On Thursday, the Bulgarian parliament gave a green light at first reading to two draft laws on religious denominations. The idea of MPs is to protect traditional religious denominations and to eliminate opportunities for radicalization on a religious basis. Since the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Chief Mufti have some objections to planned changes, the Parliament has given 21 days in order for an agreement to be reached before drafting the final law. At this backdrop, a meeting between Chief Mufti Mustafa Hadji and Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has been held. The Mufti insists that the Religious Denominations Act should set a lower limit of funding in order to ensure the salaries of the clergy. Moreover, it is essential for the Mufti's Office that the Muslim Institute in Bulgaria was officially accredited so that the priests it prepares could serve in mosques of the country without being subject to foreign Muslim influences.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church also voiced some disagreements with the new bill, as the church fears violation of its autonomy and strongly insists that its internal life should be governed exclusively by its own canons. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church also disagrees with the notion of religious radicalism because it believes there is no exact existing. However, representatives of the Orthodox Church and representatives of the Muslim faith are pleased with the idea of politicians for increased government subsidies to be spent on salaries of religious and community servants, educational activities and other activities. It is proposed that the control on spending of these funds should be exercised by the Directorate of Religious Affairs of the Council of Ministers as well as by the National Audit Office. According to offers by GERB, BSP and MRF parties have the right for opening spiritual schools and higher education institutions would be given only to the Orthodox and Muslim faiths. The United Patriots Coalition insist that Bulgarian citizens should be able to carry out liturgical activity only when they have completed their education in Bulgaria or when their foreign diploma is recognized by competent institutions in this country. Both draft laws provide for aliens to be able to religious ceremonies only if this was agreed in advance with the Religions Directorate. 20 days remain until the final draft of the new Religious Denominations Act in Bulgaria is presented. Given the good tone in preliminary talks between politicians and high clergy, it can be assumed that existing doubts would be overcome.
Editor: Stoimen Pavlov
English: Alexander Markov