Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s governing body elects new Metropolitan of Sliven

In a vote on May 26, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, elected Bishop Arseniy of Znepol as the new Metropolitan of the Sliven diocese.

The election was held to choose a successor to long-standing Metropolitan of Sliven Ioanikiy, whose death at the age of 84 was announced on January 9 2024.

Arseniy was one of two candidates shortlisted in a vote in Sliven on May 19.

The May 26 vote was the culmination of a reboot of the election, after a diocesan vote earlier was rejected by the Holy Synod as not having been canonical.

Arseniy – who is seen as close to Plovdiv Metropolitan Nikolai – got seven votes and his rival Gerasim of Melnik five.

The Holy Synod did not agree to allowing Yosif, Metropolitan of the United States, Canada and Australia, casting his ballot remotely from his diocesan headquarters in New York.

Arseniy got the votes of Nikolai of Plovdiv, Grigorii of Veliko Turnovo, Ignatii of Pleven, Antonii of Western and Central Europe, Naum of Rousse, Kiprian of Stara Zagora and Yakov of Dorostol.

Arseniy, 37, was born in Stara Zagora as Atanas Lazarov.

He graduated from Sofia University’s theology faculty in 2006 and continued his theological studies at Paisii Hilendarski Plovdiv University, graduating in 2009.

He became a monk on August 11 2007, ordained by Plovdiv Metropolitan Nikolai, who went on to promote him through various church ranks.

From 2008 to 2010, he was parish priest in villages in the Plovdiv diocese and was appointed director of Plovdiv Orthodox Television in 2009.

In July 2014, he became Bishop of Znepol, after the Holy Synod approved his nomination, submitted by Metropolitan Nikolai. At the same time, Arseniy was appointed vicar of the Metropolitan of Plovdiv.

As Metropolitan of Sliven, Arseniy will have a role in the election of a new Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, to succeed Neofit, whose death at the age of 78 was announced on March 13 2024.

The election by the Holy Synod of a new Patriarch is scheduled for June 30. It will be held by the Patriarchal electoral college, after, on June 20, the Holy Synod shortlists three candidates.

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