The Sofia Theological Seminary St John of Rila marks its 115th anniversary this year. It was built in 1903 on a plot of land donated by the city authorities. The Sofia Theological Seminary continues the deed of the Samokov Theological School. The people who studied at the Sofia Seminary acquired in the course of many decades theological knowledge and skills in church art. Over the years education at the Sofia Seminary has followed the spirit and traditions of the Orthodox values, despite the difficulties during the wars and the years of atheism. In 1950, several years after the establishment of the communist regime in Bulgaria, the buildings of the Sofia Theological Seminary were turned into a Pioneers’ Palace for children. The theological school was moved to the Cherepish Monastery and remained there until 1990.
All people who joined the Sofia Seminary during the communist period knew that they would be stigmatized for being graduates of the theological seminary", the Rector of the Sofia Theological Seminary His Reverence Archimandrite Pachomius told Horizont channel of the Bulgarian National Radio. "The communist regime was trying to change their minds by threatening their parents with dismissals and persecution as it did with many other people. However, the people who joined the seminary truly wanted to walk on this road. The number of believers has multiplied since the foundation of the Church, despite the efforts of some evil forces to fight against it.
Unfortunately, the pursuit of spiritual life decreases nowadays due to the long period of atheism and the aspiration for material benefits which change our values.
The young people are now experiencing a very difficult period. They stand a big chance to make the wrong step while searching for the truth. Faith is a matter of personal choice- a sacrament between man and God. It happens in our hearts. Here we can give the knowledge of God, but cannot give faith.
Despite the difficulties the teaching team of the Sofia Seminary managed to awaken the interest in faith among its students and teach them how to keep the fire of spirit in their souls. For over a century the Sofia Seminary has been preserving the traditions of moral and ecclesiastical education of the students. Now 100 boys are part of the Sofia Seminary. Only 15 new students joined the Seminary in the new academic year.
Our students should be brought to this seminary by their personal will, Archimandrite Pahomius notes and adds:
The children study and live at the seminary. They are here 24/7 and the teachers have the task to educate and raise them. We are like parents for them. Our infrastructure is good. The children can also relax and study in our park and be close to nature. We provide free-of charge textbooks, food and accommodation. Of course, the rules of the seminary are important as well. They yielded good results over the years. That is why we have been preserving this good and useful tradition.
Students Anton and Asen contend that the strict rules and principles at the academy educate the spirit. We are not subject to any pressure by the teachers. We take care of each other and live as one big family here, Anton and Asen further told Radio Bulgaria. The two students also said they have plenty of spare time and play football after the lessons. They go home quite often as well. Here is what monk Meletius told Radio Bulgaria:
Here at the Sofia Seminary we are trying above all to establish a connection between the live of each student with the meaning of life - Jesus Christ. This gives huge perspectives to our students.
It is wrong to think that all students graduating from the Sofia Theological Seminary must become clerics. The students receive secular education and most important of all: good and classical education, the Rector of the Sofia Seminary Archimandrite Pachomius points out.
English version: Kostadin Atanasov