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On 23 April 2013, Mr. Pieter Omtzigt (Netherland, member of PACE, EPP) co-sponsored an event with Lord Dundee (UK, member of PACE, EDG). The European Interreligious Forum for Religious Forum (EIFRF) helped to organise the event during the Plenary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). The main reason for the meeting was to provide information crucial to the discussion of a report in progress on “Sectarian Influence on Minors”, with Mr. Rudy Salles as rapporteur (France, member of the PACE). Here is a video of the speech of Professor Marco Ventura, from Catholic University of Leuven.



Rédigé par EIFRF le Thursday, April 25th 2013 | Comments (0)

20 eminent professors and religious leaders from various countries of Europe wrote to Mr Alexander Chope, President of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in a common statement denouncing the willingness of a French deputy to export the French attitude against religious minorities at European level. Here is their letter:


Professors and religious leaders write to Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

 
Gerard Noodt Foundation                                                            Eastern European Forum
For Freedom of Religion or Belief                                                For Dialogue - BRIDGES
Hans@NoodtFoRB.eu                                                                 vladikova@bridges-forum.org
http://www.NoodtFoRB.eu                                                          http://bridges-forum.org/
 
 
 
Mr Christopher Chope
Chairman of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights - PACE
House of Commons
SW1A 0AA – London
United Kingdom
 
                                                                                  Europe, the 3rd April 2013
 
 
cc: Members of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
 
 
 
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee,
 
We, scholars, religious leaders or representatives of the civil society in Europe, would like to express our serious concern about the evolution of a report in preparation at the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the PACE. This report, which is monitored by Mr. Rudy Salles, is entitled “Protection of Minors Against Sectarian Influence”.
 
While we all agree that children need to be protected against any harmful acts and that this protection should be enforced under national common law of European countries and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it appears that the formulation of the report in preparation will lead to strong infringements of basic fundamental rights protected by European and other international conventions.
 
As stated by Mr. Salles himself and other members of the French institutions, the purpose of this report is to convince other European countries to adhere to the French model of fighting against so-called “sects” or “sectarian movements”.
 
This type of “fight” has been strongly criticized by French and international human rights institutions throughout the years due to the violation of the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief it implies for religious minorities so derogatorily labeled.
 
In 1996, in his Annual Report, the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom noted the inadequacy of labeling certain belief groups as “sects”:
 
“The term “sect” seems to have a pejorative connotation. A sect is considered to be different from a religion, and thus not entitled to the same protection. This kind of approach is indicative of a propensity to lump things together, to discriminate and to exclude, which is hard to justify and harder still to excuse, so injurious is it to religious freedom.”
Needless to say that the new terminology -- “sectarian movements” -- adopted to try to avoid censure, is tantamount to the derogatory label “sects” and is subject to the same criticism.
 
In its General Comment No 22 on the interpretation to be given to Article 18 of the ICCPR on the Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion, the UN Human Rights Committee stated:
 
“Article 18 protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The terms “belief” and “religion” are to be broadly construed. Article 18 is not limited in its application to traditional religions or to religions and beliefs with institutional characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions. The Committee therefore views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reason, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility on the part of a predominant religious community.“
 
In particular the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir, expressed concern for the devastating consequences on children of these communities by such a classification in her report following her official visit to France on 18-29 September 2005:[[1]]url:#_ftn1
 
108. However, [the Special Rapporteur] is of the opinion that the policy and measures that have been adopted by the French authorities have provoked situations where the right to freedom of religion or belief of members of these groups has been unduly limited. Moreover, the public condemnation of some of these groups, as well as the stigmatization of their members, has led to certain forms of discrimination, in particular vis-à-vis their children.
 
The European Court of Human Rights, in its decision of 10 June 2010 Jehovah Witnesses of Moscow v. Russia (Application no. 302/02), has also reaffirmed the right for parents to ensure education of their children in conformity with their religious convictions:
 
125.  The Court reiterates that Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 requires the State to respect the rights of parents to ensure education and teaching in conformity with their own religious convictions and that Article 5 of Protocol No. 7 establishes that spouses enjoy equality of rights in their relations with their children.
 
