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Balkan absurdist reporting by Reuters: Get Religion, February 19, 2014  April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Bulgarian Orthodox, Get Religion, Islam, Press criticism.
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At Get Religion it is usually considered bad form to criticize wire service reports for lacking context. There is only so much information that a reporter can pack into a 300 word story. The absence of an explanatory sentence or two that gives the reader some clues as to the meaning of the story is seldom fatal to an article’s journalistic integrity — but it can at times lead to an article coming across as a Haiku.

This article from Reuters entitled “Bulgarian police detain 120 after mosque attack” I readily concede does not fit into the 5 – 7 – 5 sound (on) pattern of classical Japanese poetry nor the 17 syllables of contemporary English Haiku. Nevertheless the imagery created in this short piece does a great job of telling the story.

A problem with imagery, however, is that the reader must be aware of the symbolic meaning of the nouns being used. The story has a wonderful lede:

Bulgarian police detained more than 120 people on Friday after hundreds of nationalists and soccer fans attacked a mosque in the country’s second city Plovdiv, smashing its windows with stones.

Why is this wonderful you ask? On one level there is an absurdist quality to this sentence with overtones of Monty Python, Lemony Snicket and Eugene Ionescu. A mosque has been attacked by a mob casting stones. A Bulgarian mosque has been attacked by a mob casting stones. A Bulgarian mosque in Bulgaria’s second city has been attacked by a mob casting stones. A Bulgarian mosque in Bulgaria’s second city has been attacked by a mob of soccer fans and (Bulgarian?) nationalists casting stones.

Each iteration makes the story ever so slightly more ridiculous, but at the same time it conveys the absurdity of life through the incongruity of its elements and apparent absence of reason. But this is the Balkans.

The story continues:

 

Over 2,000 people had gathered outside a Plovdiv court as it heard an appeal case dealing with the return of an ancient mosque in the central city of Karlovo, taken over by the state more than 100 years ago, to Bulgaria’s Chief Mufti, the Muslim religious authority.

The soccer fans and nationalists then marched on a mosque in Plovdiv and pelted it with stones. Given the limitations of space Reuters did a great job in reporting this story. At its close the article offered two small bits of context:

Muslims make up about 13 percent of Bulgaria’s 7.3 million people. The Chief Mufti has launched some 26 court cases to try to restore Muslim ownership of 29 mosques and other property across the Balkan state, prompting some public opposition in the predominantly Orthodox Christian population.

These help the reader, but for those not au courant with the modern history of the Balkans, the incongruity of elements might make this story hard to follow. The mosque in Karlovo that served as the flashpoint for this controversy was confiscated by Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria after the Second Balkan War of 1913. That war saw an exodus of many Turks and Muslim Bulgarians — the Pomaks (Slav converts to Islam who speak Bulgarian but follow Turkish customs) from the region West of the River Maritsa or Evros. For Bulgarian nationalists the return of the mosque in Karlovo (which is in ruins but preserved as a historical site by the city government) is a political — ethnic — religious insult. Turkish nationalists might react in the same fashion if Hagia Sophia were returned to the Ecumenical Patriarch. An admittedly bad analogy might be if a Mexican-American group petitioned Texas for possession of the Alamo.

That might explain the nationalists in the mob. But soccer fans? In an American context that conveys images of mothers with mini-vans. In Europe it is code language of skin heads, or neo-nazis, or violent nationalists — whose energies are channeled into supporting a particular football (soccer) team and engaging in violent conflicts with the fans of other teams.

Tie all this into recent statements by the Turkish prime minister about his country’s role as a protector of Balkan Muslims, you have all the makings of a Balkan imbroglio.

How do you tell this story in less than 300 words? Reuters did a pretty good job. But it fleshing the story out with a word or two of “why” on the inter play of religion, politics and ethnicity would have made this piece even better.

IMAGE: courtesy of Shutterstock.

First printed in GetReligion.

Spies of the Balkans: Get Religion, November 7, 2012 November 7, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Bulgarian Orthodox, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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The 98-year old leader of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has died.

I guess you weren’t prepared for that bit of excitement from GetReligion the morning after the election. As many of our readers are going through news withdrawal at this moment, I thought I would help ween them from their addiction with something nice, safe and far away: a drawing room media mystery to settle their minds and hearts.

