The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church appointed Dorostol Metropolitan Ambrosii as temporary metropolitan of Varna on July 18.
Ambrosii will hold the position until the election of a new metropolitan, who would replace Metropolitan Kiril, found dead on a Black Sea beach earlier this month. Kiril died of drowning and his body showed no signs of foul play, prosecutors said, rejecting speculation in local and foreign media that he might have been killed.
After Kiril’s death, the Holy Synod named Vratsa Metropolitan Kalinik as acting Varna Metropolitan, but Kalinik withdrew after clergy and laity wrote to the Holy Synod objecting to his appointment.
According to local media reports, clergy were dissatisfied by the appointment of Kalinik, who had not got on well with Kiril and who did not attend his funeral.
Kalinik (82) was recruited by Bulgaria’s communist-era secret service State Security in 1968 and had the code names Agent Rilska and Agent Velko. His past as a State Security agent is seen as grounds for objections from the clergy in Varna.
Kalinik shares this background as a State Security agent with the late Kiril as well as most of the members of the current Holy Synod, including the Patriarch, Neofit.
State Security affiliation, however, does not always seem to determine the extent of acceptance of senior clergy, given Patriarch Neofit’s popularity and the respect that he has generated since his February 2013 election.
Ambrosii, one of the two metropolitans that the local clergy said they would prefer as acting head of the Varna diocese, was a State Security agent too.
As to the appointment of a new Metropolitan, church rules provide for the appointment to be made only from among clergy who are not already metropolitans, meaning that a transfer of a metropolitan from one diocese to another is not possible.
The death of Kiril created three vacancies on the Holy Synod, the church’s governing body, after the resignation of Simeon, Metropolitan of Western and Central Europe, because of ill health, and the fact that a Metropolitan must be appointed to replace Neofit who temporarily continues to hold the Rousse diocese while serving as Patriarch.
(Photo of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church cathedral in Varna: Nikola Gruev)