Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria

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Metropolitan Boris of Nevrokop – the Conscience of the Bulgarian Church


M etropolitan Boris, in the world Vangel Simov Razumov, was born on the day of St. Demetrius – 26th October (old style) [1] All dates further on are presented according to the Julian calendar until the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in the Kingdom of Bulgaria for civil use – 1/14 April 1916. 1888 in the village of Gyavato, located in the region of Bitola, in today’s Republic of North Macedonia, and in those times – within the Ottoman Empire. His parents were deeply pious and devout believers. The atmosphere in his family and close environment contributed to the future holy hierarch acquiring the Faith in a most natural way so that it not only became an inseparable part of his world view, but also the essence of his life.

St. Boris, metropolitan of Nevrokop
St. Boris, metropolitan of Nevrokop

In the early spring of 1899, Vangel’s father, Simeon Razumov went to Constantinople in search of work together with his father-in-law. Vangel, who at the time was ten years old and studied in the third grade of the local school, accompanied them. From the autumn of 1899 the young boy continued his studies in the third grade of the Bulgarian primary school “Sts. Cyril and Methodius” in the district of Fener in Constantinople. In 1901 his father enrolled him in the Bulgarian all-boys secondary school “Dr. Petar Beron” in the city of Edrine. In the summer of 1903, the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie uprising broke out and it was suppressed by the autumn of the same year. Vangels’ father died in the uprising as a rebel. His mother, brother and his mother’s parents survived but his native village was burned down. This tragic news reached him while he was studying in the last, third grade of the secondary school in Edrine, which he graduated with merit in the school year 1903-1904.

In the meantime, during one of his summer vacations, the young man had a meeting in Constantinople with the head of the Bulgarian Church, Exarch Joseph I, who appreciated his qualities and became his patron. On the orders of the Exarch, Vangel joined the Bulgarian Ecclesiastical Seminary in Constantinople, where he studied from 1904 to 1910 on a full scholarship. Very soon after graduating the Seminary, in July 1910, he was tonsured to monastic orders (at the age of 22) and was given the name of Boris – the holy Knyaz who converted Bulgarians to Christianity in 865. On the day after he received the monastic tonsure, he was ordained a hierodeacon. In the autumn of 1911, Hierodeacon Boris entered the Faculty of Theology in the University of Cehrnovits, then located within the boundaries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, (in today’s city of Chernivtsi in Ukraine, Bukovina). The young cleric completed his higher theological education in 1914. At that time he had already mastered Church Slavonic, French, German, English, Turkish, Greek, Hungarian, Romanian, Russian and Italian.

“St. Alexander Nevsky” Cathedral
“St. Alexander Nevsky” Cathedral, 1924

After graduating the University of Cehrnovits, Hierodeacon Boris could only go to Sofia, where he had never lived before. After the so disastrous for Bulgaria Second Balkan War in 1913 were lost not only many of the territories conquered by the Bulgarian army during the First Balkan War against the Ottoman Empire, but also all dioceses of the Bulgarian Exarchate beyond the boundaries of the Kingdom of Bulgaria. The young theologian was sent by the Holy Synod as a teacher to the priests’ school in Bachkovo Monastery, which opened in 1910. In 1915 he went to Vienna to study Philosophy and in November the same year he obtained a doctorate in Theology in the University of Cehrnovits. In September 1916 he started working as a teacher in Plovdiv Ecclesiastical Seminary established in 1915 as a successor of the Ecclesiastical Seminary in Constantinople, which was closed down after the Second Balkan War. On 25th November 1917, Metropolitan Maxim of Plovdiv ordained Hierodeacon Boris a Hiermonk. At the end of the year, the Holy Synod sent Hieromonk Boris to Budapest with the mission to organize and serve spiritually the Bulgarian colony in Hungary. He stayed there until May 1923. On 2nd July 1922, Sofia Metropolitan Stefan elevated him to the rank of archimandrite. From 15th May 1923 to 1st September 1924, he was a protosyngellos of Sofia Metropolis. Over the following two years, from 1st September 1924 to 1st September 1926, Archimandrite Boris headed the Cultural and Educational Department of the Holy Synod. During this period of time he was also appointed as dean of “St. Alexander Nevsky” Cathedral in Sofia.

“St. Nedelya” after the assassination.
“St. Nedelya” after the assassination.