The European Court noted also that confrontational situations might arise when parents have different convictions. This can happen with parents from religious minorities as well as traditional denominations:
 
111. (…) It is true that friction often exists in marriages where the spouses belong to different religious denominations or one of the spouses is a non-believer. However, this situation is common to all mixed-belief marriages and Jehovah’s Witnesses are no exception.
 
And the Court confirmed that in cases of conflict both parents have equally the right to raise their children in accordance with their convictions:
 
125. (…) Both parents, even in a situation where they adhere to differing doctrines or beliefs, have the same right to raise their children in accordance with their religious or non-religious convictions and any disagreements between them in relation to the necessity and extent of the children’s participation in religious practices and education are private disputes that are to be resolved according to the procedure established in domestic family law.
 
Contrary to these international standards, the French authorities have determined that undue influence should be characterized as “sectarian” when “one or more people start to believe in certain ideas which differ from the ideas generally accepted by society”.[[2]]url:#_ftn2
 
French authorities issued a Circular on 22 March 2012 to primary and high schools entitled “Prevention and Fight against Sectarian Risks” where they defined a “situation of sectarian risk” for a child as “the one in which some views and practices are imposed on him with the exception of any other views or practice”. This situation, which is proper to any religious beliefs that parents are legitimate to educate their children in, is allegedly likely to harm “the possibility for the child to develop and exert a critical mind, an independent judgment”. In the context of family, the Circular considers that “the child is then likely to be under the undue influence of views and practices threatening his education”.[[3]]url:#_ftn3
 
Per the Circular, National Education personnel (teachers, Principals, etc.) have the duty to report any child suspected of “sectarian risk” to the special units created for the collection of such information or to the Public Prosecutor.
 
In its 2009 Report, MIVILUDES (the Inter-ministerial Mission of Vigilance and Fight Against Sectarian Drifts) recommended, in case of such “psychological” risk, the solution “to protect the young, and mostly the teenager, from a univocal vision of the world by arranging for him, giving the largest place possible to the non-follower parent, some windows on other realities, and this even if he, in the exclusive sphere of his follower parent, has blossomed, works well at school and does not complain about anything”.[[4]]url:#_ftn4
Therefore MIVILUDES recommends to not give equal rights to parents who are members of targeted religious minorities to allegedly protect children from their parents’ beliefs.
This constitutes discrimination and a direct violation of the right of parents to freedom of religion or belief and to raise their children according to their own beliefs protected by the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It also represents a violation of Article 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which provides:
1. States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
2. States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.
We therefore urge you to thoroughly review this matter, and make sure that the report in preparation conforms with international human rights standards that the Council of Europe is dedicated to defend.
 
The issue of new religious movements has been dealt with successfully with more enlightened approaches based on dialogue in most of European countries.
 
We are aware and trustful that you, as Chairman and members of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, are dedicated to the respect of fundamental rights, including the rights of the child and the right to freedom of religion or belief. We sincerely hope that this matter will be examined thoroughly with all appropriate information and that fundamental rights will be secured for members of religious minorities and their children in the State Members of the Council of Europe.
 
Respectfully,
 

Sheikh Dr. Muhammad Al-Hussaini
Research Fellow in Islamic Studies
UK
 

Professor Silvio Calzolari - PhD
Theological Faculty of the Central Italy-Firenze
Italy

Professor Régis Dericquebourg
University Charles de Gaulle-Lille III
PhD in Social psychology
Sociologist of religions
France

Professor Ekaterina Elbakyan,
Doctor of Philosophy
Sociology and Administration of Social Processes Department,
Academy of Labor and Social Relations,
Director of Center for Religious Studies "ReligioPolis"
Russia

Dr Mohamed Elsharkawy
Chair Christian-Muslim Council
Vice Chair of the Imams and Rabbis Council of the United Kingdom
Dean of Al-Azhar College
UK
 
Professor Juan Ferreiro Gualguera
Prof. Ecclesiastical Law of the State
University of Coruna
Spain
 
Petar Grigorov Grammatikoff
Bulgarian Orthodox Church
Hierodeacon
Vice-President of Eastern European Forum for Dialogue
Bridges NGO
Bulgaria
 
