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Pro-Moscow Daniil new Bulgarian Patriarch & other news


Source: Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

Metropolitan Daniil of Vidin

What a surprise!!!  Something few expected.  Today, June 30, Metropolitan Daniil of Vidin was elected the new patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (BOC).  It was an extremely close election.  According to the charter of the BOC, Daniil was elected by the Patriarchal Electoral Church Council.  Aside from the Bulgarian bishops, this council consists of three clergy, two laypersons, one monk, and one nun from each of the dioceses of the BOC, except for Sofia.  The Sofia diocese has six clerics, four laypersons, one monk, and one nun.  In addition there is one representative from each of the theological schools and seminaries.  The members of the Council vote for the new patriarch by secret ballot.  With the vacancy caused by the death of Patriarch Neofit, the Holy Synod consisted of 14 metropolitans.  If each of these metropolitans exercised “control” over the delegates from his diocese, the choice for patriarch by a majority of the members of the Synod would also very likely be the choice of the Council as well.  However, the use of the secret ballot allows a delegate not to follow the choice of his or her bishop — without detection by the bishop.  One can say that this is very democratic and gives non-bishops a real voice in the selection of the new patriarch.

Pursuant to the charter of the BOC, the Holy Synod had elected on June 20 a shortlist of three metropolitans from which the Electoral Council selected the new patriarch.  Under the charter, one needs the support of two-thirds of the members of the Holy Synod to be placed on the shortlist.  On June 20, the results of the voting was a follows:  Metropolitan Grigoriy of Vratsa received 11 votes in the first round of voting, Metropolitan Daniil of Vidin received 9 votes after the 32nd round of voting, and Metropolitan Gavriil of Lovech received 9 votes after the 42nd round.  Two-thirds of the 14 participating metropolitans is actually ten.  However, to obtain the required shortlist of three, the Holy Synod lowered the threshold to nine.  From this, it is very apparent that Grigoriy was clearly the first choice of the Holy Synod.  In addition, Grigoriy was unanimously elected by the Holy Synod to head the BOC and the Sofia Metropolia until the election of a new patriarch.  In my opinion, the Holy Synod’s preference for Grigoriy reflected a desire of the Holy Synod to have a leader who is not clearly identified with either the part of the Holy Synod oriented towards the Moscow Patriarchate or the part of the Holy Synod oriented towards the West and Constantinople.  In researching past news concerning Metropolitan Grigoriy of Vratsa, it appears that he has maintained an extremely low profile.  There is almost nothing on the Internet with respect to his views on different issues.

On the other hand, Daniil and Gavriil are the two members of the Holy Synod who are the most outspoken in favor of Moscow.  In fact, on June 24, Metropolitan Daniil gave an interview on Bulgarian state radio in which he strongly attacked Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for the creation of the OCU.   https://bnr.bg/ru/post/102010741/blagodaty-svatogo-duha-v-edinenii-chistote-veri-i-blagochestii  According to him, the “uncanonical action of Patriarch Bartholomew led to even greater division in Ukraine.”  He states that the “so-called tomos” established a “non-canonical structure.”  He also states:  “Patriarch Bartholomew was sure that in this way millions of Orthodox Christians, deprived of communion with the Church, will join it.  And instead of peace reigning, as he expected, he kindled an even more bitter division, in which literally these people, whom he proclaimed canonical, began to persecute the canonical Church.  They take away churches, beat priests, kill, are these Christians? This is absurd, but the division is a fact.”  Daniil maintains that the only head of the universal church is Jesus Christ himself and that Orthodox teachings “categorically prohibit the head of one church from interfering in the affairs of another autocephalous Orthodox church.”

With respect to the election of a new patriarch, the charter of the BOC provides that if one of the three on the shortlist receive two-thirds of the vote in the first round of voting, that metropolitan will be the next patriarch.  Today, the first round of voting resulted in the following vote:  Metropolitan Grigoriy of Vratsa —  64 votes; Metropolitan Daniil of Vidin — 51 votes; Metropolitan Gavriil of Lovech — 19 votes.  A total of 138 ballots were issued.  Four ballots were invalid. https://dveri.bg/component/com_content/Itemid,100723/catid,14/id,73432/view,article/  As none of the three received a two-thirds majority, there was a second round of voting involving the two who received the most votes.  Under the charter, the metropolitan who receives the most votes in the second round becomes the new patriarch.

