Bulgaria’s Cabinet said on October 13 that it had proposed to head of state President Rossen Plevneliev to confer the country’s highest state honour, the Stara Planina first degree, on Bulgarian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Neofit.
The recommendation was on the occasion of Neofit’s 70 birthday and for his outstanding contribution to Bulgaria, the government said.
Born on October 15 1945, Neofit was elected Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church on February 24 2013.
“Since his election as head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church His Grace has repeatedly behaved as a true spiritual shepherd of his flock,” a government statement said, adding that “with a lot of tact and perseverance, Neofit instructs and supports people in need on the way to God, and calls on the nation to love, unity and compassion in the days of public trials and natural disasters”.
The statement said that even before his election as Patriarch, as a bishop, spokesman of the Holy Synod and Metropolitan of Rousse, Neofit had been one of the pillars of the canonical Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and an ardent supporter of the restoration of its unity.
This was a reference to the years of the “Alternative Synod” that broke away from the mainstream Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
Neofit previously has received a state honour, the Saints Cyril and Methodius medal, conferred in June 2010 for his his significant contributions to the development of the Theological Academy at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski and his contribution to the development of scholarly connections and relations between Eastern and Western Christians. The honour was given on the occasion of his 65th birthday.