Amir Dr. h.c. Mohamed Herzog
Founder and head of the I.G.d.M.B. e.V
Germany
 
Pastor Dominique Kounkou
Attorney at law
PhD in international public law
Honorary President of the Council of Christian Churches
of an African Approach in Europe
 
Dr. Trencsenyi Laszlo
PhD - University of Budapest
Secretary General Of Hungarian Pedagogical Association
Hungary
 
Reverend Dr. William McComish
Doctor in divinity (Geneva)
B.A., M.A. Trinity College, Dublin
Emeritus Dean St Pierre Cathedral, Geneva
General Treasurer World Alliance of Reformed Churches
Advisor to World Economic Forum, Davos
Switzerland
 
Hans Noot
Chairman of Gerard Noodt Foundation
Netherlands
 
Bertil Persson
National Chancellor of International Association of Educators for World Peace (UNESCO)
Scandinavian rep. University of Peace (UNESCO)
Ex-President, Swedish Dyslexia Assn
Sweden
 
Bashi Quraishi
Chairman of ENAR Advisory Council                                                                                        
Chair of European Platform for Jewish Muslim Cooperation
Secretary General of EMISCO
Denmark
 
Karan Singh, 
President, Sikh Foundation Switzerland
Switzerland

Professor Daniele Spero
Professor at IRC (Teaching of the Catholic Religion) of the Patriarchy of Venice
Coordinator of the Intercultural and Interreligious programs of UNESCO - Club UNESCO of Venice
General coordinator of the Venetian Catholic Studium Section Science and Faith
Coordinator for the Christian-Hebrew dialogue of the Secretariat for the Ecumenical Activities of Venice
Italy

Dr. Istvan Szikinger
Prof. Tit. PhD
Attorney at Law
Hungary
 
Katalin Szomor
National Drug Expert
Hungary
 
Professor Aldo Natale Terrin
Istituto di Liturgia Pastorale di Padova
Catholic University of Milan
Italy

Anastasio Theodoris
Attorney at law
President of The Antigoni Human Rights Organization
Greece


[[1]]url:#_ftnref1 E/CN.4/2006/5/Add.4, 8 March 2006, Mission to France
[[2]]url:#_ftnref2 MIVILUDES (Inter-ministerial Mission of Vigilance and Fight Against Sectarian Drifts) 2008 Report, page 59.
[[3]]url:#_ftnref3 Circular N° 2012-051.
[[4]]url:#_ftnref4 Report page 214. 


Rédigé par EIFRF le Wednesday, April 17th 2013 | Comments (0)

Side event during the plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.


Conference Freedom of Conscience: the tensions between laicity and religious minorities in State/families issues
Conference/side event
Freedom of Conscience: the tensions between laicity
and religious minorities in State/families issues
 
Sponsored by:
 
Pieter Omtzigt (EPP/CD)
 
Alexander (The Earl of) Dundee (EDG)
 
Organized by the European Interreligious
Forum for Religious Freedom
 
Speakers
(Moderator: Dr. Pieter Omtzigt)
 
Professor Marco Ventura
PhD, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Faculty of Law of the University of Siena
 
Petar Gramatikoff
           Doctor (Didiaskalos) of the Universal Orthodox Church          
Master's Degree in Theology
 
The 23th of April from 13:00 to 14:00
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
Room 9
 
Sandwiches and hot drinks are provided

Rédigé par EIFRF le Monday, April 8th 2013 | Comments (0)

Nouveau livre : Réveil du religieux, éveil de la société

De ce que nous devons au réveil religieux, nous avons presque tout oublié : nos banques, nos hôpitaux, nos universités, notre sécurité sociale, l’idée même de la démocratie, tant et tant d’œuvres d’utilité publique… Quand Max Wéber parlera de l’éthique protestante du capitalisme, il traduira avec ces mots de sociologue comment le réveil religieux des sectes baptistes a donné naissance à une société planétaire de la confiance capable de faire naître la prospérité parmi les peuples.

 
Aujourd’hui, ce livre vient rappeler que sous la cendre des sectes, que partout l’on stigmatise, brûle le feu du réveil religieux qui précédé l’aurore d’une société de l’éthique et de la confiance qui changera la face du monde.
 
