What is an Eastern Rite Catholic

The Catholics of the Eastern Rite

Bulgaria / Radio / Religion News / 2012-09-05 16:00:00

introduction

Around 100 religious communities are registered in Bulgaria. The Orthodox Church, to which more than 70 percent of Bulgarians profess, is dominant. The second strongest group are Muslims with around 10 percent, while Catholics only

detail

Around 100 religious communities are registered in Bulgaria. The Orthodox Church, to which more than 70 percent of Bulgarians profess, is dominant. The second strongest group are Muslims with around 10 percent, while Catholics make up just under one percent of the population. They also include the Catholics of the Eastern Rite, formerly also known as the Greek Catholic Church. She visited our Balkan correspondent Christian Wehrschütz and designed the following article about this small but old group:

There are around 50,000 Catholics in Bulgaria; 5,000 of them profess the Eastern Rite, so they are Orthodox Christians who recognize the primacy of the Pope. Its origins go back to the Bulgarians striving for national independence from the Ottoman Empire in the middle of the 19th century. Since the Ottoman Empire regarded all Orthodox as Greeks, a group of clergy made the decision to submit to the Catholic Church in order to be considered Bulgarians and to underline the will for national independence. When this was achieved in 1878, some of these Christians returned to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Today the Catholics of the Eastern Rite look after about 20 clergymen and monks who are subordinate to their own bishop. In contrast to other Catholics of the Eastern Rite, their priests are not allowed to marry in Bulgaria. In Sofia, the priest Petko Valov explains why this is so:

“This is a disciplinary decision for us and has practical reasons. For example, I have a parish on the border with Greece; I am there every weekend and on all public holidays; that would be more difficult if the clergyman were married and had children. In addition, we have no salary - we only live from the church services, as well as from what believers give for baptisms, weddings or the like. It would be a little difficult to get a family if you don't have a salary. "

Valov and the other priests have 15 parishes to look after. Most of their flocks live in the cities of Sofia, Plovdiv or Burgas. In contrast to the Orthodox Church, there are Sunday schools in which religious instruction is regularly given that is not offered in state schools. Petko Valov describes the relationship with the Catholic Church as very good. One regularly helps one another with vacation replacements in the parishes. There is hardly any relationship with orthodoxy, which is still hostile to ecumenism, stresses the priest Petko Valov.