During this period of his service, the communists carried out in Sofia one of the bloodiest assassinations in human history. This happened on 16th April 1925, on Great Thursday. In the cathedral church of Sofia Metropolis “St. Nedelya”, during a funeral service attended by all members of the government, the highest-ranking generals and hundreds of citizens, the dome of the church was detonated. 140 people perished and the wounded were about 500. To commemorate the 40th day of the death of the victims of the assassination, Archimandrite Boris wrote a remarkable article entitled “The Martyrdom”, in which he exposed the true face of communism and its theomachist ideology, while most of all trying to rationalize the spiritual causes that had led to the appalling tragedy and highlight its meaning and importance for their contemporary time and the future of the country. The communists did not forget his condemning words.

On 1st September 1926, at the beginning of the new academic year, Archimandrite Boris was appointed rector of Sofia Ecclesiastical Seminary. He held this position in the course of five years until 23rd November 1931. With his broad culture and high moral qualities, Archimandrite Boris fostered a favourable atmosphere, introduced strict order and discipline and raised the level of the Seminary in all respects. The young rector also organised large-scale construction activities so as to restore the buildings of the seminary, which were significantly damaged in the several years during which the left-wing government of BANU (the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union) had deprived the Church of the Seminary and had used it to accommodate its Faculty of Agronomy in it.

On 14th December 1930, Archimandrite Boris was ordained Bishop of Stobi. His consecration to the episcopacy was performed by the deputy chairman of the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Neophyte of Vidin, together with the synodal hierarchs in “St. Alexander Nevsky” patriarchal cathedral. On 23rd November 1931 Bishop Boris was appointed secretary general of the Holy Synod. He performed this duty until 17th March 1935. On this date Bishop Boris was elected by the diocese voters and on 24th March was appointed by the Holy Synod a Metropolitan of the Nevrokop Diocese.

Upon assuming office as diocesan bishop, Boris fully developed his abilities of an archpastor, preacher, administrator, enlightener and benefactor. During the thirteen years of his governance, 33 new churches were built. A network of orthodox Christian brotherhoods was established in parochial churches leading to the unfolding of large-scale educational and charity activities. While Vladika Boris grew up in poverty himself, he received excellent education thanks to the charity of pious benefactors and throughout his life he helped the poor, the orphans, the needy and the priests in indigent parishes. Soon after taking up his post with circular letter № 1200 dated 8th May 1935, he forbade being given any financial rewards for services conducted by him in his capacity of a metropolitan, e.g. the Divine Liturgy, ordination, sacraments, ceremonies of the Church, etc. He also prohibited the priests from asking for payment for public liturgical worship performed by them such as the consecration of state, civil and public utilities, public supplicatory canons (molebens), panikhidas and others, as well as from bringing the metropolitan any gifts whatsoever.

Metropolitan Boris in Saint Vrach city.
Metropolitan Boris made exceptional effort to increase the education and moral level.

Metropolitan Boris made exceptional effort to increase the education and moral level of the priesthood. Most of all, he aimed at categorically terminating all deeds discrediting the clerical rank like alcohol abuse by the clergy. For this reason, he forbade them to go to public places of like pubs and cafeterias. He did not hesitate even to laicize some of the priests who were beyond redemption. However, Vladika Boris applied the love of oikonomia far more generously than the strictness of akribeia, and as a real spiritual father he showed condescension towards the infirmities of his priests when he realized that despite lacking the strength to completely fulfil the demands of the canons, they demonstrated diligence nevertheless. Then he wholeheartedly offered them his archpastoral help. In a letter to the deputy chairman of the Holy Synod from 17th April 1939, Metropolitan Boris wrote, “The blameworthy priests should not be crushed but rather brought to reason, reassured with gentleness, surrounded by love, instructed with patience, reformed with good examples …”. There are accounts of Metropolitan Boris’ habit of occasionally bringing the salary to some of his clerics in person. In this way he could meet them, become familiar with where and how they lived and communicate with their families. Once he went to a village in the vicinity of Nevrokop to bring the salary of a parish priest there. He approached his house and saw that the door was open. He entered but found neither the Father nor the Presbytera. He went to the neighbours to enquire about his hosts and learned they were at work in their field. Metropolitan Boris went back to the father’s house and while waiting for him he cleaned it, tidied it up and then cooked dinner. When the priest returned, he stood still upon finding the Metropolitan in his house. He and his Presbytera received his blessing and overwhelmed with emotion they started crying. Metropolitan Boris did not wish to stay for dinner. He talked to them for a while and left since he wanted to bring another priest his salary too.