Dominique KOUNKOU est Avocat au Barreau de Paris. Avec ce livre, il renoue avec sa passion de pasteur et de sociologue. Comme avec "la religion, une anomalie républicaine", ce livre, fruit de la réflexion collective d’un colloque, invite à dépasser l’écume des sectes pour la profondeur des changements en cours dans la société.
 
NOUVELLE LOI SUR L’ABUS DE FAIBLESSE
 
Inès Wouters, avocate diplômée de l’université libre de Bruxelles en 1984. Maître en droit comparé de la Mcgill University.
 
AUMÔNIERS TÉMOINS DE JÉHOVAH INTERDITS DE PRISON
 
Philippe Goni, Michel Trizac, avocats à la cour d’appel de Paris
 
TAXATION DES OFFRANDES – TÉMOINS DE JÉHOVAH
 
Philippe Goni, avocat au barreau de Paris
 
CONTES DES MILLE ET UNE NUI…SANCES
 
Christian Paturel  juriste
 
LE JUGEMENT DU TRIBUNAL DE GRANDE INSTANCE DE PARIS CONTRE L’ÉGLISE DE SCIENTOLOGIE 27 OCTOBRE 2009
 
Par Émile Corset Juriste
 
LA LIBERTÉ DE RELIGION ET LA COUR EUROPÉENNE DES DROITS DE L’HOMME
 
Par Maître Gérard Ducrey Avocat près la cour d’appel de Paris,Chevalier dans l’Ordre des palmes académiques
 
LA NOTION DE «DÉRIVES SECTAIRES » UN BRAS DE FER ENTRE DÉMOCRATIE ET PARTICRATIE EN BELGIQUE
 
Philippe Van Langendonck Avocat au barreau de Bruxelles
 
LA FECRIS, LA LIBERTÉ DE RELIGION ET LES DROITS DE L’HOMME
 
Willy Fautré  Directeur de Human Rights Without Frontiers International
 
UN GRENELLE DE LA TOLÉRANCE SERAIT NÉCESSAIRE
 
Jean-Luc Martin-Lagardette, Journaliste, philosophe.
 
DISCRIMINATION PAR ASSOCIATION DISCRIMINATION PAR DISSOCIATION
 
Dominique Kounkou  Avocat au Barreau de Paris. Docteur en droit International Public
 
DROIT EUROPÉEN ET STIGMATISATION SOCIALE
 
Fabrice Desplan  Sociologue et anthropologue Spécialiste du protestantisme et de la santé Groupe, sociétés, religions et laïcité – Paris
 
POUVOIRS PUBLICS ET RELIGIONS EN ESPAGNE : REFORMES LÉGISLATIVES EN MATIÈRE DE FAMILLE
 
Juan Ferreiro Galguera Professeur du droit ecclésiastique à l’université de A Coruña
 
PSYCHOLOGUES ET GROUPES RELIGIEUX MINORITAIRES, DÉBAT SUR LE STATUT DE PSYCHOTHÉRAPEUTE
 
Régis Dericquebourg  Maître de conférences à l’université de Lille 3- Charles De Gaulle, membre statutaire du Groupe de Sociologie des religions et de la laïcité (CNRS)
 
QUEL RÉVEIL POUR QUELLE SOCIÉTÉ, ICI ET LÀ-BAS EN AFRIQUE ?
 
Mme Mulongo Bintu. Présidente de l’association AFAS (Action des femmes africaines solidaires pour le développement)
 
DU BICONFESSIONNALISME AU MULTICULTURALISME : RUPTURES ET CONTINUITÉS DANS LA DIVERSITÉ RELIGIEUSE AU CANADA
 
Raphaël Mathieu Legault-Laberge est doctorant en études du religieux contemporain à l’université de Sherbrooke
 
Guillaume Rousseau est diplômé en droit de l’université de Sherbrooke où il a aussi enseigné en droit public.
 
