site.btaPatriarch Neophyte Appoints Sofia Priests to Perform Divine Service at Russian Church in Sofia
By an order of September 25, 2023, the Bulgarian Patriarch Neophyte, in his capacity as Metropolitan of Sofia, who is responsible for the diocese where the St Nicholas of Myra Russian Church is located, appointed priests from Sofia to take care of the temple, performing the regular divine services, according to a press release published by the Metropolis of Sofia on Monday, regarding the church's recent closure.
The press release reads that "the Holy Metropolis of Sofia guarantees that no church property will be lost or damaged. As before, the faithful will be able to bow down before the relics of St Seraphim of Sofia and to implore his gracious help and support."
Patriarch Neophyte’s move is prompted by concern for the faithful and the preservation of church order and should be understood only in its spiritual aspect. Any other matters of secular legal and administrative nature relevant to the case will be discussed at the regular meeting of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate, the press release states.
Patriarch Neophyte has sent a letter to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to inform him about the actions taken.
He expects assistance from the Russian embassy in Sofia for the opening of the temple. He received the clergymen in the Sofia Holy Diocese building and blessed them before they assumed their duties.
“The Church of St. Nicholas of Myra, known as the Russian Church, is owned by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. We believe that its locking by outsiders is unacceptable, and the Metropolitan of Sofia should immediately order the church to be opened and its services to be restored in due course,” Metropolitan Naum of Ruse wrote on his Facebook page a few days ago.
Citizens gathered on Sunday in front of the Russian Church of St. Nicholas of Myra in Sofia, lit candles and left flowers at its entrance, demanding that it is reopened. The church was closed on September 22, a day after the expulsion of its rector and two Belarusian priests accused of serving Moscow's geopolitical interests. The clergymen were expelled from Bulgaria, stripped of the right of residence and barred from entering this country for a period of five years by order of the Chairperson of the State Agency for National Security (SANS).
On Monday, National Assembly Chairperson Rosen Zhelyazkov said he will ask SANS to present a report regarding the expulsion. He made this statement in response to a request by BSP for Bulgaria Floor Leader Korneliya Ninova for a hearing of SANS Chairperson Plamen Tonchev. During the plenary sitting, it transpired that the head of SANS will be on a business trip abroad between September 25 and 30, so he cannot be questioned in the debating chamber during that period.
Also on Monday, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote on its website that it has summoned the Bulgarian Ambassador in Moscow to express strong protest over the expulsion from Bulgaria, "in a blasphemous and insulting manner," of the rector and two ministers of the Russian Church in Sofia. The Ministry said that "this provocative action by the Bulgarian authorities, which fully fits in with the current Euro-Atlantic policy of 'combating Russian influence', will inevitably have adverse consequences - first and foremost for its initiators." The Ministry sees the priests' expulsion as part of a plan "aimed at undermining the centuries-old spiritual ties and traditions of friendship between the peoples of Russia and Bulgaria".