Patriarch Maxim did have the good sense to die on 6 Nov 2012 when the world was watching the American presidential election. And to be fair, I suppose that if he had passed during the dog days of August — the silly season when news is so short on the ground that just about anything can become a major story (remember Chik-fil-A?) — his story still would not have set the hearts of journalists a flutter.

De mortius nil nisi bonum is the line being taken by the Bulgarian press. Reuters and the Associated Press have also decided that it is more fitting to say of the dead nothing but good. The Reuters man in Sophia (sounds like that is from a spy novel doesn’t it) begins his report with:

Patriarch Maxim, a conservative who led Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church for 41 years in times of Communist rule and democracy, died, the church said yesterday.

Followed by the text of the official announcement, the story gives a very brief biography and offers this as context:

Patriarch Maxim has kept a low public profile but was an influential figure with a controversial past. He oversaw a major religious revival in Bulgaria after the collapse of the communist rule. Dozens of new churches were built across the country and monasteries reopened.

And what was this controversial past? Reuters does not say. Maybe the AP can help. It reports the same basic facts but offers a bit more background:

After the collapse of Communism in 1989, Bulgaria’s new democratic government sought to replace Communist-appointed figureheads, including the patriarch. The church split between supporters of Patriarch Maxim and breakaway clergymen, who tried to oust him and then formed their own synod. The division plunged the church into turmoil, with church buildings being occupied, priests breaking into fistfights on church steps, and water cannons and tear gas being turned on rebel bishops to clear the main St. Alexander Nevsky cathedral in Sofia. For more than a decade the two synods existed side by side. The schism ended in 2010, when the head of the alternative synod called for healing and the synod was dissolved.

So Maxim was “a Communist-appointed figurehead”, the AP reports. Yes, Maxim’s appointment was engineered by the Communist regime and following the fall of the “Evil Empire” anti-Communists sought to get rid of him. And even though Bulgarians are not Episcopalians, the ensuing battle led to a schism and lawsuits over church property.

The AP is mistaken when it reports the schism has been healed, though in 2010 Metropolitan Innokenty, the head of the rival synod which held the allegiance of a third of the country’s clergy was received by Maxim back into the “official” church. However the submission of Innokenty did not end the split. Here is a reference to a post-2010 article on the accidental death of one of the leading clergy of the Alternative Synod. If there are still rebel clergy in control of church property that is a clue the rupture has not been healed.

I am confident that at this point in our tale I have hooked the Bulgarian aficionados in our audience — the good people at Patheos have not yet told us how large a demographic this is for Get Religion though. Others might ask, “So what?”  But bear with me, all of this does play its part in solving the mystery.

The clue that has been left out — though broadly hinted at in the AP story — is the allegation that not only was Maxim a Communist-appointed figurehead, he was also considered by some of having been a spy. Twenty-two years after the fall of the Communist regime, the Bulgarian government opened the books from the Committee for State Security — the Darzhavna sigurnost or the DS. What it found was that 11 of the 15 bishops of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church currently in office were informers or agents of the 6th Directorate of the DS, which was tasked with combating political dissent.

The English-language Sofia Echo has written extensively about this scandal: the initial report, what the bishops did for the secret police, popular reaction, calls for the bishops to resign, actions to be taken by the church’s synod. It is also reported that not just the Orthodox bishops betrayed their people, the current Roman Catholic Bishop of Sophia and the present and former chief Mufti of Bulgaria were named as collaborators. Maxim was cleared by the committee investigation collaboration — to the surprise of the Alternative Synod — but suspicions remained of his guilt as his parts of his file appeared to have been mislaid.

While the canard that Pius XII was a pro-Nazi stooge continues to excite journalists — a real story of church leaders collaborating with evil was overlooked by Reuters and the AP in their report on the death of Maxim. Reuters even managed to lead with the descriptor that Maxim was a “conservative”. What can that mean in these circumstances.