LA SOLIDARITÉ DANS LA DYNAMIQUE D’UN RÉVEIL AUTHENTIQUE
 
Professeur Félix Mutombo-Mukendi Faculté de théologie protestante de Bruxelles
 
L’ENCYCLIQUE PACEM IN TERRIS ET LA RECONSTRUCTION DE HAÏTI
 
Fanfil Monesty Junior, docteur en droit et économiste CNAM. Directeur des études à l’Institut supérieur des hautes études juridiques (ISHEJ)
 
RENCONTRE SCIENCE ET SPIRITUALITÉ
 
Patrick Le Berre, écrivain, ingénieur physicien
 

Rédigé par EIFRF le Sunday, April 7th 2013 | Comments (0)

By Rev. Hierodiacon Petar Grаmatikoff


Религиозният живот в днешна България
Религиозната свобода е гарантирана от Конституцията на Република България. 

Но на практика, правителството е ограничило това право само на няколко религиозни групи, въпреки че подобно ограничение е в противоречие с конституцията. 

Българската православна църква е призната за традиционна религия.

Но освен това, мюсюлмани, католици и еврейската общност всички получават държавна подкрепа. 
 
Религия: Българската православна - 85.7%, мюсюлмани - 13.1%, католици - около, 80 000 (от които около 30 000 са от Източна обред), протестанти - над 80 000, евреи - около 5000.
 
Православната църква
 
Около 85% от населението днес принадлежат към Българската православна църква.

През вековете на турското робство българската църква е подчинена на Византийската църква.

Заедно с растежа на националното съзнание в 19-ти век на българския народ да се бори за независимостта на своята църква. През 1870 г. е създадена независима българска екзархия, което довежда до схизма от Константинопол. Този разкол беше преодолян едва през 1945 година. През 1951 г. статутът на патриаршия отново е установен.
 
Рилски манастир

Православният Светец Иван Рилски (или "Иван Рилски" на български) е покровител на българския народ и като такъв той се провежда в голяма почит. Той живял 876-946 като отшелник в планината Рила, където по-късно създаде манастир. Св. Иван Рилски и манастира, основан от него са известни днес далеч извън границите на България. Този манастир играе важна роля в развитието на българската национална идентичност. По време на Османската империя манастирът става център на културата и социалния живот. При комунизма земите, принадлежащи на манастира са били конфискувани и самият манастир е превърнат в музей.

Католическата църква
 
В България днес има две католически епархии по латинския обред и един екзархат по Източен обред. Католическата църква в България винаги е съществувала като малцинствена църква. Близо 80-хилядите католици представляват само около 1 процент от общото население и живеят предимно в южната част на страната. В 13-та и 14-ти век францискански мисионери, установени първите си общности в Западна България. През 1779 и 1789 на Светия престол, установени две епархии за католиците по Латинския-обряд. Католиците по византийския обряд първоначално влизане в страната между 1912 и 1918 като бежанци от Македония и Тракия, където през 1859/1860 един съюз са били установени. През 1926 г. те са получили право на собствен апостолическа екзархия. Между 1925 и 1934 г. архиепископ Анджело Ж. Ронкали, който по-късно става папа Йоан XXIII е апостолска посетител или делегат в България.

Преследване при комунизма

Съветите окупират България през септември 1944 година. През 1946 г. те успяват да наложат народна република. От поемането на властта от комунистите, католическата църква е бил преследвана. Конституцията от 9 декември 1947 г. и цяла поредица от закони и мерки са насочени към унищожаване на живота на Църквата. Всички чужди религиозни дейци са експулсирани от страната. Ръководителите на Църквата са били ликвидирани, а всички свещеници са били арестувани. Църквата имоти и земи са били конфискувани, с изключение на църквата се сгради на църква институции (училища, болници и т.н.) са били затворени. Църквата дейности са ограничени до вътрешността на църквата сгради. Тъй като прeзвитериите също са били отнети от тях, свещениците само да живеят в своите църкви, както и - например в ризницата или в таванско помещение над органа. За да оцелеят, църквата излезе в нелегалност. Показни съдебни процеси бяха стъкмени, за да се сплашат хората. От 1962 г. нататък на Източната политика на Ватикана е насочена към възстановяване на йерархията и минимално на църковния живота. След политическите промени през 1989/90 Църквата получи накрая религиозната свобода. Дипломатическите отношения между Светия престол и България са възобновени днес отново.
 
