A fire badly damaged the Catholic church in the Bulgarian town of Belene last night. Bulgarian language media reported, the flames broke out between 6 and 7 p.m. on Friday. Nobody was injured, but the fire did a lot of damage.
The flames engulfed the entire first floor of the building. All icons were destroyed. Also, the second floor of the church might collapse, according to experts, since the fire damaged the wooden structure which holds it in place.
Officially, the cause of the fire is unclear. There was talk about a candle, which might have fallen, while congregation members, who visit their church frequently, said this was not possible, since the burning candles were located in a very safe place. Many of the members believe the cause was arson. The latter has not been ruled out by the authorities either.
The Catholic church of Belene was in the center of a scandal just some three weeks ago. This church was headed by Paolo Cortese, a Roman Catholic priest from Italy. At the beginning of March, he had accommodated Syrian refugees in the temple, who had been granted asylum and who therefore stayed in Bulgaria legally. But a politician in Belene and some inhabitants told Cortese to stop housing the Syrians. The priest even received death threats and left Bulgaria on March 12th, for that reason.
High-ranking Bulgarian politicians, such as the interim government’s Prime Minister Ognyan Gerdzhikov, did not comment on the scandal at all.
Recently, there were other incidents involving hatred towards foreigners in Bulgaria: The Harmanli scandal and a case in Elin Pelin, in which a mayor refused to issue I.D. documents for legal refugees, once again highlighted the problem of racism in Bulgaria.
Picture: Screenshot, bTV