Patriarch Cyril

In truth the churchmen understood all too well that in the difficult conditions prevailing after 9 September 1944 it would be very hard for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to grow and develop. For this reason they were trying to preserve the status quo and to slow down as much as possible the destruction of the organization of the Church. They hoped that Patriarch Cyril would help attain these modest objectives. Future students of the history of the Church must judge to what an extent he managed to fulfil these expectations. In fact he had to govern the Church under the close supervision of the ruling Bulgarian Communist Party. But we must now examine the state of the Church at the end of his incumbency.

The Church had 11 dioceses headed by metropolitans. It had jurisdiction over the Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria, as well as the Orthodox Bulgarians abroad. A separate twelfth diocese was created with a seat in New York for the pastoral care of the Bulgarians in the USA, Canada and Australia. There was a Deputation of the Bulgarian Church in Constantinople. There were Bulgarian churches and priests in Hungary and Romania. A Bulgarian Representation Church was established in 1948 in Moscow. In 1967 a Bulgarian Orthodox parish was founded in Austria. The large Bulgarian monastery of St George Zographou had been established for centuries on Mount Athos.

In Bulgaria the Church had 1,785 regular priests and employed some 200 old-age pensioners in its parishes. It had 3,720 churches and chapels, and 120 monasteries. Religious education was provided by the Sofia Seminary - located at the Cherepish Monastery, about 100 km outside Sofia - and the Theological Academy in Sofia. The Church had its own publishing house, which brought out several books a year that were sold at the Synodal Bookshop in Sofia and through the metropolitan centres across the country. It also published a weekly newspaper, Tsurkoven vestnik, and a monthly review, Douhovna koultoura, which carried articles on religion, philosophy, art and science. The Theological Academy regularly published an annual collection of the works of its teaching staff. Some of the parish churches, particularly in the cities, were the centres of active Orthodox Christian fraternities. In 1959 the Holy Synod appointed a commission which began the preparation for a new translation of the Bible.

The Bulgarian Patriarchate was engaged in lively exchanges with all its sister churches. During Patriarch Cyril's tenure it received delegations and dignitaries of other local Orthodox churches, as well as eminent representatives of the Anglican, Old Catholic and Reform Churches and of the World Council of Churches. For its part, the Church was sending delegations (official representatives and guests) not only to Orthodox countries and churches, but also to almost all church forums. In 1961 the

Bulgarian Orthodox Church joined the World Council of Churches. Some of its members were among the pioneers of the ecumenical movement. During Patriarch Cyril's time in office the Church tirelessly supported the cause of ecumenism and sisterly love among all churches.

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