Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria dies at 98

Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria dies at 98

SOFIA - Reuters
Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria dies at 98

Late Patriarch Maxim gives a blessing at a mass at Alexander Nevski cathedral in Sofia. Maxim was a patriarch of the Orthodox church since 1971. EPA photo

Patriarch Maxim, a conservative who led Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church for 41 years in times of Communist rule and democracy, died, the church said yesterday.

“At the age of 98 the head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, his Holiness Bulgarian Patriarch and Bishop of Sofia Maxim presented himself to God,” the statement said. The patriarch had been in hospital in the past weeks, suffering a general weakness, doctors have said.

Influential figure

Since 1971, Maxim has been a patriarch of Bulgaria’s 1,100-year-old Orthodox Church, which survived centuries of Turkish domination and decades of communism. Under Bulgarian Orthodox Church procedures, a Holy Synod of 13 senior clergy will meet to make funeral arrangements and choose an interim patriarch until a larger Church Council is held within the next four months to pick Maxim’s successor.

Patriarch Maxim has kept a low public profile but was an influential figure with a controversial past. He oversaw a major religious revival in Bulgaria after the collapse of the communist rule. Dozens of new churches were built across the country and monasteries reopened.

He was elected Patriarch in 1971 during Communist rule, which did not outright ban religious practices, but scorned those who attended mass and deprived them of career development. Maxim was born as Marin Naidenov Minkov on Oct. 29, 1914 in the central village of Oreshak. Maxim took Holy Orders in 1941 and became secretary general of the Holy Synod in 1955.