Thirty electors of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church diocese in the Black Sea city of Varna chose on November 17 two candidates out of a list of 13 to be the next Metropolitan, to succeed the late Kiril who died in an incident while diving in the sea earlier in 2013.
The election did not proceed without controversy and the two shortlisted candidates are attended by controversies of their own.
The church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, will have the final say at a meeting on November 24 on who will be the new Varna Metropolitan.
The two chosen candidates are Boris, since 2004 the abbot at Bachkovo monastery, and Sliven-based Provadya bishop Ignatii.
Boris (60) is a former representative of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church at the Moscow Patriarchate, from 1991 to 2004.
Alleged in local media reports to have a love of luxury, not only culinary but in respect of personal possessions, while reports also put into question some aspects of his personal life. One of his rival candidates, bishop Amvrosii, alleged that Boris was “trying to financially motivate” electors.
Ignatii (41), formerly a trustee of the Bulgarian church in Moscow and a bishop since 2008, is a proponent of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church reverting to the Julian calendar which it foresook in 1968, and celebrating Christmas according to the old style, on January 7. In an interview with Russian media, Ignatii was quoted as saying that Russia’s Vladimir Putin should be tsar in a restored Russian monarchy.
Bulgarian religious news website Dveri said of the election in Varna that “the concerns of Christians in Bulgaria and outside the country proved to be true, incredible but true – both candidates for Varna Metropolitan are among the most scandalous bishops of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church”.
Ignatii was unelectable, Dveri said, meaning that Boris was set to be the next Metropolitan of Varna.
According to a report by Bulgarian National Television, Christian faithful gathered outside the church where the election was being held, holding posters and expressing concerns that certain bishops had offered money to the voters.
Local media said after the election, some priests and laity had expressed unhappiness, saying that the choice was unfair.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has a number of vacancies to fill on the Holy Synod – not only that of Varna, but also Rousse – because of election in February 2013 of Neofit as Patriarch – and one more as of November 16, after Nevrokop Metropolitan Natanail died on his 61st birthday after a long illness.
(Photo: Nikola Gruev)