Bulgarian Orthodox Church Plovdiv Metropolitan Nikolai
Plovdiv Metropolitan Nikolai has held a well-publicised special liturgy, attended by local VIPs and a large number of worshippers from the region, at which he spoke on the Dossier Commission revelations about metropolitans who were agents for communist State Security, while Nikolai also fired a counterstrike against intellectuals who had criticised changes to the interior of an historic local church.
Nikolai was one of four metropolitans not named by the Dossier Commission earlier in January as former agents of Security. Eleven of the 15 members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, were named as communist-era State Security agents.
The special liturgy on January 29 2012 was publicised in advance, with notices to the press and special invitations to the 18 intellectuals who had criticised the covering over of historic murals by imported Greek ceiling coverings, in an act now being investigated as an alleged violation of cultural heritage laws.
Those who attended the liturgy included Plovdiv regional governor Zdravko Dimitrov, Plovdiv mayor Ivan Totev and Assenovgrad mayor Emil Karaivanov. Worshippers were bussed in from towns and villages surrounding Bulgaria’s second city.
A petition signed by 100 people who said that they were happy with the changes to the interior of the Sv Marina church was released. Local media reports said that none of the intellectuals (at least some of whom were invited by e-mails sent to their personal e-mail addresses) came to the service.
Nikolai said that the full truth about the State Security dossiers was needed.
He said that the public knew only part of the truth and the public image of the church had been impaired and the people embarrassed.
Because of the scandal, the church was facing a new schism, and right now Patriarch Maxim, the head of the church, had an important role in the church dealing with the "trial" it was facing, Nikolai said.
Earlier in the week, the Holy Synod met, but an attempt to come out with a statement on the metropolitans and on the issue of them asking for forgiveness ended in an inconclusive dispute.
Nikolai said that he believed that after this ordeal for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was over, it would emerge even stronger.
He said that the problem of the dossiers previously had been solved only in the Plovdiv diocese. All clergy had been scrutinised in 2011 and a report on former agents had been compiled at a church conference.
It had been left to all former State Security agents in the diocese to repent, Nikolai said, without disclosing who they were.
Nikolai said that the question was not how and why bishops of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church had become agents of State Security. Most had been threatened and forced by State Security, he said.
Some had repented, some not. It was a matter of personal choice, he said.
Nikolai said that the question of why people had become State Security agents, their real motives and reasons, was "only part of the truth, because the absolute truth about the history of the dossiers of the clergy is known only to God, along with what was in the souls of these people, bullied, threatened and harassed by State Security".
He spoke out against calls for repentance and said that repentance could be public or in private.
Since the Dossier Commission made its disclosures about the metropolitans, only a couple of metropolitans have asked for forgiveness while others have said either that they already had repented privately and directly to God, while in turn, some have denied having worked for State Security.
In a statement, Varna Metropolitan Kiril, Nevrokop Metropolitan Nataniel and Stara Zagora Metropolitan Galaktion – all named as State Security agents – said that the church was not a political party, trade union or any kind of secular institution and rules about resignations and street pressure did not apply to it because of the constitutional separation of church and state.
Like every Orthodox Christian church, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was managed according to canon law, based on the principles of unity, catholicity, hierarchy and perpetuity, the three metropolitans said.
They said that in their every action they had been guided first by the interests of the church that was their home, and they said that they had stood by the existence of the church during the years of communism and had defended the rights of the clergy.
"We believe that although we are accused that we compromised, we chose to defend the interests and existence primarily of the Church in our country and thus have been useful to Orthodox believers, the state and our nation," the three metropolitans said.
They said that all Bulgarian politicians, statesmen, journalists and trade unionists who were giving their assessments of the work of the clergy and calling for repentance "should know that repentance is a sacrament".
"Repentance is a task done in the secret room of the heart before God. Only God knows what is, and what happens, inside each man, and we fall before him. Be sure that his court is righteous," the metropolitans said.