For 30 Pieces of Silver

Editorial |Author: Maria Guineva | December 14, 2011, Wednesday // 16:31|  views

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church recently stirred new outrage when Varna Bishop Kiril showed up for mass in a sparkling 2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

Bulgarian Orthodoxy, severely crippled by 45 years of Communist rule, is known for its high-ranking clergy flashing expensive vehicles, watches, gold chains, walking around with burly body guards, indulging on food and alcohol, even during fast, bashing Dan Brown, Madonna, and gay pride parades. A number of Bishops have been collaborators or agents of the sinister Communist State Security and to these days love to vacillate around the power.

Many temples are crumbling; the world-famous St. Alexander Nevsky Catheral, a top Bulgarian landmark, survives on candle sales, and beautiful Bulgarian monasteries smell huckstering and kitsch, with price lists for baptisms and burial service (no breaks for the poor), high entrance and other fees, and stands selling cheap and tasteless souvenirs.

Hypocrisy and greed tarnish the Church, the honest and modest priests; alienate Bulgarians from Christian Faith, and chase them away from temples at times they need them the most.

When in the western world it is now considered prestigious even for CEOs to walk to work or ride bikes, here the clergy thinks that the more expensive and powerful their vehicle, the more important they are.

Kiril's defenders say the Lincoln was given to him for free use by some (obscure) company. Bozhidar Dimitrov, former Minister and prominent historian, declared this was common practice, and the Holy Synod issued a special statement that at the cost of USD 35 000 the vehicle can in no way be described as a "luxury car."

"Let's not become pathetic and use the standards of the homeless," the statement reads.

Actually, the "modest" price is significantly higher, taking into account that Kiril's Lincoln isn't by far a basic model, but rather top-of-the-line. And anyone who had purchased a car from the US knows that expenses for transport, excise duties, VAT and technical inspection easily amount to another USD 15 000 – 20 000.

Anyway, USD 35 000 is a very high price, not by the standard of the homeless, but by the standard of any average Bulgarian in the impoverished nation. Maybe the clergy wishes to measure up to the wealthiest businessmen and/or mafia bosses?

Giving expensive gifts to high-ranking clergy is common practice, the ex Minister says. The question here is – in exchange for what? Some lucrative deals with Church properties might come to mind...

Kiril, himself, bragged about this being the first such car in Bulgaria. "Only Obama and I use it," he said, shouting at journalists.

What about loving thy neighbor, mercy, charity, helping the needy (in a country where the homeless, the jobless and the sick abound), selflessness, and humility? Obviously, this is first and foremost a matter of morals, something nearly extinct in Bulgaria, and the Church's main task should be to preach and practice them...

On the same day Kiril pompously drove the Lincoln to mass, politicians and another Bishop visited Father Ivan and the shelter, hospice, and orphanage he built in the town of Novi Han on his own and with modest donations. They brought some good news - despite threats from the State Agency for Construction Control, the buildings will not be demolished until an alternative solution for those using them is found.

Father Ivan is seen by many as nearly the sole individual who had created his own, alternative social structure to help the poor, the elderly, the sick and anyone in distress. But the State wants to demolish the shelter over illegal construction.

Meanwhile, the illegal mansions near Sofia, Plovdiv, and on the banks of the Ivaylovgrad dam that were supposed to go down in a much publicized action over a year ago still proudly stand...

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Tags: Bozhidar Dimitrov, Bishop Kiril, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Bishops, Holy Synod, Father Ivan


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