchs of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (three metropolitans and two bishops) concelebrated with representatives of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” for the first time, while the Bulgarian Holy Synod has never made the decision to enter into communion with the schismatics.

The concelebration came at a time when the Bulgarian Church has no Patriarch. His Holiness Patriarch Neofit reposed in March. Metropolitan Nikolay of Plovdiv, who served with the OCU sectarians, is one of the top names in the upcoming Patriarch elections, the outcome of which Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has showed great interest in.

It is noteworthy that the official site of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church never published any news about the concelebration. However, it didn’t escape the attention of the Bulgarian clergy, monastics, and faithful.

A group of priests from the Lovech Diocese (whose hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Gabriel is known for his strong Orthodox stance against the schismatics) sent an open letter to the Holy Synod demanding that the five hierarchs who violated Orthodox ecclesiology and concelebrated with the schismatics, Metropolitans Nicholas of Plovdiv, Cyprian of Stara Zagora, Iakov of Dorostol, and Bishops Zion of Velichka and Vissarion of Smolyan, should be held responsible for their actions.

They also object to the rhetoric coming from the Patriarchate of Constantinople and its interference in the life of the Bulgarian Church.

The priests write:

  1. “We categorically oppose the Bulgarian Orthodox Church participating in political affairs, especially those outside our country’s borders. We remind you that the canonical Church of Christ in Ukraine has always been, and remains, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, currently led by Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev. The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), newly created and heavily promoted by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, is, at best, a geopolitical project in Church vestments and, in any case, a false church.

  2. “We insist that the three metropolitans and two bishops be held accountable for their serious misconduct, which has harmed not only themselves but the entire Church body. Their actions have caused significant turmoil just before the Patriarchal election, threatening the unity of Christ’s Church in Bulgaria.

  3. “We express our dissatisfaction with the newly introduced and increasingly used ecclesiological terminology from the Ecumenical Patriarchate regarding the “Mother Church” and its “daughters.” This terminology undermines the traditional understanding of the Church as the mystical Body of Christ and as the visible flock with the shepherd Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, it imposes the view of the Church as a global human institution with a corporate character. We are surprised and deeply confused as to why such terminology is starting to be heard from Bulgarian hierarchs, and from the highest positions at that.

  4. “We state that the presence of Patriarch Bartholomew at the upcoming election for the Bulgarian Patriarch, which he claims to have been invited to, is absolutely undesirable. His actions and statements in recent years have consistently been a source of great scandal for many believers in Bulgaria, and after the establishment of the OCU, even for the Universal Church. We do not want his presence due to the current involvement of Bulgarian hierarchs in his lawlessness.

  5. “We emphasize that no one has forced, proposed, or urged us to write this letter. We are guided solely by our conscience as priests and Christians.”

According to the Bulgarian outlet afera.bg, the Synod was flooded with similar complaints from clergy and laity across the country, though the office of the Holy Synod did not send them on to be considered at the Synodal session yesterday. The hierarchs elected a new hierarch for the Sliven Diocese but seem not to have discussed the concelebration with schismatics.

Photo: Pravblog Photo: Pravblog     

However, the Synodal session was met by a protest of priests, monks, and laymen from across the country reports Pravblog.

The protestors greeted Met. Iakov of Dorostol, one of the hierarchs who concelebrated with schismatics, with shouts of “Judas!”

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