After the news broke in January of the bishops’ ties to the secret police, Metropolitan Gavril of Lovech – one of the bishops not named as a collaborator — told the Sofia Echo the church was torn over how to respond to the revelations. “We cannot now think about asking for the resignations of 11 people. That is impossible. If it had been one, or two or three, that is another matter.  The Synod must remain united and these problems should be resolved in some way so as to benefit, but also on the other side, not to destroy, the church,” he said.

What Reuters and the AP seemed to have missed — apart from the disagreeable bits about Maxim’s past — is the fact that the death of the man who caused the schism may well end the schism.

The Bulgarians are not alone in avoiding scrutiny of church and state in the Communist era. Russia has yet to examine the Stalinist era. The Moscow Patriarchate — the official name for the Russian Orthodox Church — was set up on the orders of Joseph Stalin in 1943 as a front organization for the NKVD and all of its senior positions were vetted by the Ideological Department of the Communist Party, according to reports published in the U.K. following the defection of KGB Major Vasili Mitrokhin  in 1991.

In two books written with intelligence historian Christopher Andrew, The KGB in Europe and the West and The KGB in the World, Mitrokhin claimed that Russian Orthodox priests were used as agents of influence on behalf of the KGB in organizations such as the World Council of Churches and the World Peace Council.  Patriarch Alexius II was also named as KGB agent with the codename DROZDOV, whose services earned him a citation from the regime.

TMatt has discussed this question in a number of posts. In his 2007 story “Mere candlestick holders in Moscow?” he wrote that in 1991 an anonymous priest in Moscow told him the post-Soviet Russian church had four kinds of leaders:

A few Soviet-era bishops are not even Christian believers. Some are flawed believers who were lured into compromise by the KGB, but have never publicly confessed this. Some are believers who cooperated with the KGB, but have repented to groups of priests or believers. Finally, some never had to compromise.

“We have all four kinds,” this priest said. “That is our reality. We must live with it until God heals our church.”

While the setting is Bulgaria and the characters are Orthodox clergy and secret policemen, the issues are of collaboration with evil and the battle for truth. Change the characters and the same story could be told of Vichy France, the Deutsche Evangelische Kirche and the Confessing Church in Germany, or the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the House Church movement in China.

In French there is an expression très balkan: meaning hopelessly confused with the connotation of labyrinthine or byzantine machinations. It would be easy to dismiss this story as being a très balkan intrigue more worthy of an Eric Ambler novel than hard news. However the death of Maxim and the saga of the Orthodox Church raises profound questions of morality.

What is the journalist’s task in all of this? Is it too much to expect a discourse of the ethical and moral ghosts that lay behind a story on collaboration with evil — or is it enough to just report the events. How should society judge those who collaborated with evil or who were agents of evil?

First printed in GetReligion.

Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria dead at 98: Anglican Ink, November 6, 2012 November 6, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Bulgarian Orthodox.
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Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria

Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria, the metropolitan archbishop of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and alleged communist-era spy, has died after 40 years in office.  He was 98.

The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church announced on 6 November 2012 the patriarch had died earlier that day of heart failure in a Sofia hospital where he had been receiving treatment for the past month.

The 13 senior bishops of the Holy Synod will elect an acting patriarch in the next few days, who will convene a meeting of the church’s Council within 120 days to elect a successor.

Born on 29 Oct. 1914 as Marin Naidenov Minkov, the future patriarch was educated at the Sofia Seminary and served in parish ministry for three years before returning to Sofia to teach theology in 1938.  On 4 July 1971 the synod, allegedly under the instructions of the former communist regime’s Committee for State Security — the Darzhavna sigurnost or the DS – elected him patriarch of the Bulgarian national church which counts over 80 per cent of the country’s population as members.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Bulgarian bishops galore: GetReligion, May 5, 2012 May 6, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Bulgarian Orthodox, Get Religion, Orthodox Church in America, Press criticism.
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Regular readers of GetReligion will appreciate this story in today’s Toledo Blade concerning the consecration of an Orthodox bishop. The story entitled “Bulgarian Diocese to install new bishop” by religion beat professional David Yonke is nicely crafted. It balances the news of the consecration of Dr. Alexander Golitzin with  just the right amount of human interest. It is a really good local news religion story.

It begins:

Nearly five years after the bishop’s chair became vacant, the Rev. Alexander Golitzin is to be consecrated today as Bishop of Toledo in the Toledo-based Bulgarian Diocese of the Orthodox Church in America.

