The Bulgarian Orthodox Church Metropolitan of Rousse, Naum, has praised Pope Francis as a good person and welcomed the Pope’s message of love and goodwill – in a statement in sharp contrast to the reported hostility of Naum’s fellow Metropolitan, Nikolai of Plovdiv.
Plovdiv website podtepeto reported Metropolitan Nikolai as having lashed out at the visit by Pope Francis, with the cleric reportedly claiming a conspiracy to unite all believers under the Pope “to meet the Antichrist”.
In a Facebook post, titled “What threat is Pope Francis to us?”, Metropolitan Naum, a 50-year-old who has headed the Rousse diocese of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church since March 2014, said that the visit by Pope Francis to Bulgaria had been “cause for all sorts of controversy”and had unleashed “countless insults and accusations both against him and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church”.
Naum’s comments come against a background not only of Metropolitan Nikolai’s comments, but also the church’s leadership having agreed to meet Francis for talks, but to publicly forbid Orthodox clergy from joint worship or prayer with him.
“We, the members of the Holy Synod, met him (Pope Francis) as our brother in the Lord, greeted him with ‘Christ is Risen’ and wished him a pleasant stay in our country,” Naum said.
In an apparent reference to the reported comments by Nikolai, Naum said: “We know that his visit to our country was not aimed at turning Bulgarians into Roman Catholics”.
Naum denounced “some compatriots” who presented themselves as “strictly Orthodox” who put on the shoulders of the Pope of Rome accusations of a “world conspiracy” and “virtual demonisation”.
The Rousse Metropolitan said that the decision by the Holy Synod to hold a protocol meeting with the Pope was taken by a majority, in spite of the different views of one or another Metropolitan, “so we were all obliged to comply with this, regardless of our personal perceptions”.
“It is good to realise that we need to be better with each other, to love our neighbours and to enjoy the goodwill towards us, which was, in fact, the message of Francis. Because God is love!” Naum said.
He called for the hostility, hatred and envy “inherent to many people” to be put aside.
“In our country, Pope Francis prayed for peace and understanding among the people, as we all pray during the holy liturgy. And those who sow the wind will reap the storm, as is wisely said,” Naum said.
He noted that, from Bulgaria, Pope Francis was going on to the Republic of North Macedonia.
“But did we think soberly about the words he said, about the work of Saints Cyril and Methodius and their identification with the Bulgarians? About the significance of the Bulgarian culture and history of many centuries? It seems that the Pope of Rome will be a bigger patriot that some Bulgarians willing to sell their history, church and past, because of sick ambitions and future ‘positions’,” Naum said.
“We wish Pope Francis the very best of health, because he is a good person, and Bulgarians to be better and wiser, because there is need of that,” the Rousse Metropolitan said.
(Photo, of Pope Francis, Patriarch Neofit and Rousse Metropolitan Naum at the May 5 2019 meeting at the Holy Synod: Bulgarian Patriarchate)