The Bulgarian Orthodox Church metropolitan appointed as acting head of the Black Sea diocese of Varna after the death of Metropolitan Kiril has withdrawn after clergy and laity wrote to the Holy Synod objecting to his appointment.
After the death of Kiril on July 9, the church’s governing body named Vratsa Metropolitan Kalinik as acting Varna Metropolitan pending a final appointment.
Kalinik is said to have been offended by the unhappiness among local clergy about his appointment.
According to local media reports, clergy were dissatisfied by the appointment of Kalinik, who had not got on well with Kiril and who did not attend his funeral.
Kalinik (82) was recruited by Bulgaria’s communist-era secret service State Security in 1968 and had the code names Agent Rilska and Agent Velko. His past as a State Security agent is seen as grounds for objections from the clergy in Varna.
Kalinik shares this background as a State Security agent with the late Kiril as well as most of the members of the current Holy Synod, including the Patriarch, Neofit.
State Security affiliation, however, does not always seem to determine the extent of acceptance of senior clergy, given Patriarch Neofit’s popularity and the respect that he has generated since his February 2013 election.
A spokesman for the Varna Diocese indicated that the local clergy would prefer with Lovech Metropolitan Gavril or Dorostol Metropolitan Ambrosii to be appointed as temporary metropolitan (Ambrosii was a State Security agent; Gavril was not).
As to the appointment of a new Metropolitan, church rules provide for the appointment to be made only from among clergy who are not already metropolitans, meaning that a transfer of a metropolitan from one diocese to another is not possible.
The death of Kiril created three vacancies on the Holy Synod, the church’s governing body, after the resignation of Simeon, Metropolitan of Western and Central Europe, because of ill health, and the fact that a Metropolitan must be appointed to replace Neofit who temporarily continues to hold the diocese while serving as Patriarch.
(Photo of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church cathedral in Varna: Nikola Gruev)