Three candidates shortlisted to be Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s Patriarch

Meeting on June 20, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, shortlisted three of its members as candidates to be the church’s next Patriarch.

The process is intended to choose a successor to Patriarch Neofit, whose death at the age of 78 was announced on March 13 2024.

To be eligible to be elected, a candidate Metropolitan must be older than 50 and have headed his diocese for at least five years.

Nine of the 14 members of the current Holy Synod meet those criteria.

After 42 rounds of voting, the three shortlisted were Metropolitans Grigorii of Vratsa, Daniil of Vidin and Gavrill of Lovech.

All three are perceived to be in the church’s Russophile camp. None has been announced by the Dossier Commission to have worked for Bulgaria’s communist-era secret service State Security.

Grigorii has been Metropolitan of Vratsa since his election by the Holy Synod in March 2017.

Born Krassimir Tsvetkov on September 19 1970 in Botevgrad, Grigorii attended the natural sciences high school in the town and then attended a two-year course at the St Ivan Rilski Sofia Seminary.

He became a monk on November 17 1996 and the next day was ordained a deacon.

On December 21 1998 he became an Archimandrite and in 1999 graduated from the Athens University theological faculty. On November 1 2007, he was appointed coadjutor of the Sofia bishopric.

Grigorii was consecrated as a bishop on in October 2010 and was the second bishop vicar of the Sofia Metropolitan, a post held by the Patriarch. In February 2011, he was appointed Abbot of the Troyan Monastery.

On May 1 2014, he was appointed vicar to Patriarch Neofit.

Daniil has been Metropolitan of Vidin since February 2018.

Daniil was born Atanas Triandafilov Nikolov on March 2 1972 in Smolyan, where he attended school before going on to enrol for a degree in English at Sofia University in 1996. In 1997, he switched to the theological faculty at Sofia University.

He became a monk in 1999. Daniil graduated from Sofia University’s theology faculty in 2002. In 2004, he was sent to Rozhen Monastery and in 2006 was appointed as an Archimandrite.

Daniil was consecrated as a bishop in 2008 and was appointed vicar of the Metropolitan of Nevrokop, the diocese headquartered in the southern Bulgarian town of Gotse Delchev.

Two years later, in June, he was appointed vicar of the Metropolitan of the United States, Canada and Australia.

Gavriil was born on July 16 1950 in Sofia with the secular name Tsvetan Metodiev Dinev .

He lived with his parents in Czechoslovakia ( 1953-1966  ), where he completed primary education .

He returned to Bulgaria and in 1969 began studying at the Higher Institute of Architecture and Construction, graduating in 1973 .

On December 27 1979, he was ordained a monk.

In 1984, he graduated in absentia from the Sofia Theological Seminary and in the autumn of the same year began the theological specialization at the Moscow Theological Academy in 1984-1986.

From September 1986, he was the head of the Bulgarian Church Court under the Moscow Patriarchate.

He returned to Bulgaria in 1991 and served in various positions before becoming Metropolitan of Lovech on January 28 2001.

The election of the Patriarch is scheduled for June 30 2024. To be elected, a candidate must get two-thirds of the votes of the 140-member Patriarchal Electoral Church Council, an electoral college representing clergy and laity.

(Photo of Alexander Nevsky cathedral in Sofia: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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