Monday, July 01, 2024

Metropolitan Daniil becomes Bulgaria's new Patriarch

Bulgaria's Orthodox Church has elected the current Metropolitan Daniil from the Danube city of Vidin as its new Patriarch. 

In a run-off vote on Sunday, 69 clergy and laity who had gathered in the capital Sofia for a national council voted in favour of the 52-year-old. 

According to local media reports, the opposing candidate, Metropolitan Grigory (53) from Vratsa, received 66 votes.

In the first round of voting, none of the nominated candidates received the necessary two-thirds majority. The two candidates with the most votes advanced to the second round. A simple majority was sufficient in this round. The election was necessary because Patriarch Neofit died on 13 March at the age of 78. He had led the church since 2013.

Daniil's election as head of the church for life is considered a surprise. Metropolitan Grigory, who was appointed provisional head by the Holy Synod in March, had been considered to have better chances. 

The new Patriarch Daniil was born on 2 March 1972. He began studying English in Sofia in 1996, but decided to study theology the following year and entered the monastery. He has been a bishop since 2008. From 2010, he gained a great deal of experience abroad as vicar to the Metropolitan of the United States of America, Canada and Australia, until he was elected Metropolitan of Vidin in north-west Bulgaria in 2018.

Ten days ago, the church's governing body, the Holy Synod, proposed three metropolitans as candidates for the patriarchal election, as stipulated in the church statute. The National Council includes all bishops as well as clergy and lay people delegated by the dioceses. Representatives of the monasteries, seminaries and theological faculties also took part in the patriarchal election.

The new patriarch will be enthroned on Sunday afternoon in the cathedral in Sofia. The honourable head of the Orthodox churches, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and the Vatican's ecumenical representative, Cardinal Kurt Koch, will also take part in the ceremony.

As head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Neofit had helped to heal the wounds caused by the split in the Church in the 1990s. At that time, there was a counter-patriarch. The large funeral ceremonies for Neofit showed his popularity among the population. Around two thirds of the 6.4 million Bulgarians profess Orthodox Christianity. Only just under 39,000 people voluntarily declared themselves to be Catholic in the 2021 census.