The Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, has accepted the resignation on the grounds of ill-health of Simeon, Metropolitan of Western Europe.
Simeon, elected in 1986 as the first Metropolitan of the then-newly established diocese of Western Europe, has been ill for some time and has been having medical treatment in the United States.
It is expected that a replacement will be named in the autumn.
Simeon was among those named by the Dossier Commission as having worked for Bulgaria’s communist-era secret service State Security. He also was a member of the Bulgarian Communist Party.
Patriarch Neofit, elected presiding officer of the Holy Synod on February 24 2013, also was named – along with most members of the church’s governing body – as having been a State Security agent. Neofit has retained the post that he held before his election as Patriarch, Metropolitan of Rousse, with a replacement to head the church in Bulgaria’s Danubian city also expected later this year.
This means that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church appears set to get two new metropolitans this year, possibly altering the balance of power within the Holy Synod. Differences of approach on issues within the Synod tend, however, to be on the basis of theological matters and interpretations of policy rather than on previous relations with the communist regime.
Meanwhile, clarity is awaited about the future of Joseph, Metropolitan of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in the United States, Canada and Australia.
Joseph returned to Bulgaria ahead of the Patriarchal election in February 2013 and has lodged a formal request to remain in the country and for the administration of the diocese to be transferred to his vicar bishop.
Media reports have suggested that Joseph could be named spokesman for the Holy Synod. He undertook a similar role during the Patriarchal election.
The Synod currently lacks a spokesman and only some of its decisions are announced on the church’s official website.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)