The consecration is to take place in a three-hour ceremony at St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Rossford, with nine bishops from across North America scheduled to participate. Metropolitan Jonah, head of the Orthodox Church in America, will be the main celebrant.

Bishop-elect Alexander, a native of California, will become only the second bishop of Toledo, succeeding Archbishop Kyrill, who led the diocese from 1964 until his death in 2007 at age 87.

Today’s consecration ceremony marks a new era for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which until now required all bishops to be born in Bulgaria.

“Before even the selection process began, we had to change our diocesan constitution,” said the Rev. Andrew Jarmus, a Fort Wayne pastor who headed the bishop search committee. “Basically we acknowledged that realities have changed. We are in America and there is a much broader base of people we minister to now in our parishes. They are no longer just the Bulgarian faithful.”

The story presents some interesting bits about the new bishop’s background — studies at Oxford under Kalistos Ware, a year at Mt Athos, professor at Marquette University, and a touch of Hollywood (nephew of art director Alexander Golitzin — winner of Academy Awards for The Phantom of the Opera in 1943, Spartacus in 1960, and To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962.)

The article also gives background on the Bulgarian Diocese of the Orthodox Church of America: its history, previous bishops and demographics. All in all a great local news story.

My question for GetReligion readers is whether it would have been appropriate to mention that there are two Bulgarian Orthodox dioceses belonging to two different churches in the U.S? The article states up front that this consecration is for the Bulgarian Diocese of the Orthodox Church of America (OCA). However there is also a Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A., Canada, and Australia that is part of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Bulgaria.

The article states the:

Toledo-based Bulgarian Diocese has 16 parishes in the United States and Canada, mostly in the Midwest, with a total of 5,000 parishioners. The OCA to which it belongs has about 200,000 U.S. members, according to Father Andrew.

The other diocese is based in New York and around 25 congregations and monasteries. There is a degree of bad blood between the two groups — and there is a rivalry between the OCA and the Sofia-based Bulgarian Orthodox Church (as well as with some of the other ethnic Orthodox Churches in the U.S.) This article from a Russian-based website claims that ethnic Bulgarians in the OCA’s Bulgarian diocese are upset with the influx of non-Bulgarian clergy and want to jump ship.

Bulgarians living in the U.S. and Canada are gathering signatures on the petition to the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Church. The letter will contain a request to the Synod about the transfer on Bulgarian parishes that are currently under the jurisdiction of the OCA, to the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A., Canada, and Australia. This jurisdiction, headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, currently has 27 parishes and monasteries.

The petitions states that today 80 percent of the clergy in Bulgarian churches are not Bulgarian, do not celebrate the feast days of Bulgarian saints, or observe Bulgarian national holidays and traditions.

The Toledo Blade article does not mention the other diocese, and uses language that would lead someone not familiar with the Bulgarian Orthodox ecclesial scene to believe this is the only Bulgarian game in town. The article does speak to the transition from an ethnic to an American church — a point of contention for some in the church — but does not develop this angle.

My point, however, is not to play the game of spot the real Bulgarian bishop — but to raise the underlying journalistic question of how to deal with schisms and splits and multiple claimants to a church brand name. Who is the “real” Bulgarian bishop? It is the same question as “who is the real Anglican?”

While there are a plethora of Protestant denominations sharing a Baptist, Presbyterian, Reformed, Methodist, Lutheran or congregational background — the Orthodox Churches (as well as the Episcopalians) have an ecclesial self-identity that does not contemplate multiple expressions of a single polity. In the Orthodox polity — as well as Anglican polity — there is only one bishop in a city. Yet the reality is that there are overlapping Orthodox jurisdictions and with the formation of the Anglican Church in North America there is now a rival to the Episcopal Church.

Where does the reporter’s duty lie in explaining or articulating for his readers these schisms? In the Toledo Blade article highlighted in this story should there have been a line mentioning the other Bulgarian Orthodox body? In stories that reach a national audience, should the distinctions between rival claimants be noted?

How much information is too much? How little is too little? Does it make a difference to the story? And — if a distinction is made, is it proper for a journalist to separate Bulgarian sheep from Bulgarian goats? What say you GetReligion readers?