Regarding the education activities, the efforts of Metropolitan Boris and the Diocese Council were directed not only at all levels of the church hierarchy, but also at the laypeople. For the church brotherhoods a seven-year introductory course in Christian Faith with lectures in dogmatics, moral theology, liturgical studies, the Holy Scriptures, general church history and history of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was organised. As a true shepherd, Boris considered the Christian preaching particularly important among children and adolescents. Along with the Orthodox church brotherhoods, he was very keen on establishing and supporting school and children’s Orthodox societies. In this respect the bishop strongly relied on the joint work with teachers. At the same time, for him this kind of cooperation also had the purpose of counteracting the spreading infection of the anarcho-communist propaganda among teachers initiated by the “destructive elements” as he called them.

In addition to all this, Metropolitan Boris was always ready to serve spiritually individual souls who turned to him for help. The following witness has been preserved, “An elderly man from Blagoevgrad recounted how in the course of several weeks Vladika accepted in the metropolis an alcoholic and had conversations with him. Drinking had completely devastated the poor wretch, who was left without any subsistence or meaningful purpose in life whatsoever. After each conversation, which at times lasted for hours, this man felt as if he was reborn. He regained his hope and trust in God, which were even stronger than before, and imperceptibly he broke free from the vicious habit.“

September 9th, 1944
Communist coup on September 9th, 1944

Such were the labours of Metropolitan Boris at the time of the communist coup on 9th September 1944. Immediately after the coup, the persecution of the clergy of the Nevrokop Diocese started. The aim of the atheistic rule was “to annihilate the institution of the Church as ‘the last stronghold of capitalism and fascism’ in Pirin Macedonia“. During the first months of lawless arbitrariness 45 priests were arrested and exiled in an unknown destination. However, the communists were afraid of killing them, as they did with more than 80 other citizens from the region, since they feared the reaction of the population. Initially, the communist rule in the country was unstable and relied most of all on the Soviet occupation army. The government, though dominated by the communists, was a coalition – the so-called Fatherland Front (FF). Besides, in post-war Bulgaria there was the Inter-Allied Control Commission with British and American representatives. The new rule strived to gain a wider support until it stabilized. From the detained clerics one episcopal vicar and two priests were killed without charge or trial. Two others were put on trial by the so-called “People’s Court” and sent to camps, and others were subjected to various kinds of violence such as beatings to threaten them and expel them from the diocese, etc. All these incidents disrupted the church life in the diocese.

The policy of fighting the Church involved constant interference of the authorities in the church activities right from the start. The FF committees worked towards the replacement of the priests who were inconvenient for the authorities with “progressive youths”. There were introduced special FF-notes which had to ascertain that the candidate for a certain parish was “desired by the entire population”. In fact, that meant that the appointments first needed the approval of the authorities. There were also introduced FF notes for the “reliability” of priests who were categorized as “fascist” or “progressive”. The liturgical life was constantly disturbed by bans on performing the Divine Service on some feast days, by propaganda groups that stormed into churches during large Christian holy days instigated by the authorities, by encroaching on church property, etc. Schoolchildren were strictly forbidden to enter a church. Not only the priests but also other people working in churches, such as cashiers and members of the church councils, were subjected to violence and aggression.

Metropolitan Boris did not remain passive in any single attack against the Church. He united around him those priests who dared oppose the destructive actions of the authorities. Under his leadership they began a struggle first of all for consolidating the Orthodox conscience of the people as the most-reliable means of survival of the Church in the new and difficult conditions. In those hard times, the hierarch endeavoured to preserve as far as possible all parishes and entrust their guidance to worthy priests. Even in the conditions of the new reality he continued to support the building of churches, the selection of young people for the Seminary, the elevation to a clerical rank of “decent, kind, pious and God-loving young people”.

Metropolitan Boris opposed the attempts at reforms in the life of the Church carried out under the pressure of the political power with the purpose to replace the church institutions and turn them into instruments of communist propaganda. Such is the example of the “Fatherland Front Union” founded by a large group of priests from Sofia district. Metropolitan Boris gave the priests from his diocese clear guidelines against joining the organization. This categorical opposition to the attempts of the communist party to gain control of the Church and the church activities was the reason for accusing Metropolitan Boris of being “The archenemy of the people’s power in Pirin Macedonia”.

