We have all the ownership documents, “St. Nikolay Mirlikiyski” is ours, said the head of the mission
Eleonora Mitrofanova unlocked the Russian Church in Sofia on the 49th day after the scandal with the expulsion of the clergy from the Moscow Patriarchate, and the new head Archpriest Vladimir Tishchuk arrived at the temple in a jeep with Ukrainian registration. He was appointed by Patriarch Kirill to replace Archimandrite Vasian Zmeev, who was declared a spy.
“One of the priests is from Ukraine, from Donetsk,” explained Eleonora Mitrofanova, before entering the church, where a prayer service was held.
“Opening the temple is a great, real joy. This is a treasure in the middle of Sofia. I am glad that so many people came”, said Archpriest Tishchuk. Dozens of lay people had been waiting since the morning to attend the service in the church “St. Nikolay Mirlikiyski”, about which there are still disputes as to whose ownership it is – of Bulgaria or of Russia. The Russian Church in Sofia opens its doors Photo: Velislav Nikolov
“The church is Russian. Both the land and the land under the Moscow House were donated. It is a former royal embassy. We have all the documents and they are in order, including the notary. We have everything – from the very beginning of the creation of this church”, says Mitrofanova.
The row began when she ordered the church locked down after the expulsion of the three Russian clerics on September 21. It turned out that the embassy has a notarial deed issued in 1997. The prosecutor’s office started an investigation after reports from the MPs and chairmen of the parliamentary groups of the governing parties Boyko Borisov, Delyan Peevski and Kiril Petkov. The Russian Church was closed for 50 days Photo: Velislav Nikolov
“I don’t know what the prosecutor’s office has investigated regarding the property of the church. I know what is in the public domain. Prosecutors say there are 4 volumes, but it’s unclear what might be in them. We will see what will happen”, said the ambassador of Russia in our country.
Last week, the chief prosecutor Borislav Sarafov met with the regional minister Andrey Tsekov to inform him of the results of the inspection of the ownership of the church. He was advised to file a lawsuit.
“The church is separate from the state and must work normally. This temple is popular among Sofians and we hope everything will be fine”, said Eleonora Mitrofanova on this occasion.
A prayer in the open church is led by Primate Tishchuk in co-service with the three Bulgarian priests who were appointed by Patriarch Neofit a week after the spy scandal, but who entered the church only on Friday. The laity were impressed that the Russian Patriarch Kirill was mentioned first in the prayer, followed by the Bulgarian Neophyte, while it should have been the other way around.
“The expulsion of the clergy was sewn with white threads,” commented others. According to them, Bulgaria has sinned as a nation with this act.
The leader of ABV Rumen Petkov was also present at the prayer service, who shook Mitrofanova’s hand in a friendly way.
“Holiday for Orthodoxy! The hundreds who came to this holiday were a joy!” he commented on Facebook.
On Thursday, a day before the opening of the church, the spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said that Moscow was considering the “threat of usurping the church of St. Nikolay Mirlikiski Miracle Worker” as an open manifestation of hostility on the part of Sofia”. She warned the Bulgarian authorities that they would be held accountable.
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