Patriarch Maxim

Patriarch Cyril died on 7 March 1971 and in accordance with his dying wish was buried at the Monastery of Bachkovo. The Metropolitan of Lovech, Maxim, was elected vicegerent chairman of the Holy Synod. On 25 June 1971 the full Synod elected three candidates for the patriarchal throne: the Metropolitans Maxim of Lovech, Paisiy of Vratsa and Sofroniy of Dorostol and Cherven. On 4 July 1971 a council for the election of a patriarch composed of 101 electors was convened in Sofia and the Metropolitan of Lovech, Maxim, was elected Patriarch. He received 98 votes, Paisiy of Vratsa received one and Sofroniy of Dorostol and Cherven did not receive any votes (two of the ballot papers were blank). Thus the incumbent primate of the Church, Patriarch Maxim, was elected on 4 July 1971. Upon his election he also assumed the duties of Metropolitan of Sofia.

Patriarch Maxim, at the head of the Church for over 30 years, had - like his predecessor, Patriarch Cyril - no choice for nearly two decades but to abide by the policies of the Communist Party and the state, that is, until November 1989. He is a member of the World Peace Council and, since 1971, vice-president of the National Peace Committee, honorary member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the World Council of Churches and member of the working group of the Prague-based Christian Peace Conference. He was awarded the Order of the People's Republic of Bulgaria, 1st class in 19 74. Despite the scathing criticism against him after 1990, the schism in the Church, and the occasional pressure by the temporal authorities, he continues to direct the Holy Synod as its chairman.

In the mid-1990s there were about 4,000 Eastern Orthodox ecclesiastical buildings in Bulgaria, including 132 at the design stage and 225 under construction. This number was made up of 3,300 parish churches, 170 monasteries, 600 chapels in 2,670 towns and villages - out of a total of 5,340 towns and villages. According to recent data the Church has 1,280 priests, 120 monks and 140 nuns. The Church maintains two five-form seminaries equivalent to secondary schools in Sofia and Plovdiv with a total of 400 pupils. Higher theological education is offered by four universities: Sofia, Veliko Turnovo, Shoumen and Plovdiv's subsidiary in Kurdjali. The total number of students is 1,200, half of whom are women. The students are being prepared for the ministry, for ecclesiastical service or to become teachers of religion. Since the mid-1990s religion has been taught at primary schools as an optional subject (the choice is left to the pupils and their parents), and since 2000, experimentally - as part of a range of elective subjects, a set number of which must be chosen in the primary school curriculum. The Church and many NGOs are lobbying to have religion made a compulsory subject.

The liturgy in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is conducted in Church Slavonic - a Russian version of Old Bulgarian - which has for a long time been totally incompre hensible to the average churchgoer. That is why a gradual transition to modern Bulgarian is being encouraged. Nowadays the biblical texts are read only in modern Bulgarian. The Orthodox liturgy of the Church uses music of two different types: Byzantine monophonic plainchant and Russian polyphonic vocal music. Both types of music are equally well received by churchgoers. The Russian type of music is usually used on solemn occasions.

The revenue of the Orthodox Church is not made public and, therefore, we have no precise data about it. It is derived mainly from the sale of objects (candles, icons, books, etc.) and services (fees for various liturgical offices), as well as from the rent of real estate (buildings, agricultural land and forests). The parishioners do not pay any church dues or taxes. The Church is experiencing serious financial difficulties because the process of returning Church property is still incomplete. At the same time, large sums of money are being invested in the building of new churches and monasteries and the restoration of existing ones. Because of its limited funds the social and educational work of the Church is rather modest. To some extent this is due to the misconception that the Church cannot go to the help of the needy and the suffering without having first ensured adequate funding. The state makes no contribution towards the support of the Church or any of the other religious denominations. It grants limited annual aid for the upkeep of listed churches of architectural or historic importance, but that subsidy falls far short of what is required.

In order to provide pastoral care to the growing Bulgarian diaspora, during Patriarch Maxim's incumbency the Church established a diocese for Western and Central Europe headed by a metropolitan residing in Berlin. The diocese comprises 18 parishes with 15 priests. A new development in the life of the Church is that it is being joined by many former Protestant communities in the USA, which turn to the Orthodox Church in search of a deeper spirituality. This is a challenge for the Church which, like most other Orthodox Churches, does not view the rest of the world as a potential field of missionary activity.

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