At one point, the communists tried to take control of the parish councils of the church communities in the diocese. In preparation for the planned district meetings for the election of new parish councils they acted according to the instructions they had received in advance that “their members must be good workers of the new perceptions and ideas belonging to the people’s power”. Metropolitan Boris learned about the arrangement of this campaign and ruined it by cancelling the district meetings. He also gave orders that the FF notes should not be recognised or taken into consideration when endorsing the documents of the newly-formed church brotherhoods since the former had no relevance to the internal church life.

In response to the constant insistence of the FF authorities that the priests “assisted the FF in the propaganda among the population about the Fatherland Front rule”, Metropolitan Boris circulated instructions with which he intercepted the involvement of the clergy and laypeople in the deeds of the communist power. A report from 4th January 1947 to the Head of Department „А“ of State Security informs that the Bishop issued a circular letter with which he forbade the priests to become members of the Labour Party /communists/. The same report states that in his diocese he gave full-time employment to priests interned from other regions of the country. It also says, “currently, Metropolitan Boris of Nevrokop conducts a reactionary church policy. He is part of the circle of bishops-reactionaries … On the issue of reforms in the church, the Nevrokop Bishop Boris supports the feudal rights of bishops rather than granting the priests rights.”

The organised by Metropolitan Boris supporting initiative in 1945 in aid of the impoverished families of priests sentenced by the so-called “People’s Court” was exceptionally brave. In the communists’ eyes this deed of mercy appeared to be an open challenge to them. The Metropolitan dared support those who officially belonged to the category of the greatest enemies of their “people’s power”. On 9th May 1945 Bishop Boris turned to all episcopal vicars in the diocese with an appeal to organize the raising of money for the families of their repressed brothers. Led by their fearless hierarch, the priests were not afraid and all of them agreed to give part of their monthly pay for this purpose. The Metropolitan’s initiative enjoyed widespread support. The raised funds were sent to the Diocese Council, which divided them among the families of the victims of repression. By December 1945, those families received 98 536 leva. During this time, all priests from the diocese contributed more 200 leva each per month.

Closing down and desecrating a church
Closing down and desecrating a church

At the beginning of 1945 began the first attempts at closing down and desecrating churches, as well as confiscating church property. A libel attack against Metropolitan Boris was also undertaken on the pages of the official publication of the communist party, “Rabotnichesko delo” newspaper. The metropolis in the town of Gorna Dzhumaya (today’s Blagoevgrad) was deprived of their building in order to accommodate the regional party committee there. Metropolitan Boris did even the impossible in his fight to restore the use of the church building by writing to various institutions and even to the communist leader Georgi Dimitrov. The hierarch was successful in his struggle and the building was returned with resolution of the Council of Ministers from 8th November 1947, with the FF government naturally following not so much any legal obligations as their own internal and external political considerations. The local communist authorities tried to suspend the enforcing of this decree by announcing that according to the new town plan, a public swimming pool was to be built on the site of the metropolis.

In the course of this selfless fight, the already high authority of Metropolitan Boris among the population increased even more. This prevented the communists from subjecting the Metropolitan to open repression and removing him from the diocese by force. However, the psychological pressure against him was growing. Some of his closest assistants, among whom the protosyngellos of the metropolis, Archimandrite Antoniy, were subjected to repressions. The hierarch did not hesitate to protect them and publicly denounced all slanders and accusations against them as groundless.

The declassified dossiers of the Committee for State Security state that from December 1947 each activity and movement of the Metropolitan was kept under close observation. Directions were sent by telegram to the local regional structures of SS, “Document immediately and as soon as possible Metropolitan Boris’ anti-national statements with testimonies of witnesses.” Also, the regional SS administration was ordered, “Immediately inform about each arrival of the Metropolitan in the district and communicate his movements with a telephone message, and present detailed accounts about his behaviour and opinions immediately after he leaves your district.” It can be seen that since December 1947, the SS headquarters in Sofia insisted on being informed about the location of the Metropolitan every single moment.

