Bulgarians pay last respects to Orthodox Patriarch Neophyte

By Thomson Reuters Mar 15, 2024 | 3:55 AM

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgarian worshippers thronged Sofia’s golden-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral on Friday to pay their last respects to Orthodox Christian Patriarch Neophyte who died this week aged 78.

Neophyte, a soft-spoken theologian who sought to restore the reputation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church hurt by links to businessmen and communist secret police, succeeded Patriarch Maxim in 2013.

Neophyte lay in state in an open casket, dressed in an ornate white robe and crown, as black-clad clergymen prayed and hundreds of faithful passed by in a sombre memorial service. He died on Wednesday after a long illness.

Neophyte’s burial is scheduled for Saturday and the funeral rites will be led by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Churches worldwide, and Bulgarian clergy.

About 80% of the population in the 6.8 million-strong Bulgaria are Orthodox Christians.

The reputation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was damaged after a history commission in January 2012 showed that 11 of its 15 bishops collaborated with the former communist-era secret police.

(Reporting by Stoyan Nenov in Sofia, writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Nick Macfie)