SOFIA - Agence France-Presse
Bulgaria's Christian Orthodox
Church said today it had decided to start awarding a new honorary title to major benefactors... including an arms dealer.
The title "Archon," which exists in other countries but was hitherto unknown in Bulgaria, was recently awarded to three powerful but controversial businessmen, prompting vehement criticism of the metropolitans who granted the title.
In a bid to cool the scandal, the Church said in a statement on its website today that "the honorary title Archon can be granted to Orthodox
Christians for special merits to the Bulgarian Christian Church." This included building new churches and renovating old ones, as well as supporting Church activities.
"For donations - the manner of their accumulation should not contravene Christian morals and good manners," the statement added however. Among the three businessmen already given the honorary title was arms dealer Petar Mandzhukov who reportedly donated 1.0 million leva (510,000 euros, $650,000) for a new church.
Once entrusted with the title, an archon should serve as an example to others with "humility and modesty," the statement also said.
In a quest for respectability, Bulgaria's newly rich have shown excessive religious zeal since the fall of communism, contributing large sums to renovate crumbling monasteries and build new places of worship. The Church however has had no ways of checking the origin of the money.