One report to the authorities from 2nd June 1948 says, “On 9th November 1947, in the village of Broenitsa, Sveti Vrach district, Boris delivered a hostile speech in front of the gathered congregation in the village church in the sense that ‘every person outside religion, who speaks about fraternity and equality, has been sent by Satan …, they are traitors, Judases, with vile and evil souls, with spiteful and merciless hearts’, and incited them to demonstrate disobedience … ‘don’t listen to them’ /the speeches are documented/.” Another report claims, “In January 1948, the Metropolitan talked in front of the priests in Gorna Dzhumaya that the state or any other organization whatsoever that lacks faith in God will perish sooner or later.” The following words of the Metropolitan were perceived as political provocation, “ ‘Everybody, whoever they are, whatever they are … should know that god (sic), who created us, is above everything. Dear sisters and brothers, do not trust any doctrines which denounce god and are against god. … Do not succumb to today’s flattering [2] It seems here the inspectors rendered the word “seductive” as “flattering”. and attractive books, which are available and write in a complimentary way but against god’, /documented/.” In some cases the ignorance of the informants had unexpected consequences. One of the reports to the authorities says, “During the liturgy, the Metropolitan mentioned and blessed the kings, he also mentioned King Boris and Queen Joanna. After the liturgy he delivered a speech in which he glorified the kings but did not say anything in the spirit of the new times.” During the dismissal, the informant heard the words “… prayers … holy faithful King Boris, … our venerable and God-bearing father Joan, the desert-dweller and Rila wonderworker …” but because of his lack of understanding of Church Slavonic, he decided those words referred to the last Bulgarian monarch, King Boris III and his wife Queen Joanna. Today, this ignorance of the SS inspectors seems ridiculous, but at the time it had sinister consequences because the botched report left the records of the secret services and appeared on the pages of the central communist newspapers, which at that moment were leading a smear campaign against Metropolitan Boris with the aim of presenting him as a most dangerous enemy of the communist power.

The Metropolitan wrote a corrective statement addressed to the editor-in-chief of the party newspaper “Rabotnichesko delo”. Highlighting the fact that the informant was apparently an uneducated person, Vladika Boris asked, “Is it possible that there was no one among the editors of this leading and authoritative Bulgarian newspaper who could give this information more careful consideration …?“ This refutation was never published.

he last smear campaign against the Metropolitan was launched in the summer of 1948. Among the many accusations levelled at him was the one that he hampered the “youth brigade movement” by prohibiting the priests from participating in these brigades, and had anathematized “the most important face of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria”, i.e. the internationally famous leader of the Bulgarian communists, Georgi Dimitrov and others. In his correction statement, the Metropolitan himself reminded of the outrages and slanders, namely that in the building of the Nevrokop Metropolis “dangerous criminals” wanted by the authorities had been hiding and that a large number of weapons had been stashed away there. As a result, a number of searches were conducted, which did not find anything but left the metropolis with many dislodged boards on the floor and in the attic. The hierarch called the authors of the smear campaign “people of dark origin” and “individuals of befuddled consciousness” although it became clear that they came from the circles of the ruling communists. He fearlessly underlined that all those deeds were carried out “purposefully, with a clear plan” and revealed their real goal, “to undermine the Church, the church institutions and the ecclesiastical rank …”. This denunciatory protest, in which Metropolitan Boris openly stated that he had received threats were probably the occasion that sealed his fate.

Saint Hieromartyr Boris, Metropolitan of Nevrokop
Saint Hieromartyr Boris, Metropolitan of Nevrokop

Metropolitan Boris was killed on 8th November 1948, the feast of Holy Great Martyr Demetrius, exactly on his sixtieth birthday. For his murder, the security services recruted a former priest since the authorities did not want that the responsibility for this act fell on them. This person had been laicized because of thefts, alcoholism, immoral life, blasphemous attitude towards the Holy Sacraments and other similar acts. He had been sentenced and had gone to prison for some of these crimes before the communist coup. He was highly vulnerable and could easily be pressured by SS because from the point of view of the communists, he had committed many grave political offences in his past. In his youth, before becoming a priest, he had been a member of the right wing of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO), which was hostile to the communist party. He participated in activities aimed against the communist organisations in the region during the communist uprising in 1923. One of the reports says that he was implicated in the murder of a distinguished party functionary from the town of Melnik and also that he enthusiastically welcomed the German army in 1941. The “people’s power” sentenced their political opponents to years in camps and prisons for far less serious offences. Therefore, the former priest - Iliya Stamenov - might not have been left with the possibility to choose.

