Members of Bulgaria’s parliamentary committee on religious affairs are proposing for the first time to include the Roman Catholic church in the country in the list of religious bodies to receive state subsidies.
This emerged after a meeting between the chairperson of the committee, Plamen Slavov, and the head of the bishops’ conference of the Roman Catholic church in Bulgaria, Hristo Proykov.
“So far, we have been self-supporting, and if we get this grant, it would be a good helping hand for us,” local media quoted Proykov as saying.
Slavov said that the committee supported the idea of including the Roman Catholic church in the list of religious groups to get financial support in the 2014 Budget, given that the state budget supported other traditional faiths.
He said that the subsidies in the national budget for religious faiths had remained unchanged for several years and the committee was proposing an increase.
A report by Bulgarian religious news website Dveri said that up to now, state subsidies for religious faiths had added up to three million leva (about 1.5 million euro) a year.
So far, the Roman Catholic church had been nominally present in the category “other registered religions” for which a sum of 50 000 leva was set aside.
In the current Budget, the sums included 700 000 leva for Bulgarian Orthodox Church parishes abroad and priests working abroad and 1.66 million leva for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church inside the country.
For the Muslim faith in Bulgaria, there was 180 000 leva, for the Central Jewish Religious Council 30 000 leva, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church 40 000 leva and “other registered religions” 50 000 leva.
The Budget set aside 300 000 leva for repairs to “religious buildings of national importance” and for the issue of religious literature and periodicals, 40 000 leva.
In Bulgaria’s February 2011 census, stating religious affiliation was optional for individuals.
According to the official census results, 59.4 per of Bulgarians are Orthodox Christians, 7.8 per cent Muslims, 0.9 per cent Protestants, 0.7 per cent Roman Catholics while 706 people declared that they were Jews, a figure too low to register as a percentage of the population on the census statistics.
Atheists were 9.3 per cent of the population, according to the census.
(Photo, of the interior of Roman Catholic church St Paul’s in Rousse, Bulgaria: Cameltrader)