The Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, on May 20 ousted controversial cleric Archimandrite Dionisii from his post as dean of Sofia’s landmark Alexander Nevsky cathedral.
The Holy Synod also imposed a temporary ban on Dionisii conducting services, Varna Metropolitan Yoan told reporters.
Archimandrite Gerasim, general secretary of the Holy Synod, has been appointed acting head of the cathedral’s church board.
The Holy Synod managed to get a quorum on May 20 after two previous sittings, on May 18 and 19, failed for lack of one.
It is not yet clear where Dionisii will be sent and who will succeed him as chairman of the Alexander Nevsky cathedral board, the post to which he was appointed in late 2015.
Dionisii was at the centre of controversy over celebrations at the cathedral of Orthodox Easter 2016, which had features unprecedented in Bulgarian Orthodox Christian tradion – fireworks, a military guard of honour and the playing of secular music.
Critics also alleged that Dionisii had violated church canons in the conduct of liturgies.
Two senior clergy at the cathedral refused to serve alongside him during liturgies, leading him to describe them as “schismatics”. Metropolitan Yoan said that the Holy Synod’s May 20 had issued a reprimand to these two clerics.
Media reports also alleged that Dionisii was being investigated in connection with church finances. Dionisii, who has denied all wrongdoing, told a news conference on May 15 that the attacks against him were politically-motivated and alleged that he had uncovered financial irregularities by his predecessor in the cathedral post.
Metropolitan Yoan said that a committee of inquiry would look into the allegations against Dionisii and the situation at Alexander Nevsky cathedral.
In earlier reports this week, Dveri alleged that phone calls had been made last week urging metropolitans not to attend the Holy Synod meeting so that there would be no quorum, preventing a decision on Dionisii’s fate. Among those who came to the Synod building on the first two days on which the Synod was meant to meet was Lovech Metropolitan Gavriil, one of the leaders of the campaign to oust Dionisii.
Dveri said on May 19 that Antonii, Metropolitan of Western and Central Europe, had been in Sofia that day and had held a meeting with the Environment Minister, Ivelina Vassileva, but had not come to the Synod building.
Generally, metropolitans are allowed to absent themselves from Holy Synod meetings only in the event of serious illness or official duties that take them out of the country.