First published in GetReligion.

11 Bulgarian bishops outed as Communist spies: The Church of England Newspaper, February 10, 2012 p 6. February 17, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Bulgarian Orthodox, Church of England Newspaper.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Eleven of 15 bishops of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church currently in office were spies for the former communist regime’s Committee for State Security — the Darzhavna sigurnost or the DS — according to an inquiry carried out by the government’s Committee on Disclosure of Documents.

On 17 January 2012 the government commission charged with naming those who collaborated with the secret police named the 11 as spies for the 6th Directorate of the DS, which was tasked with combating political dissent under the Communist regime.  Along with the Orthodox bishops, the current Roman Catholic Bishop of Sophia and the present and former chief Mufti of Bulgaria were named as collaborators.

However, the 97-year old patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, who had been appointed by the Communist regime in 1971, was not named as a spy following a review of the DS archives.

Speaking to the media on 21 January after a service celebrating his name day, Maxim said the bishops’ cases would be examined individually by the church’s Holy Synod at a special meeting to be held 15-17 February.

On 23 January the bishops released a letter of contrition to the patriarch stating: “Suffice not the other crosses you have born, but now God has also burdened you with having to accept our confessions and humble repentance, and to grant forgiveness for our sins.”  They have also agreed to provide to the Commission copies of the personnel records of the church’s priests, monks, nuns and church wardens for review.

However, Bulgarian media reports have stated the bishops of Veliko, Turnovo, Stara Zagora and Varna – named as collaborators — have refused to cooperate with the synod, while the other bishops have offered their contrition and have asked for forgiveness.

Metropolitan Gavril of Lovech – one of the bishops not named as a collaborator — told the Sofia Echo the church was torn over how to respond to the revelations. “We cannot now think about asking for the resignations of 11 people. That is impossible. If it had been one, or two or three, that is another matter.  The Synod must remain united and these problems should be resolved in some way so as to benefit, but also on the other side, not to destroy, the church,” he said.

Smyert Shpionam — Death to Spies: Get Religion, January 26, 2012. January 27, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Bulgarian Orthodox, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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This will set the mood.

“Balkan, Balkan,” they said in France of a pimp slapping a whore or three kids beating up a fourth — anything barbarous or brutal.

— Alan Furst, Kingdom of Shadows (2000)

Eleven of 15 bishops of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church currently in office were spies for the former communist regime’s Committee for State Security — the Darzhavna sigurnost or the DS — according to an inquiry carried out by the government’s Committee on Disclosure of Documents.

If you had not heard this news, I would not be surprised. While this has dominated the news in Bulgaria and in the former Soviet bloc, only the Agence France Press (AFP) among the Western wire services picked up the story. And as far as I have been able to tell via the magic of Google, only two Australian news organizations subsequently published the story — nothing so far in the U.S. or U.K.

Well what of it? Am I writing this post to capture the Bulgarian Orthodox demographic audience for GetReligion?

While the setting is Bulgaria and the characters are Orthodox clergy and secret policemen, the issues are of collaboration with evil and the battle for truth. Change the characters and the same story could be told of Vichy France, the Deutsche Evangelische Kirche and the Confessing Church in Germany, or the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the House Church movement in China.

While the canard that Pius XII was a pro-Nazi stooge continues to excite journalists — a real story of church leaders collaborating with evil is being ignored. In French there is an expression très balkan: meaning hopelessly confused with the connotation of labyrinthine or byzantine machinations. It would be easy to dismiss this story as being a très balkan intrigue more worthy of an Eric Ambler novel than hard news. However this story raises profound questions of morality and journalistic integrity.

Follow me through the Balkan labyrinth and see if we emerge in the same place.

As you might expect the Bulgarian press has been all over this story.  The English-language Sofia Echo has half a dozen stories: the initial report, what the bishops did for the secret police, popular reaction, calls for the bishops to resign, actions to be taken by the church’s synod — as well as the surprising revelation that the 97 year old Patriarch of the church, Maxim, was not a spy.

Before the report was released the country’s largest circulation daily newspaper Dneven Trud called for the bishops to seek forgiveness.

