The Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR) said in a statement that the Bulgarian authorities had expelled the head of the Russian Orthodox Church metochion to Sofia, accusing them of serving Moscow’s geopolitical interests.
According to the DECR, these men are the head of the metochion of the Russian Orthodox Church in Sofia, Archimandrite Vassian (Zmeyev), the metochion secretary archpriest, Yevgeny Pavelchuk, and a metochion staff member.
The DECR in a statement, issued in English and Russian, points out that these measures taken by the Bulgarian authorities aim “to undermine the traditionally friendly relationship between the two sister Churches, to set fraternal nations against each other, nations who are tied together by a common history and a single faith.”
It also adds that “the expulsion of priests is an outrageous act dictated by Russophobic motives and the desire to erase the glorious pages of the common history of Bulgaria and Russia.”
The Moscow Patriarchate is convinced that “those who initiated these insulting plans will endure defeat.” “The Patriarchates of Moscow and Bulgaria will preserve their commonality that is rooted in the centuries and will never betray the historical memory of our peoples,” it pointed out.
In its statement, the DECR also referred to the Russian Church of St. Nicholas in Sophia, which over the last 100 years “has been a symbol of the spiritual unity of our fraternal peoples”.
It points out that in this church there is the tomb of the former dean of the metochion of St. Seraphim (Sobolev), who is honored by the Bulgarian and Russian Churches. “Today’s decision by the Bulgarian authorities demonstrates their disrespect for the feelings of believers who have now been denied the opportunity of visiting his tomb as a result of the cessation of the activities of the Russian metochion,” the DECR stressed.
Yesterday, the Bulgarian national security service announced the deportation of the three men, stating only the initials of their names and their nationalities. An entry ban was also imposed on them for the next five years.
The three men are accused of implementing “Russia’s hybrid strategy aimed at influencing socio-political processes in Bulgaria in favor of the Kremlin’s interests,” according to a statement from the agency.
In a post on Facebook, the Russian Embassy stressed that the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Sofia, Archimandrite Vassian, was among the three men.
It is worth noting that Archimandrite Vassian made the headlines (for equally negative reasons) a few days ago, when the authorities in Skopje banned him from entering the country.
According to Bulgarian media, the Russian clergyman has been coordinating all the policies of the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria regarding its ecclesiastical diplomacy. This led to a complete stagnation in its relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate regarding the full recognition of its autocephaly.
President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski in a recent interview revealed that allegedly some Metropolitans of the Ohrid Archdiocese have been cooperating with the Russian security services.
It is recalled that a few days ago, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia announced the expulsion of three Russian diplomats, who are accused of violating diplomatic rules. In total, 14 staff members of the Russian Embassy in Skopje have been expelled since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.