The results of the second and final round were as follows:  Daniil – 69: Grigoriy – 63.  There were 138 voters with three of the ballots declared invalid.  Daniil received exactly half of the total number of voters and more votes than Grigoriy.  https://dveri.bg/component/com_content/Itemid,100723/catid,14/id,73433/view,article/  Thus, Daniil becomes the new patriarch of the BOC.  In accordance with the announced schedule, Daniil was immediately enthroned this afternoon after the election.   A video of the entire enthronement can be watched at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvQvC-n84SQ .

The election result must be a shock to many members of the Holy Synod.  The Holy Synod had expressly invited Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to attend the enthronement.  He was the only primate of a Local Orthodox Church present at the enthronement.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate came to the enthronement with a delegation of eleven.  With respect to the other Local Orthodox Churches, none had a delegation larger than two.  https://dveri.bg/component/com_content/Itemid,100723/catid,14/id,73424/view,article/  The Moscow Patriarchate came with a relatively low-level delegation consisting of Metropolitan Nestor of Korsun and Western Europe and Archpriest Vladimir Tishchuk.  It is very unlikely that Bartholomew would have been invited if it was expected that his strongest critic in the Holy Synod would be the one enthroned.  In spite of this surprising situation, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had some gracious words to say about Metropolitan Daniil at the enthronement.  https://www.bta.bg/bg/news/bulgaria/700206-sledva-parvenstvuvashtiyat-da-bade-ukrasen-s-dobrodetelite-na-vyarata-kaza-vsel

It is possible that Daniil will now take a less polar position on the Moscow-Constantinople issue as patriarch.  He would do this for the unity of the BOC.  It should also be noted that the Bulgarian patriarch does not have the great power possessed by the Russian patriarch.  Key decisions will be made by the Holy Synod of the BOC.  In the Synod the patriarch has only one vote, and he may be in the minority. There are now six Synod members who are definitely in the pro-West group.  They are: (1­-3) Nikolai (age 54), Cyprian (age 48), and Yakov (age 53), all of whom concelebrated with hierarchs of the OCU on May 19; (4) Naum (age 55) who published Bartholomew’s book Encountering the Mystery in Bulgarian and who personally presented the translated book to Bartholomew at the Phanar on April 4; (5) Anthony (age 46) who spoke highly of Nikolai in a May 8 interview; (6) Arseniy (age 37) who is a spiritual son of Nikolai.   As can be seen, all of the six are young.  There are two members who are definitely in the pro-Russia group: Gavriil (age 73) and Daniil(age 52).  Although it is less clear, three metropolitans — Joseph of America (age 81), Grigoriy of Veliko Turnovo (age 73), and Ignatii of Pleven (age 86) — are probably more inclined to the pro-West view.  Because of the age of these metropolitans, there may be vacancies in these eparchies in the not too distant future.  Although again unclear, Ioan of Varna (age 55), who attended the Moscow Theological Academy, and Seraphim of Nevrokop (age 49) may be more inclined to the pro-Russia view.  Grigoriy of Vratsa is a question mark.  With the election of Daniil, there will now be a need to elect a new metropolitan for Vidin.  Who that person will be may be very important.  It takes eight votes to command a majority in the 15-member Holy Synod.