The clergy have had 20 years to prepare the faithful for this moment, to do penance and explain how they served the police as well as God: ‘To save the Church and protect you from persecution we had dealings with the secret police”, or something along those lines. But only Joseph, Metropolitan of the New York Bulgarian Orthodox Church, has shown contrition for his connections to the secret police. All the others claimed to be clean and free of blame. In view of the anticipated revelations the Church must prepare itself for a retaliation from society.

After the report was  released the daily Standart — which is Russian owned and follows a pro-Russian line — called for repentance from the bishops but forgiveness from the people.

The bishops did everything possible to prevent the files in question from coming to light. … But as the Bible says: “Nothing is concealed that won’t be revealed and nothing is hidden that won’t come to light.”  … What the bishops will do now depends on them and is a matter of conscience since the law does not foresee lustration. But now is not the time for excuses but for repentance. For God loves the sinner who repents more than the just. In this respect the disclosure of the secret service files could prove to be salutary for the Church.

The Echo noted that those debating the church’s relation to the Communist regime could not stand in isolation from the current political scene.

… the secular political element has become most obvious with the grouping of a number of left-wing intellectuals who have publicly hit out against what they described as a politically-motivated attack on the church and on ancient Bulgarian traditions (the group accuses some media of connivance in this attack). These intellectuals, in turn, have come under fire among centre-right commentators in the media as well as from other academics and theologians as including several who were State Security collaborators and avowed supporters of the communist atheist system.

A week after the story broke in Sofia, The Australian on 23 January 2012 published the AFP story under the headline “Bulgarian bishops were communist spies.” The following day the Australian newspaper chain News Limited published a story on its website entitled “Communist past catches up with bishops”.

The AFP stories run in Australia give the basic details of the case, but no background or context. They also offer the voices of commentators critical of the church — when as the Echo reported a lively debate is being waged between defenders and critics of the church. It is hard to fault a wire service story for brevity — the AFP has no control over the title or the length of the story its subscribers use — but a casual reader would take away very little from these reports.

And in America we hear? Nothing.

The tone and feel of the story also would do little to challenge Western prejudices that this is a très balkan affair taking place in the back of the beyond. Yet the Bulgarians are attempting to address their past in a way no other former Soviet state has done.

Russia has yet to examine the Stalinist era. The Moscow Patriarchate — the official name for the Russian Orthodox Church — was set up on the orders of Joseph Stalin in 1943 as a front organization for the NKVD and all of its senior positions were vetted by the Ideological Department of the Communist Party, according to reports published in the U.K. following the defection of KGB Major Vasili Mitrokhin  in 1991.

In two books written with intelligence historian Christopher Andrew, The KGB in Europe and the West and The KGB in the World, Mitokhin claimed that Russian Orthodox priests were used as agents of influence on behalf of the KGB in organizations such as the World Council of Churches and the World Peace Council.  Patriarch Alexius II was also named as KGB agent with the codename DROZDOV, whose services earned him a citation from the regime.

The Bulgarian stories — writing it is true with the luxury of space in the paper to report and the immediacy of the issues — have also spoken to the issues of repentence. How should society judge those who collaborated with evil or who were agents of evil?

Is this an Orthodox thing? A Bulgarian thing? Or a human response?

Imagine if the New York Times devoted articles on the Roman Catholic pedophile scandal to how or why abusers should be forgiven?

Over the holidays I happened to read a new book about Gertrude Stein (yes we GetReligion writers lead exciting lives).  Written by Barbara Will the book Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy Dilemma (Columbia University Press, 2011) examined the novelist’s war years.

As one reviewer put it — the question facing biographers was:

How had Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas—foreigners, lesbians, and Jews—somehow managed to survive World War II in a rural enclave in southeastern France?

The answer Will and other researchers found was that the celebrated feminist author was a collaborator, who translated Marshall Petain’s speeches into English and penned a number of articles supporting his regime — even after it was apparent what collaboration with the Nazis meant.

What is the journalist’s task in all of this? Is it too much to expect a discourse of the ethical and moral ghosts that lay behind a story on collaboration with evil — or is it enough to just report the events. Or, is the behavior being disclosed not evil? Reams of newsprint have been devoted to the pedophile scandals — and rightly so — but little to no work has been done on the fellow travelers and useful idiots that provided moral sanction to an evil regime.

