A group of left-wing intellectuals, in an open letter to Bulgarian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Maxim, have spoken out against what they call a smear campaign against the church.
The group, which includes writers and academics – several of them former members of the Bulgarian Communist Party and some of them identified by the Dossier Commission as having collaborated with the country’s communist-era State Security – expressed outrage at what they called the "intrigues and dirty attacks against the Holy Church".
They said that they saw an ominous trend, "to revile everything old Bulgarian, anything reminiscent of the great traditions of our national identity and culture".
The letter, sent to several Bulgarian-language media, made no specific reference to what constituted this campaign.
However, in recent weeks, there has been a series of controversies, from the new luxury car being used by Varna Metropolitan Kiril, the row about senior clergy being checked by the Dossier Commission for affiliations to State Security and the Holy Synod’s controversial opposition to in vitro fertilisation and surrogate motherhood – in a country in the grip of a demographic crisis.
"Without the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the Bulgarian people and the country of Bulgaria have no future," the group said.
They said that politicians and "unfortunately, some media" were involved in repulsive manipulation in an attempt to do away with fundamental values, causes and national objectives.
Those involved in this alleged campaign had the "vile purpose to pursue worthy prelates who defend Orthodoxy and native dignity and honour, to diminish them in the eyes of the congregation".
The statement said that "any reasonable person" knew that "the greatest contribution to the survival of the fatherland in the past 1100 years is precisely the Bulgarian Orthodox Church".
"We cannot be indifferent and unconcerned when the unscrupulous and the non-believers, with evil words, lies and slanders, are trying to destroy, to break Bulgaria and make it (undergo) utterly new pain and suffering.
"We know that this has not been accidental, but a measured and well-organised action against everything sacred and dear to Bulgarians and to Christians," said the group, calling for unity in defence of the church and inviting further signatures to their statement.