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The Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Challenges of Multiculturalism: a Report from а Case Study

This report is one of the research outcomes of the multinational project “Religion and Multiculturality: Educational Pathways for local church leaders” (CULTA), implemented by six international organisations from Norway, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia and the Netherlands, with the financial support of Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union. The project main goal is to contribute through lifelong learning to the development of advanced knowledge and skills of church representatives in order to respond adequately to the changing society.

The report outlines the methods used by Bulgarian Christian clergy to conduct productive interreligious and interconfessional dialogue, to work with different vulnerable groups of people or to build stable social and peaceful environment. It also identifies what kind of training the church leaderes need to enter in the lifelong learning education. The research include good local practices, which will further help the development of “peer to peer” methodology and project training handbook.

To conduct the research, we set up a group of 10 international researchers. They interviewed around 15 people from Norway, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Estonia and Romania. In order to implement the research project a semi-structured interview was developed. It required a predefined interview guide with questions that allows the interviewer to introduce the topic and to guide the discussion by asking questions relevant to the subject of the research. The questionnaires were distributed in February and March 2013 among church clergy, chosen from Bulgarian orthodox communities.

The research covered parishes and churchcommunities located both in big Bulgarian cities like Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna, and in smaller-scale, but important clerical and administrative, urban centers such as Vratsa, Vidin and Kardzhali. The research was conducted also in some outlying parishes and rural areas, for instance in the northeast region of Rousse diocese, on the border with Romania along the Danube river.

Among the respondents there are both parish priests and non-parish priests executing pastoral functions to stauropegial church institutions, for instance the ephimerios of the academic chapel of the Faculty of Theology in Sofia, as well as monks and archimandrit esexecuting diocesan service in their metropolitan centers.

This diverse composition of the studied Orthodox clergy provides a detailed picture of the main pastoral, educational, religious and social functions and activities which are undertaken along with parishes at local level, or in a form of a different, in its nature and scope, missionary work. The questionnaires filled by the parish priests reveal that there is an active educational activity implemented on local level: Sunday schools, distribution of religious literature and icons among the lay people, work with young people at risk (young drug-addicted, people with disabilities and orphans). Along with the educational activities, charitable activities are also carried out: fundraising campaigns for treating ill children and support to other people in need at local level....

Kostadin Nushev

Andrian Aleksandrov

Regional Development Foundation

 

 

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Christians and Muslims together for a common future: The Bulgarian Model 

This article is part of a wider study of international Grundtvig multilateral project, related to the ministry of priests in a multicultural environment, which aims at examining pastoral ministry in regions with mixed population based on a concrete example. An important result of the study is the extraction and formulation of educational needs by representatives of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church related to their multicultural and interreligious competences.

The report is built upon complementary theoretical and empirical methods, such as learning, systematization, theoretical analysis of the literature, oral interviews, observation and examination of a concrete case study.

According to the latest 2011 census in Bulgaria, 76% of the people inhabiting the country identify themselves as Orthodox, 0.8% as Catholic and 1.1% as Protestants. Moreover, 10% of Bulgarian citizens are Muslim, 0.2% profess other religions and 4.2% indicated they have no religion, while 7.1% did not identify themselves to any of the above categories.

On the other hand, data from the European Values ​​Study (2008) shows that the Church is the only one of all surveyed institutions in Bulgaria, to which the trust in 2008 has risen, compared to 1999. To the question "How important is religion in your life", 17.6% of respondents answered "very important" and 34.2% "important". This means that for 51.8%, or for about the half of the Bulgarians, the Church plays a role in shaping attitudes and value orientations. 73.3% belong to religious denomination, of which 58.6% are Orthodox. 14.7% regularly go to church, while 45.5% visit the churches during major religious feasts. 55.2% of the respondents identified themselves as religious...

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Klara Toneva

Andrian Aleksandrov

Regional Development Foundation