Serious controversy overshadowed the process of nominations by the Sofia diocese of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church of members of the electoral college that will choose the next Patriarch.
On January 13, all of the church’s dioceses were to name their nominees for the electoral college that will gather in the Bulgarian capital on February 24 to elect the next head of the church.
But Sofia, which has double-weighted representation in the electoral college, saw consecutive days of argument after Varna Metropolitan Kiril, currently acting Patriarch and acting Sofia Metropolitan, put forward a list of names unacceptable to the diocese.
The argument arose because Kiril, who is among the majority of members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod officially identified as having been agents for the country’s communist-era State Security, proposed a list of names of people seen as having deep communist pedigrees or as having little or no connection with the contemporary life of the church.
Initial plans were for Sofia to confirm its candidates on January 11. However, Kiril’s list was rejected on that day, and was rejected again on Saturday. Bulgarian media reports said that members of the Sofia diocesan council were “shocked” by some of the names on his list.e
On January 11, a statement by the diocesan council said that it appeared that the process of choosing Sofia’s representatives in the electoral college was being “sabotaged”.
One of the members of the diocesan council, Father Petar from Samokov, said that he had been threatened with dismissal by Kiril unless he agreed to the list. He said that he would lodge a complaint to the Holy Synod about the matter.
The election of the new Patriarch on February 24 must take place in accordance with a statute approved by a church-laity assembly of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in 2009. The church has 15 dioceses, 13 in Bulgaria and two abroad – the United States, Canada and Australia and Central and Western Europe.
The Holy Synod will present three candidates for Patriarch. The election is by secret ballot. Should the process succeed, the new Patriarch will be enthroned on the same day after the election, in Sofia’s Alexander Nevsky cathedral.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)