Tuesday, March 28, 2023

    Bulgarian Patriarch Neophyte snubs Russian metropolitan

    On December 6, when the Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, arrived in Bulgaria for a visit. The occasion was the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the ROC branch in this country.

    The divine liturgy was led by Metropolitan Gavriil of Lovchan in the co-service of Antony of Volokolamsk and the Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Bishop Gerasim of Melnik.

    However, this Divine Liturgy was… different, because during the event a protest action was held against the Russian Church, which was widely covered by mass media, where the demonstrators shouted: “Murderers!”. The reason was the reaction to the role of the Russian Church in the war in Ukraine.

    It should be recalled that Bulgaria, as an EU member state, opposed the aggressive policy of the Russian Federation toward Ukraine and condemned the attack on the Ukrainian people.

    The fact that the ambassador of the Russian Federation to Bulgaria, Eleonora Mitrofanova, who was present at the service in the Russian church representation, considered it expedient to leave through the back door in order not to face the demonstrators, is indicative of the situation.

    On December 2, the Bulgarian media reported that Metropolitan of Volokolamsk was visiting the country with the clear aim of influencing a possible future decision of the Synod of the Bulgarian Church on the recognition of the Tomos of autocephaly, given by the Serbian Church to the Ohrid Archdiocese and recognized by the Moscow Patriarchate. However, everyone in the Orthodox world knows that only the Ecumenical Patriarchate has the right to issue a Tomos of autocephaly.

    Undoubtedly, the purpose of the visit of Antoniy (Sevryuk) is to ensure non-recognition of Russian crimes in Ukraine and that of the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which received a Tomos from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the beginning of 2019.

    The media recalled that a month and a half ago, Metropolitan Anthoniy (Sevryuk) of the Russian Orthodox Church was banned from entering Great Britain, and 20 days ago, his participation in a conference on dialogue between Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants in Germany caused a scandal. One of the guests, Professor Dilyan Nikolchev, an expert in canon law, commented that this visit, most likely, is purely political and not ecclesiastical (Metropolitan Antoniy is not on the sanctions list and is free to travel with a diplomatic passport).

    Already on December 5, the head of the “Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria” party sent a letter to the head of the Security Services Control Commission, Daniel Mitov, asking him what measures were taken in connection with the visit of Metropolitan of Volokolamsk.

    On December 6, the “Democratic Bulgaria” coalition issued a statement against the visit, which was recited by a local deputy from the rostrum of the People’s Assembly the next day. The lawmaker noted that according to the rules of the Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is the only one that has the right to issue a Tomos of autocephaly to any other Orthodox Church. He also noted that Bulgaria’s interests as a member of the EU and NATO lie in maintaining closer allied relations with its neighbors and partners.

    Meanwhile, the leader of another Bulgarian party, Boyko Borisov, recently visited Istanbul where he held substantive talks with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, clearly and unequivocally stating that Bulgaria should recognize the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

    On December 8, two days after the statement of “Democratic Bulgaria”, the parliamentary group of the GERB-SDS coalition, also published a statement containing a request for the recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, as well as an appeal to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The statement, among other things, states the following:

    “Over the last few days, the head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Antoniy of Volokolamsk, has been in Bulgaria. The presence of the ambassadors of Russia and Belarus and Bulgarian public figures involved in the “Russophile” association at the service in the Russian Metohija on December 6 increased the suspicion and fear that there is a danger of using the Church as a political tool.

    Thus, according to the reports of the Bulgarian media, the poorly planned and poorly coordinated unofficial visit to Bulgaria by Metropolitan Antoniy of the Russian Orthodox Church amid the political crisis and war provoked political, communication and public debates, which, of course, already has an impact on the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

    The Light of Phanar website posted an article reflecting on what the Synod of the Bulgarian Church, set to meet on December 13, will decide – will they dare to recognize the autocephaly of the OCU, as Bulgarian politicians called?

    However, the fact that Patriarch Neophyte of Bulgaria did not receive the Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church Antoniy attracts attention, considering that the Russian bishop recently met with the Patriarch Theophilus of Jerusalem and the Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia.

    Also, on the website of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, a news report was published, reporting that Antoniy of Volokolamsk met on December 6, 2022 with the head of the Bulgarian royal house, Simeon II of Saxe-Burgot, but no other meeting with the Bulgarian statesman was mentioned.