Bulgarian Orthodox Church Holds Historic Patriarch Vote

Society | February 24, 2013, Sunday // 10:11|  views

Bulgaria's Holy Synod is holding Sunday a historic election of a new Patriarch of the Orthodox Church. File photo

The new Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is going to be elected Sunday by the Holy Synod at a national church council.

Bulgaria's Patriarch Maxim, who led the Church since 1971, passed away on November 6, 2012, at the age of 98.

The election is historic for Bulgaria as the last one happened 42 years ago, on July 4, 1971.

The Church removed the mourning flag last weekend after the names of the three candidates emerged.

They were chosen after prolonged debates and stalemates last weekend and they are: the Stara Zagora metropolitan Galaktion, Ruse's Neofit, and Lovech's Gavriil.

Galaktion was elected last Saturday with 10 votes, while the other two were elected with 9 votes on Sunday. The members of the Holy Synod decided then that 9 votes, instead of the required 10 (or 2/3rd of the vote), would be sufficient to make the cut as the election faced a failure since they could not reach consensus.

"Two thirds of 14 bishops is not 10 votes, but 9 and one third, rounding them to 9," is how the metropolitan of North America and Canada, Yosif, explained the new "math rules" after the election, assuring all three have been chosen according to the code and the Church's canons.

Varna Metropolitan Kiril, who was acting as interim Patriarch and Sofia Metropolitan, and was considered top contender, did not made the cut for collecting between 4 and 7 votes, but made history, according to experts, since this is the first time an interim Patriarch fails to be among the three runners.

It was reported that Galaktion is seriously ill with pneumonia, and is not going to attend the council. The Metropolitan of Western and Central Europe, Simeon, is also ill and will not attend as well.

At 8 am all 138 delegates entered the conference hall of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, BAS, headquarters in downtown Sofia, near the Parliament. They are now in the building of the Holy Synod. The voting urn was already sealed, slightly after 9 am. The results are expected to be announced around noon.

The delegates must write the name of their favorite on a white ballot. To be elected Patriarch, a candidate must collect two thirds of the votes (92).

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has more than 40 guests from abroad, such as the Bishop of Cyprus, Hristozom II, and the Bishop of Prague, of the Czech and Slovak lands Christopher, the official site of the Holy Synod announced.

After the conclusion of the election, a solemn procession from the Holy Synod building to the Alexander Nevsky cathedral will take place. There will be a cordon of representatives of all military divisions of Bulgaria.

At the end of the enthronization ceremony, the new Patriarch will step to the throne, when two Bishops will promulgate three times "Worthy" for him, followed by the clergy and then the laity.

The new Patriarch will receive the patriarchy attributes: robe, crown, scepter, the patriarchal cross and the engolpiya (small icons) – the latter two worn on the chest.

Due to the event many streets in downtown Sofia, in the vicinity of the Alexander Nevsky cathedral, will be closed for traffic and parking, the Sofia City Hall announced.

A rift among the Bishops shook the Holy Synod after Patriarch Maxim passed away.

In the aftermath of the Patriarch's death and of the controversial election of the said Varna Metropolitan Kiril for Sofia Metropolitan and interim Patriarch, Plovdiv Metropolitan Nikolay declared he was withdrawing for 40 days for mourning and would not attend any Holy Synod meetings, but later changed his mind.

Varna Metropolitan Bishop Kiril attracted much controversy in the end of 2011, when he appeared to service with a brand new Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, apparently commissioned even before being officially released in European markets.

As recently as January 6, he appeared in front of laity in Varna gathered for the major St Jordan's Day in the Lincoln and proceeded to sprinkle the congregation with holy water, reaching from within his luxury vehicle.

Meanwhile, a claim was filed with the Supreme Administrative Court, VAS, against the election of the three Bishops to run for Patriarch. VAS refused to examine it on grounds of separation of Church and State.

In mid-January 2012, Bulgaria's so-called Files Commission – a panel investigating the Communist era secret files, exposed eleven out of a total of fifteen Bulgarian Metropolitan bishops as former agents of the Communist State Security, DS.

The four were Nikolay, Amvrosiy, Gavriil, and late Patriarch Maxim.

Gavriil was quoted saying the fact he does not have a DS file might have given him an advantage in the bid to become the new Bulgarian Patriarch.

Nikolay has not been exposed as a Communist Security Agent, but he is too young to have been recruited. He is also too young to be elected patriarch.

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