Bulgaria to appeal European ruling on religious freedom breach

16th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

The leader of the alternative Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Church lodged complaints with the ECHR for being evicted from around 50 churches and monasteries in 2004 when they were handed over to the official church, which installed its own clergy.

Sofia -- Bulgaria's government said Tuesday it would appeal a European Human Rights Court judgment that ruled it breached religious freedoms by trying to force together two branches of the Orthodox Church.

"Bulgaria will take the case, filed by Metropolitan Inokentiy against the state, to the ECHR's Grand Chamber," the government's press service said in a statement.

The appeal would be tabled at the ECHR by April 21, the government said.

But it added it would only make the grounds for the appeal public after presenting them in Strasbourg.

Inokentiy, the leader of the alternative Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Church, lodged complaints with the ECHR, along with several other alternative clergy, for being evicted from around 50 churches and monasteries in 2004 when they were handed over to the official church, which installed its own clergy.

The Holy Synod split from the official Bulgarian Orthodox Church in 1996.

The government has always insisted on the unity of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church under its current Patriarch Maxim and has refused to recognise Inokentiy's rival church.

But the ECHR judged that the state had unlawfully interfered in the internal organisation of the church by trying to force the two rival branches to unite, and had in this way also violated the alternative synod's right to freely change and express its religion.

Since their eviction, the alternative clergy have set up a tent on a square in downtown Sofia, where they hold daily sermons.

They have also installed a board outside the makeshift church, counting down the days since what they call "the violence against the Bulgarian church" on July 21, 2004.

AFP/Expatica

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