The Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s governing body says that while a meeting between Patriarch Neofit and Pope Francis is possible during the Pope’s May 2019 visit to Bulgaria, the church will not participate in any joint services or prayers.
The decision was announced by the governing body, the Holy Synod, on April 3.
The Holy Synod said that it had decided to write to Anselmo Guido Pecorari, the Apostolic Nuncio to Bulgaria, saying that because the invitation to Pope Francis to visit Bulgaria had come from the state authorities, it was appropriate for the main events related to the visit to be co-ordinated with them.
Patriarch Neofit and the members of the Holy Synod were prepared to receive Pope Francis for a meeting at the Holy Synod’s headquarters on May 5, as envisaged in the draft programme.
A visit to Alexander Nevsky cathedral was “possible”, the Holy Synod said, “but we would like to emphasise that any form of shared liturgical or prayer service, as well as wearing of liturgical garments, is unacceptable to us, as the holy canons do not allow this”
It added: “In this connection, the participation of the Patriarchal Choir is also impossible”.
In all other events of the draft programme that had been presented, the participation of representatives of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church Patriarch was “impossible,” the Holy Synod said.
It resolved to tell Pecorari: “Regarding your suggestion that deacon Ivan Ivanov be an interpreter during the visit by Pope Francis to Bulgaria, the Synod does not give its blessing for this, except for the visits to the building of the Holy Synod and the Patriarchal Cathedral St Alexander Nevsky”.
No blessing was given for clerics of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to participate in all the other events of Pope Francis’s visit to Bulgaria, the Holy Synod said.
Full details of the programme for the visit of Pope Francis to Bulgaria, as announced by the Vatican on March 7, are available here.
(Photo, of the headquarters of the Holy Synod in Sofia: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)