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Bulgarian Orthodox Church elects pro-Kremlin Metropolitan Daniil as new Patriarch 

In 2023, the newly elected Bulgarian Patriarch Daniil expressed his support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, drawing criticism from some clergy members.
Patriarch Daniil of Bulgarian Orthodox Church
Patriarch Daniil of Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Source: Vatican news
Bulgarian Orthodox Church elects pro-Kremlin Metropolitan Daniil as new Patriarch 

On 30 June, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church elected Metropolitan Daniil of Vidin, known for its close ties to Russia, as its new Patriarch.

In a lengthy video message broadcast in 2023, Daniil supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He also strongly criticized the Bulgarian government’s decision in September 2023 to expel Archbishop Vasily, the head of the Russian Church in Sofia, and two Belarusian priests accused of serving Russian geopolitical interests.

A 52-year-old Daniil secured 69 out of 138 votes cast by the assembly of delegates and the Holy Synod, the supreme body of the church, defeating Metropolitan Grigory of Vratsa, who received 66 votes, according to BNR.

Criticism of new Patriarch

The election of Daniil has drawn criticism from some Bulgarian priests, including Archimandrite Nicanor, the abbot of the Giga monastery near Sofia. 

“It’s like a KGB textbook! Patriarch Daniil of Bulgaria be happy! My patriarch from today is called (Ecumenical Patriarch) Bartholomew. Tomorrow, I am applying to leave the Bulgarian Orthodox Church!” Nicanor stated. 

He said he would leave Bulgaria and go to the Bulgarian monastery in the monastic community of Athos (Greece). 

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, whom Nicanor mentioned, condemns Russian aggression in Ukraine, compared to Russian Patriarch Kirill, a supporter of the war, who opposes the autonomy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Bartholomew came to the enthronement ceremony of Daniil presided at the Alexander Nevsky Church in Sofia, while Patriarch Kirill did not. 

In July 2023, Patriarch Bartholomew held a liturgy in Istanbul in memory of the victims of the war in Ukraine, attended by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

Division within Ukraine’s Orthodoxy

Russian Ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova attended the enthronement of the newly elected Patriarch and urged the Bulgarian Orthodox Church not to recognize the independent Church of Ukraine. 

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) are two distinct entities within Ukrainian Orthodoxy. 

The UOC, also known as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), remained under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church until its declaration of independence in 2022.  It promoted the “Russian World” (“Russkiy Mir”) ideology, closely aligning with the Kremlin’s interests, supporting Russian military actions in Ukraine, and denouncing Ukrainian sovereignty.

The OCU, on the other hand, was established in 2018 and granted autocephaly (independence) by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

In April, The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) condemned the Russian Orthodox Church, led by Patriarch Kirill, as an “ideological extension” of Putin’s regime.

Previous Patriarch of Bulgarian Orthodox Church

Daniil succeeds the late Patriarch Neophyte, who served for more than a decade and called for an end to the war in Ukraine before his passing in March this year.

Bulgaria, a member of the EU and NATO and a predominantly Slavic and Orthodox country, has historically and culturally been close to Moscow. However, relations have become strained since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

According to a Gallup poll, 58% of Bulgarians declare themselves believers, with many turning to religion after the end of communism and its imposed atheism.



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