Tributes stream in for late Bulgarian Orthodox Church Patriarch Neofit

Tributes have been streaming in for late Bulgarian Orthodox Church Patriarch Neofit after the church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, announced his death on the night of March 13.

At the start of its March 14 sitting, the National Assembly held a moment of silence for Neofit, who was the church’s Patriarch from his election in February 2013 until his death at the age of 78.

Speaker Rossen Zhelyazkov told the House: “ We have lost the spiritual father of the Bulgarian people, who led the Bulgarian Orthodox Church wisely, with dignity and with care for all believers”.

“We will remember him as a saviour of unity, peace and well-being,” Zhelyazkov said.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov said: “Patriarch Neofit will remain in our memories as a wise and kind spiritual leader who gave faith and strength to the laity, even when he himself was physically weak”.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Maria Gabriel said: “We will remember his covenant to achieve unity, to live in faith and piety”.

Tributes were also paid by leaders of all parliamentary groups.

In a post on Facebook soon after the announcement of Neofit’s death, head of state President Roumen Radev said: “The death of the Primate of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is a huge loss for it and for the Bulgarian people. With his dedicated spiritual service to God and Orthodoxy, Patriarch Neofit established himself as a supporter of the Bulgarian nation and our country”.

Across Bulgaria, the country’s Orthodox churches were open on the morning of March 14 for people to light candles and pray for Neofit. The majority of Bulgarians declare themselves to be adherents of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

Sofia city council also held a moment of silence at its March 14 sitting.

Dr Mustafa Hadzhi, the Chief Mufti of Bulgaria – spiritual leader of the country’s Muslims – expressed condolences to Orthodox world and Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria for the loss of the spiritual leader and head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

“It is with sadness and sorrow that we learned that His Holiness, the Bulgarian Patriarch and Metropolitan of Sofia Neofit, has ended his earthly journey,” Hadzhi said.

“He will remain in our minds as an extremely good person and as a dialogic spiritual leader. The Muslim faith will remember him for his empathy and respect for the religious communities in the country, the search for agreement in the name of common positions, law-making, morality, education and traditional values that we have stood for together,” he said.

The Organisation of the Jews in Bulgaria Shalom and the Central Israelite Spiritual Council expressed their deep condolences to the relatives of Patriarch Neofit and to all Bulgarian Orthodox Christians.

On behalf of the two organisations, chairpersons Professor Alexander Oscar and Maxim Delchev sent letters of condolence to St. Synod.

“We express our gratitude and will remember Patriarch Neofit as a guardian of the covenant and dignity of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and with his virtue and wisdom he rightfully ranks next to its leaders such as Exarch Stefan and Patriarch Kiril, who have been declared Righteous Among the Nations for their role in time of the Holocaust,” the organisations said.

“In 2018, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews, Patriarch Neofit also received the great award of the OJB Shalom – the Shofar award as a sign of the Jewish community’s gratitude to the Bulgarian Church for its active and decisive role in the rescue of tens of thousands of Bulgarian Jews during the Second World War.

“We sympathise and join in the sorrow of all believers today,” they said.

The Holy Synod was scheduled to hold a special meeting on the afternoon of March 14 to decide on arrangements for Neofit’s funeral.


The Sofia Globe staff

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