On 8th November 1948, Metropolitan Boris consecrated the “St. Demetrius” church in the village of Kolarovo, Petritch district. At the end of the solemn Hierarchical Divine Liturgy he preached a sermon about the martyric contest of Holy Great Martyr Demetrius, in which the main idea was that Christians should not fear death but prepare for it by leading a virtuous life. After the liturgy, Stamenov asked to talk to the Metropolitan on the pretext of explaining his request to be reinstated in his former clerical rank. Vladika Boris apologized to the official guests, left the table before he had started his lunch and went out in the corridor so as to listen to him. Soon after that those inside heard gunshots. When a couple of the people entered the corridor, they discovered the Metropolitan dead, with several gunshot wounds. The killer surrendered his weapon without trying to run away or hide. In his own words, Vladika Boris not only refused to restore his clerical rank but also started to insult him and called him “a monster, a lunatic, etc.”, as a result of which Stamenov flew into a rage and shot the Metropolitan. The claim about such behaviour on behalf of the Bishop seemed entirely false to all those who were familiar with his gracious and kind disposition. This version – murder for personal revenge under stress of uncontrolled emotion – was obviously fabricated in advance and was instantly disseminated by the authorities. But the religious people also pronounced their judgement, “The communists killed him. Priest Iliya simply turned into a tool in their hands.” The security services did their best to remove all traces of their participation in this deed. After the murder, the authorities in Sofia demanded that the local structures sent to the headquarters all reports, statements and materials collected about Metropolitan Boris so that no shred of evidence was left in the local administrations. The very trial was held behind closed doors and there is not a single document preserved from it. Metropolitan Boris’ dossier in the archive of SS was eventually “cleared”. No documents directly indicating the participation of SS in his murder were left in it. Unlike all other materials containing detailed plans for organizing various undertakings (spying, employing agents, etc.), these elements are missing from Metropolitan Boris’ dossier. Even, the material lacks a name. However, despite the great care the secret services took to obliterate the traces regarding their role in preparing the murder, a large number of clues remained, which unambiguously point to it.

The most eloquent testimony of all is the murderer’s sentence. For a deliberately committed murder using an illegal weapon he was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison. In a few months’ time, this punishment “merged” with another sentence Stamenov had received – a year in prison for perjury – which came into force in the meantime. The court granted Stamenov’s request for merging the two sentences, i.e. administering only the heavier of the two punishments. Thus, in practice, because of the murder, he was acquitted of perjury. In fact, the murderer did strict prison service only for nine months, after which he was allocated “outdoor work” and sent to look after the prison vineyards in the vicinity of the town of Blagoevgrad. After a total of two years and ten months, which included the duration of his stay in prison on remand, on 6th September 1951 he was unconditionally released after being pardoned with a “Decree of the Presidium of the People’s Republic”. The memoirs of a episcopal vicar of the town of Sandanski contain the following remark, “Years ago, when priest Iliya from the village of Harsovo killed elder Boris in the village of Kolarovo on 8th November in 1948 and then fell gravely ill, they denied all access to Iliya and he was guarded by militiamen out of fear that some secret might be uncovered.”

патриарх Кирил
Cyril, Patriarch of Bulgaria

The real reasons for the murder are also very clearly reflected by the following events and changes in the Diocese of Nevrokop. Metropolitan Kiril of Plovdiv, who was appointed to govern the diocese, gave the Diocese Council important guidelines after the funeral. It says in the minutes of the meeting that, “In a detailed statement, His Eminence discussed the issue about the relationship between the church and the state, and more specifically he dwelled on the relations between the parochial clergy and the secular power in the particular conditions of our life. He stressed the fact that as a historical necessity a transition to a new social order, namely socialism, was under way. The inner contradictions of society … following the laws of history, give birth to the aspiration for social reconstruction. The servants of the Church, who are inspired by the high principles of the Christian doctrine of the Kingdom of God, should feel positive about this aspiration. Hence, they should support the efforts to build a new social order. Thus, they will not only support the authorities, but will also contribute to the creation of such a social and economic environment which will provide good soil for the growth and blossoming of the Christian virtues. … We should not be distressed by the fact that from a philosophical point of view the representatives of today’s power are materialists who believe that the historical development will abolish religion. … However, let us leave it to history to make a judgement about what is right, while we should not ignore the opportunities of a useful cooperation with the state, for the good of our people.” After that Metropolitan Kiril announced, “The Holy Synod does not forbid the reverent parochial priests, if they wish, to enrol in the unified organization of the Fatherland Front”. In practice, with this statement he actually lifted the prohibition imposed by Metropolitan Boris. Soon after that, the long desired instruction for the priests “to provide the Fatherland Front power with full support” was circulated round all parishes. As can be seen, the adopted course took a U-turn. It is no surprise that with these genuinely Sergianist views, in a few years’ time Metropolitan Kiril became the first patriarch under the communist regime after the restoration of the patriarchal status of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (BOC) in the already “new conditions of our life”. And in 1968, using his willpower and determination, he introduced the new calendar style for liturgical use in BOC.

