Bulgarian hierarchs call for special prayer rule in lead-up to politicized Patriarchal election

Lovech, Lovech Province, Bulgaria, May 29, 2024

Photo: bg-patriarshia.bg Photo: bg-patriarshia.bg     

A group of three hierarchs of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church are calling for the people to take up a special prayer rule in the lead-up to the Patriarchal election to be held late next month.

His Holiness Patriarch Neofit, who presided over the Bulgarian Church for 11 years, reposed in the Lord in March. His successor will be chosen on June 30.

On Monday, three hierarchs, Metropolitans Gabriel of Lovech, Seraphim of Nevrokop, and Daniil of Vidin published the following statement and call on the site of the Bulgarian Church:

Dear fathers, brothers, and sisters in the Lord,

We are facing crucial elections for the Patriarch of our Bulgarian Orthodox Church, as well as state elections.

We appeal to all who wish to prayerfully support our holy Church and homeland.

Let us read the Supplicatory Canon to the Most Holy Theotokos every day from today until June 30.

May the Lord God, through her most holy prayers, forgive and have mercy on us, and pour out His Divine mercy on our native holy Church and our people.

Tensions are running high in the Bulgarian ecclesiastical sphere, especially after the recent incident in which five Bulgarian hierarchs concelebrated with two Ukrainian schismatic hierarchs in Istanbul. Clergy, monastics, and laymen from across the country have sent letters of protest to the Office of the Holy Synod, and a group gathered in protest outside the Synodal meeting on Sunday.

Metropolitan Nicholas of Plovdiv, one of the hierarchs who served with the schismatics, is a frontrunner in the Patriarchal elections, and is understood to enjoy the backing of Patriarch Bartholomew, who created the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” in 2018 together with the Ukrainian and U.S. governments.

And according to Bulgarian Church and state figures, the upcoming Patriarchal election is also proving to be quite politicized.

In an interview with Bulgarian National Radio, theologian Professor Ivan Zhenev stated:

This was a move by Metropolitan Nicholas [of Plovdiv] to do a little advertising for himself. Moreover, with the elections coming up, Euro-Atlanticism is very much in vogue. Patriarch Bartholomew, behind whom stands the State Department—it’s very prestigious to be on good terms with him. Metropolitan Nicholas went to bow to him there and to secure support. Now he’s a fan of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. They served with these Ukrainians, whom the Bulgarian Church hasn’t recognized—this is a violation of the canons.

Politician, historian, lawyer, and founder and chairman of the Revival party Kostadin Kostadinov made similar comments on Sunday, saying the Bulgarian Church is under pressure from the U.S.

He also referred to the “canonical crime” that occurred with the schismatics in Istanbul.

“It’s no secret that our Patriarchate is under strong American pressure, and Bartholomew plays the role of the main weapon in this pressure,” Kostadinov said. Moreover, there is a growing Grecophile movement within the Bulgarian Church that “puts the future of the independent Bulgarian Orthodox Church in question.”

He explained that “the election of a new Patriarch will take place at the end of next month and it looks like we’re about to get a Greek at the head of the Bulgarian Patriarchate, who will be just a nominal head, following the orders of Bartholomew, who increasingly feels like an Orthodox pope.”

This faction earlier invited Pat. Bartholomew and schismatic representatives to the funeral of His Holiness Patriarch Neofit, and now they have invited Pat. Bartholomew to attend not only the enthronement of the next Bulgarian Patriarch, but even to sit in on the election itself.

“Unfortunately,” the fate of the Bulgarian Church “is under threat due to the venality of a few Church janissaries,” Kostadinov lamented.

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