Bulgarian President urges rethink on church honouring Saxe-Coburg as ‘Tsar of Bulgarians’

Bulgarian head of state President Rossen Plevneliev has called on the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to reconsider its decision to honour former monarch Simeon Saxe-Coburg in private and public liturgies as “Tsar of the Bulgarians”.

Critical media coverage of the decision by the church’s governing body said that the church appeared to think that Bulgaria had two heads of state.

Saxe-Coburg became king of Bulgaria in 1943 after the sudden death of his father, Boris III. A post-World War 2 referendum under communist domination abolished the monarcy, and the country’s first democratic constitution in 1991 made no mention of a monarchy.

After the fall of communism, Saxe-Coburg returned to the country and was elected prime minister in 2001, with his government serving a single term before participating in a socialist-led tripartite coalition government from 2005 to 2009.

On May 2, Plevneliev was among dignitaries at church ceremonies in the ancient former capital of Pliska as the country celebrated the 1150th anniversary of its adoption of Christianity.

Asked by journalists about the Holy Synod’s decision, which had been proposed by Plovdiv Metropolitan Nikolai and was adopted unanimously, Plevneliev said that as head of state, he strongly supported the constitutional order.

“As a humble layman and a Christian, I will hope and pray that the Holy Synod reconsiders its decision, which has a symbolic meaning and could lead to the risk of Christians in Bulgaria being divided into monarchists and republicans,” Plevneliev said.

He said that political and spiritual leaders in Bulgaria should learn from the work of Boris I – the ninth century ruler under whom the country was converted to Christianity and who is revered by the church as a saint – in uniting and creating a strong foundation for Bulgaria to continue through the ages.

“In this sacred place my wish is that our political and spiritual leaders follow this covenant and work for the unity of the people,” Plevneliev said.

Plevneliev expressed his firm hope that the HolySynod would take wise decisions. “I remain with profound respect for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and as head of state will always work for its unity,” he said.

Earlier, in his formal speech at the celebrations, Plevneliev said that Bulgaria was a proud member of the European family, which was a dream come true for and a covenant for generations of Bulgarians.

“We are proud that we have a democratic parliamentary republic,” Plevneliev said.

During the celebrations, the church conferred its highest honours on three figures: current Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, former prime minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg and Emil Velinov, head of the cabinet office on religious denominations.

According to the most recent census, in 2011, just less than 60 per cent of Bulgarians declared themselves to be Bulgarian Orthodox Christians. About 0.9 per cent were Protestants and 0.7 per cent Roman Catholics.

(Photo, of Bulgarian Orthodox Church head Neofit and President Rossen Plevneliev: V Nikolov/president.bg)



The Sofia Globe staff

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