The Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s Metropolitan of Varna, Kiril, has been found dead on a Black Sea beach, the Holy Synod said on July 9 2013, citing official confirmation from local police.
Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement that it was investigating the “cause and circumstances of death”, but had no reasons to believe foul play was involved.
The body was found at about 8am and was reported to the 112 emergency hotline; the deceased was later identified as Kiril, the prosecution statement said. An autopsy was ordered to establish the cause of death, prosecutors said.
News agency Focus reported, quoting the Varna district prosecutor’s office, that the cause of death was ruled to be drowning.
Kiril was wearing a diving mask and a snorkel. According to Bulgarian National Television, which quoted local residents, he was a good swimmer and was often seen swimming on the beach were his body was found.
Bulgaria’s Holy Synod is expected to meet on July 10 to name an interim metropolitan of Varna, while Bulgarian Orthodox Church Patriarch Neofit cancelled a scheduled trip to Rousse, Bulgarian media reported.
Kiril, born in 1954, was among the most controversial figures in the church, not only for being revealed to have been one of the several senior clergy to have been an agent for Bulgaria’s communist-era State Security but also for his luxury car and alleged taste for an opulent lifestyle.
After the death in late 2012 of long-serving Patriarch Maxim, Kiril was named the acting chairperson of the Holy Synod, the church’s governing body, but – after an initially vicious public contest about the future leadership of the church – he did not make the shortlist of three in the election of a new Patriarch. In February 2013, Rousse Metropolitan Neofit was elected Patriarch.
The death of Kiril would have a significant implication for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, because it would create another vacancy on the Holy Synod.
Pro tem, Neofit has held on to the diocese of Rousse but a Metropolitan would have to be elected in his place. In June 2013, the Holy Synod accepted the resignation of Simeon, Metropolitan of Western and Central Europe, on the grounds of serious ill-health.
A third vacancy in the church’s governing body creates wider possibilities for changes in the balance of the power in the running of the church. Census results and surveys indicate that a majority of Bulgarians declare themselves to be adherents of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
(Photo: DP Gatev)