In the person of Metropolitan Boris the main obstacle in the way of the direct intervention of the party-state in the church activities was removed. In order to comprehend the scale of this event, it should be clarified that he was also one of the most authoritative candidates for the next exarch of the Bulgarian Church. The murder of Metropolitan Boris marks the turning point in crushing the church resistance. As a last sorrowful echo of the former times sound the words of Metropolitan Michail of Dorostol and Cherven pronounced in his funeral oration for Boris, in which he called Vladika Boris “the Conscience of the Bulgarian Church”.

The funeral service and the burial of Metropolitan Boris turned into a nation-wide veneration. His mortal remains travelled for several days from the village of Kolarovo though Petrich and Sveti Vrach to Gorna Dzhumaya, where he was buried in a marble sarcophagus in the exonarthex of the “The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos Mary” church. Everywhere people bade their final farewell to their beloved Vladika all day and night, and accompanied him in droves along the way from one place to another. In the documentary about Metropolitan Boris, “A Road to Golgotha” [3] Director - Marin Gradinarov, scriptwriter - Ivan Nikolov. , priest Stefan Hristov testifies, “For four days [his body] lay in a coffin, uncovered. He remained unchanged both in his face and his body. Nothing reflected the fact that he was dead. People commented that this person was incorruptible, a saint.” Angelina Petrova, a pharmacist from the town of Blagoevgrad, says, “I venerate him as a saint and seek his help. I work in a pharmacy and send people who come worried or in distress to his grave to light a candle and pray to him and ask for his help.” She attests to two occasions of wondrous intercession by Vladika Boris. On one of them, in a family, which was childless in the course of 14 years, a girl was born after prayerful veneration at the grave of the holy hierarch. In the other case, a famous doctor, a gynaecologist from Blagoevgrad, was diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis was very bad. A close friend of hers, a deeply religious woman, was profoundly upset by this and most of all by the prospects of her young children losing their mother. Every day this close friend visited the grave of the beloved Vladika and prayed for his intercession. The doctor completely recovered from her illness.

A family close to Metropolitan Boris has preserved a memory from their last meeting, which took place a few days prior to his murder. Before leaving for Gorna Dzhumaya, the Metropolitan visited them at home; he was in a hurry and full of joy. While still on the steps he told the mother, “I’m coming to very quickly wish farewell to you.” In reply to her bewilderment, he explained, “Yes, yes, exactly – I’ve come to bid you farewell because this will be our last meeting. Last night I received a sign that my end is approaching. I dreamt that fire fell from the heavens and this fire snatched me and took me to the heavens. This is true. This will be my end. I am going to the “St. Demetrius” church in the village of Kolarovo, but this will probably be my end.”

Even if we accepted the version of the authorities that this murder was entirely motivated by the desire for revenge, undoubtedly, even in this case, there would be grounds for the glorification of Metropolitan Boris. He removed from ministry an unworthy cleric who was a disgrace to the Church. He acted in agreement with his hierarch’s conscience, protected the Church as a true bishop and sacrificed his life for that. However, based on all available evidence, it is obvious that the true cause of his martyrdom is his consistent and brave resistance to the repressive policy of the communist power towards the Church. He perished while defending the Church that he served selflessly all his life. His end attests more vividly than anything else to his holiness: the Metropolitan celebrated the Divine Liturgy, consecrated the newly build church, received the Holy Communion, instructed the believers in his pastoral speech to be always ready to die as true Christians, and instantly practiced what he preached. God took him in His realms from this world holy, pure and consecrated, crowned with the wreaths of celibacy, prelacy and martyrdom. God granted Metropolitan Boris the true life for which his soul had yearned and in which his spirit had abided even during his earthly life.


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