Bulgarian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Maxim
Bulgarian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Maxim has said that the church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, will pronounce its opinion on the senior clergy who were agents for communist-era State Security after the Synod has "studied the cases".
Maxim was speaking on January 21 at a celebration of his name day, after a ceremony at which the Holy Synod – 11 members of which have been exposed as former State Security agents – asked him for forgiveness.
"Suffice not the other crosses you have born, but now God has also burdened you with having to accept our confessions and humble repentance, and to grant forgiveness for our sins," the Synod said in an address to Maxim, a phrasing that Bulgarian-language media interpreted as a reference to the revelations on January 17 by the Dossier Commission.
The only top clergy not named as having been State Security agents were Maxim himself, and metropolitans Nikolai of Plovdiv, Gavril of Lovech and Ambrosii of Dorostol.
However, in a report on Bulgarian National Television’s Faith and Society weekly programme on January 21, it was alleged that there was a top prelate who had worked with State Security but had not yet been officially identified.
This allegation was based on a 1959 State Security document which the programme said contained "unambiguous" information about three other clerics of the time. Two were dead but one was currently part of the leadership of the church, the programme alleged.
At the ceremony in honour of Maxim, some of the metropolitans were absent: Galaktion, Neofit, Yosif and Simeon, all named by the Dossier Commission.
The address to Maxim was read out by Metropolitan Nikolai of Plovdiv, who also used the occasion to lash out at the media, accusing journalists of maliciously attacking the church and seeking to destroy its authority.
For some time, Nikolai said, media had not just criticised, but had malevolently and deliberately attacked the holy church. The sudden explosion of journalistic sanctimoniousness sounded designed to undermine the authority of the church, Nikolai said.
Asked by journalists about the response of the Holy Synod, Maxim said that this would be pronounced after the Synod had studied the cases.
After the ceremony, clergy formed a corridor to allow metropolitans to reach their cars, seeking to obstruct journalists from asking questions, media reports said.
However, some did answer questions. Vidin Metropolitan Dometian said that he would repent before God if someone had been affected.
Varna Metropolitan Kiril said that he had long since repented before God.
The process of scrutiny of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church continues, with the Dossier Commission also checking other senior clergy in posts including monasteries and theological seminaries.