Representatives of Local Orthodox Churches meet in Sofia

Representatives of Local Orthodox Churches met on 11 March 2009 at the Boyana Residence of the Bulgarian government in Sofia to consider legal and canonical issues involved in the European Court of Human Right’s decision of 16 December 2008, which accused the Bulgarian authorities of violating Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights and supported in fact the Bulgarian schismatics led by ‘Metropolitan’ Innokentiy.

The conference is chaired by His Holiness Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria and has been organized by the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

Delegations of twelve Local Orthodox Churches, governmental officials, deputies of the Bulgarian National Assembly as well as specialists in canon and international law have come for the conference.

Welcoming the participants, His Holiness Patriarch Maxim cited a Statement of the Holy Synod describing the ECHR’s decision as ‘a glaring interference in the life of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’ and called upon the schismatics once again to return to the fold of the canonical Church. He expressed hope that the conference would give a conciliar assessment to the ECHR’s decision.

Mr. Emil Velinov, acting director the Bulgarian Government’s department for religion, conveyed to the conference a message of greetings from the Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev, who stated in particular that ‘for the Bulgarian government the protection of the unity of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and her rights and the protection of the identity of the Bulgarian people’.

Ms. Maria Koeseva, legal advisor to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church Holy Synod, explained the history of the schism, dwelling on its legal and canonical aspects and expressed hope that the conference would help articulate specific recommendations for drafting an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Speaking next were representatives of Local Orthodox Churches, among them Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria, Russian Orthodox Church representative to European international organizations, who led the delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate

DECR Communication Service