I would have hoped that one of the major newspapers or serious magazine would have picked up this story. Perhaps the Balkans are too far away and the Cold War a fading memory — but I believe that the truth and journalism have not been faithfully served so far.

Bishops photo courtesy of office of the Bulgarian president.

First published at GetReligion.

Bulgaria rejects Calendar request: CEN 12.18.09 p 6. December 24, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Bulgarian Orthodox, Church of England Newspaper.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishops of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church have rejected a plea from Moscow-backed conservatives in the church to return to the observance of the Julian calendar.

Bulgaria rejects Calendar request

On Dec 9, a spokesman said the calendar question would not be included on the agenda of the Dec 20 session of the Holy Synod, contradicting earlier press reports that had quoted several of the church’s senior bishops who said 2009 might be the last year the Bulgarian Orthodox Church celebrated Christmas on Dec 25.

The calendar question has long proven to be a point of contention among the Orthodox Churches. Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Poland and Bulgaria, follow a church calendar synchronized with the modern Gregorian calendar, celebrating Christmas on Dec 25. The Orthodox Churches of Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, and Georgia use the traditional Julian calendar, with Christmas celebrated on Jan 7. The Armenian church uses a third calendar, celebrating Christmas on Jan 6.

In March 1916, the nation of Bulgaria adopted the Gregorian calendar, and in 1963, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church followed suit — prompting a split within the church between “Old Calendarists” and “New Calendarists.”

At the 2008 meeting of synod, five bishops pushed for the return of the Julian calendar, however, a spokesman for the council, Patriarch Tihon, said: “There is no need to change the calendar, more so because Bulgaria is on the road to Western Europe where holidays are established and are celebrated on the same day.”

The Julian calendar was created by the astronomer Sosigenes for Julius Caesar and introduced in 44 BC and was adopted by the First Ecumenical Council that met in Nicaea in 325 for use in the Church’s liturgical year.

However, the Julian calendar is inaccurate by 11 minutes each year, and in 1582 astronomers commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII unveiled a new calendar that corrected this error — the Gregorian calendar.

The Roman Catholic and Protestant world adopted this new calendar, but in 1583 the Orthodox rejected it as heretical. Whoever followed the “new calendar of the atheist astronomers of the Pope; and, opposing the Councils, wishes to overthrow and destroy the doctrines and customs of the Church, which we have inherited from our Fathers, let any such have the anathema and let him be outside the Church and the Assembly of the Faithful,” Patriarchs Jeremias II of Constantinople, Sylvester of Alexandria and Sophronios of Jerusalem decreed.

However, in 1923 Patriarch Meletios of Constantinople convened an “Inter-Orthodox Congress” where a majority of churches adopted a revised Julian calendar, which is synchronized with the Gregorian calendar until the Twenty-third century.

The push to adopt the old Julian calendar in Bulgaria appears to be part of the rivalry between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church for leadership of the orthodox world, with the pro-Moscow faction pushing for the Julian calendar.

Change may come with a new patriarch, however, as the leader of the Bulgarian Church, the 95-year-old Patriarch Maxim, has opposed any change.

Bulgarian Church begins debate on increasing powers of Synod: CEN 10.10.08 October 10, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Bulgarian Orthodox, Church of England Newspaper, Politics, Property Litigation.
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Delegates to the Holy Synod of the Church of Bulgaria have begun debate on a reform of the code of canon law that proposes an increase in the legal powers of the synod at the expense of bishops and clergy.

Meeting at the St John of Rila Monastery south of Sofia from Oct 6-8, the Sixth Church Convention of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church passed an ordinance forbidding the sale, mortgage or exchange of church properties — an action that vests trusteeship of property in the synod rather than with local bishops, abbots or congregations.

The push towards centralization of property ownership comes in the 16th year of a schism — a legacy of the Communist era in Bulgaria, and appears aimed at centralizing the control of property by the Synod and the leader of the church, Maxim, Patriarch of Bulgaria and Metropolitan of Sofia, at the expense of dissident clergy and bishops.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bulgarian Church begins debate on increasing powers of Synod