Bulgarian church meeting on ‘fireworks’ cleric turns into damp squib

The first day of a three-day meeting of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s governing body the Holy Synod, due to discuss the fate of controversial Archimandrite Dionisii, was cancelled because of a lack of a quorum.

Dionisii has been at the centre of controversy, leading to some senior clergy to demand his removal from his post as dean of Alexander Nevsky cathedral, after innovations such as a fireworks display, a military guard of honour and the playing of secular music were introduced to the 2016 Orthodox Easter celebrations at the landmark cathedral.

But the May 18 meeting was cancelled because a quorum of eight metropolitans could not be mustered.

Among those absent was Varna Metropolitan Yoan, who is visiting Crete, while Metropolitan Galaktion of Stara Zagora, Vidin Metropolitan Dometian and Metropolitan Joseph of America also were not in attendance, apparently because of bad health.

Senior priests at the cathedral have recently refused to serve in liturgies alongside Dionisii, whom they allege to have introduced non-canonical elements into services and, they say, has stood during services in the place reserved for a bishop – a rank that he has been denied because of previous controversies about him.

On the morning that the first day’s meeting of the Holy Synod was to be held, rival groups against and in support of Dionisii gathered outside the Synod’s building in central Sofia.

Dionisii, who earlier this week rallied a group of supporters to be received in audience by Bulgarian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Neofit, has told the media that the attacks against him began before Easter, and were politically-motivated. He has effectively pointed the finger at the Reformist Bloc, the centre-right coalition that is a minority partner in Bulgaria’s government.

Dionisii has claimed to have had Neofit’s consent for the fireworks display – unprecented in Bulgarian Easter traditions – although detractors have responded to this that such an innovation was not permissible unless the Holy Synod had given its consent.

The controversial Archimandrite, who although he was denied ordination as a bishop in December 2014 was appointed to the top administrative post at Alexander Nevsky cathedral in December 2015, has hinted that since taking office, he had found financial irregularities by his predecessor, Bishop Tihon.

Should the Holy Synod again fail to secure a quorum on May 19, that meeting also would be postponed, a church spokesperson confirmed to local media.



The Sofia Globe staff

The Sofia Globe - the Sofia-based fully independent English-language news and features website, covering Bulgaria, the Balkans and the EU. Sign up to subscribe to sofiaglobe.com's daily bulletin through the form on our homepage. https://www.patreon.com/user?u=32709292