As reported in my last newsletter, Metropolitan Jonathan of Tulchin and Bratslav was released by Ukrainian authorities on Saturday, June 22.  It appears that he was met at the Ukraine – Belarus border by Father Nikolai Balashov, the key personal advisor to Patriarch Kirill with respect to international matters.  https://lb.ua/society/2024/06/25/620777_mitropolita_upts_mp_ionafana_yakiy.html  On the evening of Sunday, June 23, Metropolitan Jonathan made an appearance at the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Minsk for the All-Night Vigil on the eve of the feast of the Holy Spirit.  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYGKxzioTCY&t=5447s  (beginning at 1:28:10.)  On Tuesday, June 25, he was warmly received by Patriarch Kirill at the patriarchal residence in Moscow.  The Patriarch awarded him the Order of St. Sergius of Radonezh, 1st degree.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/6140136.html  This is an important award whose previous recipients included such people as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.  A six-minute video of the meeting of Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Jonathan can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsOX–DpCbU.  During the meeting, the Metropolitan stated: “The Patriarch is a symbol of the entire Russian Church.  Not to disgrace your name was my task, and this gave me strength in resisting evil.”

There has been no explanation by the Ukrainian authorities as to the events leading up to the release.  Leonid Sevastianov, who has fairly frequent contacts with Pope Francis, told TASS that the Pope facilitated the release at the request of Patriarch Kirill.  https://t.me/tass_agency/256287  Shortly after the release of Jonathan, there was an exchange of 90 Ukrainian prisoners of war for 90 Russians prisoners of war.   https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/6790878  This exchange occurred at Belgorod, Russia and was mediated by the UAE.  Perhaps Russia desired that Jonathan cross the border into Belarus, rather than into Russia, so that it did not appear that his release was part of the release of captured Russian soldiers.   Sergei Chapnin has stated on Facebook that the Ukrainian court records approving Jonathan’s release refers to him as a prisoner of war.  https://www.facebook.com/chapnin  Metropolitan Theodosius of Cherkassy (UOC), who is under investigation by the SBU, contends that the SBU “constantly tried to persuade me to exchange with prisoners of war.”  https://spzh.live/ua/news/80794-ne-pohodivsja-na-obmin-sbu-provela-cherhovij-obshuk-u-mitropolita-feodosija  From this it appears that the SBU may actually desire that UOC bishops who are under investigate leave Ukraine as part of a war prisoner exchange.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the UGCC, has given a lengthy interview to the Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform.  https://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-society/3878034-blazennijsij-svatoslav-predstoatel-ugkc.html  In the interview, he states:  “Our Church was liquidated in the occupied territories.  In particular, the so-called ‘state acts.’  For example, it happened in the occupied part of the Zaporizhzhia region.  Institutions of social service of our church are also prohibited there.  For example, ‘Caritas Ukraine’ or such a community of Catholic men as the ‘Knights of Columbus.’  In fact, there is not a single Catholic priest, either Greek Catholic or Roman Catholic, in the occupied territories today.”   Although I am highly critical of the actions of the Ukrainian government in promoting Draft Law 8371, the actions by the Russian authorities against certain religious groups in the occupied territories such as the UGCC and OCU have been far worse than the actions of Ukraine against the UOC.

On June 28 two UGCC Redemptorists priests were released from a Russian prison.  They had been seized by the Russian occupying forces in Berdyansk (a port west of Mariupol) on November 16, 2022.  In connection with their release, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk thanked Pope Francis , Cardinals Parolin and Zuppi, and the apostolic nuncio in Kyiv, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas.  https://risu.ua/yeromonahiv-ugkc-ivana-levickogo-ta-bogdana-geletu-zvilnili-z-rosijskogo-polonu_n149271  One wonders whether the release of these two priests could be related in any way to the release of Metropolitan Jonathan.

In accordance with a tradition begun in 1977, a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate was at the Vatican for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.  The delegation was led by Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel.  The address of Pope Francis to the delegation on June 28 can be read at https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2024/june/documents/20240628-patriarcato-costantinopoli.html.  The address included the following:  “2025 will also mark the 1700th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea.  It is my hope that the commemoration of this highly significant event will inspire all believers in Christ the Lord to testify together to their faith and their desire for greater communion.  In particular, I am pleased that the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity have begun to reflect on how to join in commemorating this anniversary, and I thank His Holiness Bartholomew for inviting me to celebrate it near the place where the Council met.  It is a trip that I truly wish to make.”

Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


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