Ситуацията днес

Религиозните общности са все още на етапа на възстановяване. Повечето от тях не разполагат с подходящи помещения за техния религиозен живот и апостолат. Те работят най-вече в катехетическата и в социалната сфера. Те се грижат за старите и болните, за социални аутсайдери и за всички, които са в нужда. Днес посттоталитарното общество на България е изправено пред две алтернативи по отношение на третирането на религиозните общности в страната и въобще по отношение на религията. Единият  път е връщане назад към модела на религиозния монополизъм. Модел,  утвърден в далечната история на страната ни, в който България се е самоопределила като християнска държава, посочвайки Православната църква за ексклузивен представител на християнството в страната. Това неизбежно би довело до нова форма на тоталитаризъм в държавата, но този път от религиозно естество. Този път на балканизация деформира съвременната социо-културна ориентация на представителите на православната църковна общност.

Но дали християнството е свързано само с историята и историческото минало, или то има своята жива духовна сила и днес?  Дали на Църквата са й необходими политическите средства на държавата, за да възстановява своя духовен авторитет и присъствие в обществото?

Другият  път е пътят  напред. По този път, пътя на религиозния плурализъм с процесите на европеизация и политическа нормализация, България би трябвало да се самоопредели като „светска държава” и въпреки своето религиозно наследство, без пристрастие да даде не само свобода на различните религиозни общности, но и равни права и равни задължения на всички тях. В такъв случай никой не би имал монопол над вярата на българите, и между различните вероизповедания и отделните традиции в тях би се създала култура на равнопоставеност и търпимост.
 
Независимо от тези трудности, важно е да се признаят значимите знаци на възраждане в Българската Православна Църква за последните 20 години, преди всичко в работата с миряните и младежта. Три богословски факултета бяха открити и няколко стотин випускници (както мъже, така и жени) вече работят активно за духовна обнова, допринасяйки за разцвета на ред образователни и издателски инициативи. Немалко “енорийски центрове” са разкрити, предоставяйки прицърковно пространство за духовни, обществени и културни занимания, с което се радват на значителен интерес от страна на младите и интелектуалците.
 
Протестантските църкви и Евангелския Алианс
 
Протестантската мисия в България води началото си от 60-те години на 19 в. Първите протестантски мисионери идват от Американската Конгрешанска Църква и Методистката Църква. Протестантите са подложени на преследвания и арести по време на комунистическия период. Днес имаме в шест основни протестантски деноминации, регистрирани в България: Конгрешанска църква; Съюз на Баптистките църкви в България; Обединена Методистка църква в България; Българска Божия църква; Съюз на Евангелските петдесятни църкви в България и Адвентисти от Седмия ден. Общо наброяват към 150 000 активни членове. Приблизително 70% от протестантите са членове на петдесятните църкви.

Rédigé par Rev. Petar Gramatikoff le Saturday, April 6th 2013 | Comments (0)

The Religious life in today’s Bulgaria
Religious freedom is guaranteed under the constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria. 

But in practice the government has restricted this right to just a few religious groups, although such a restriction is in fact contrary to the constitution. 

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is recognised as a traditional religion. But in addition, the Muslims, the Catholics and the Jewish community all receive state support. 

Religion: Bulgarian Orthodox - 85.7%, Muslims - 13.1%, Catholics - circa, 80,000 (of whom some 30,000 are of the Eastern rite), Protestants - over 80,000, Jews - circa 5,000. 

The Orthodox Church 
Around 85 percent of the population today belong to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. 
During the centuries of Turkish rule the Bulgarian Church was subordinate to the Byzantine Church. 
Along with the growth of national awareness in the 19th century the Bulgarian people also fought for the independence of their Church.
In 1870 an independent Bulgarian exarchate was established; however it was excommunicated by Constantinople. 
This schism was only overcome in 1945. In 1951 the office of the patriarch was once again established.

Rila monastery
The Orthodox Saint John of Rila (or "Ivan Rilski" in Bulgarian) is patron saint of the Bulgarian people and as such he is held in great reverence. He lived from 876 to 946 as a hermit in the Rila mountains, where he later established a monastery. St John of Rila and the monastery founded by him are known today far beyond the frontiers of Bulgaria. This monastery played an important role in the development of the Bulgarian national identity. During the Ottoman Empire the monastery became a centre of cultural and and social life. Under communism the lands belonging to the monastery were confiscated and the monastery itself was turned into a museum. 

Catholic Church 
In Bulgaria today there are two Latin-rite Catholic dioceses and one Eastern-rite exarchate. The Catholic Church in Bulgaria has always existed as a minority Church. The approximately 80,000 Catholics represent only around 1 percent of the total population and live predominantly in the south of the country. In the 13th and 14th centuries Franciscan missionaries established their first communities in western Bulgaria. In 1779 and 1789 the Holy See established two dioceses for the Latin-rite Catholics. The Catholics of the Byzantine rite originally came into the country between 1912 and 1918 as refugees from Macedonia and Thracia, where in 1859/1860 a union had been established. In 1926 they were granted their own apostolic exarchate. Between 1925 and 1934 Archbishop Angelo G. Roncalli, who later became Pope John XXIII was apostolic visitor, or delegate, in Bulgaria.    

The persecution under communism 
The Soviets occupied Bulgaria in September 1944. In 1946 they succeeded in establishing a People's Republic. Since the takeover of power by the communists, the Catholic Church was persecuted. The constitution of 9 December 1947 and a whole series of laws and measures were aimed at the destruction of Church life. All foreign religious were expelled from the country. The leaders of the Church were liquidated, while all the priests were arrested. Church properties and lands were confiscated, with the exception of the church buildings themselves; the Church institutions (schools, hospitals, etc.) were closed. Church activities were restricted to the interior of the church buildings. Since the presbyteries had also been taken away from them, the priests themselves had to live in their churches as well - for example in the sacristy or on the organ loft. 
In order to survive, the Church went underground. Show trials were staged in order to intimidate the people. From 1962 the onwards the Vatican's Ostpolitik was aimed at restoring the hierarchy and a minimum of Church life once more. Following the political changes in 1989/90 the Church was finally granted religious freedom. Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Bulgaria were resumed once again. 

The situation today 
The religious communities are still at the stage of rebuilding. Most of them do not have suitable premises for their religious life and apostolate. They are working above all in catechesis and in the social field. They care for the old and the sick, for social outcasts and for all who are in need. 
Today the post-totalitarian society in Bulgaria has two alternatives toward treating the religious entities in the country and religion in general. One way is returning to the model of religious monopoly. A model we know from the historic past of our country, determining Bulgaria as Christian state, pointing the Orthodox Church as exclusive representative of the country’s Christianity. This might lead toward a new form of totalitarianism in the state on religious background. This way of balkanization deforms the modern socio-cultural orientation of the believers of Orthodox Church community. Is Christianity linked only with the history and historic past or has a live spiritual power today? Is the Church need the political instruments of the State in order to revive its spiritual authority and place into the society? 
The other way is the way forward. On this way, the way of religious pluralism along with the processes of europeization and politic normalization, Bulgaria as a “secular state” without any discrimination to offer freedom to all religions as well as equal rights and obligations to all of them. In this way nobody will have a religious monopoly over the Bulgarian citizens and between the different religions and traditions will be cultivated equality and tolerance. 
Despite these difficulties, it is important to recognize the significant signs of renewal within the Bulgarian Orthodox Church over the last 20 years, mainly at the lay and youth levels. Three theological faculties have been opened, and several hundred new graduates in theology (both men and women) have been active in a spiritual revival, and contributed to the revival of a range of educational and publishing activities. A number of “parish centers” have opened, offering a space alongside the church building for spiritual, community and cultural activities that attract a significant interest among youth and intellectuals. 

Protestant churches and the Evangelical Alliance
Protestant mission in Bulgaria had its beginning in the 1860s. The first Protestant missionaries stemmed from the societies of the American Congregational Church and the Methodist Church. Protestants suffered harassment and imprisonment during the communist period. Today there are six main Protestant churches registered in Bulgaria: Congregational church; Union of the Baptist Churches in Bulgaria; United Methodist Church in Bulgaria; Bulgarian Church of God; Union of Evangelical Pentecostal Churches in Bulgaria and Seventh Day Adventists.Тhey count together 150 000 active members. An estimated 70% of Protestants are members of the Pentecostal churches.


Rédigé par Rev. Petar Gramatikoff le Friday, April 5th 2013 | Comments (1)

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