Bulgaria Grants Privileged Status to Christian Orthodoxy

A new bill on religious communities grants an extraordinary status to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as the nation's longest-established confession. Other religions and Christian confessions need a judicial verdict to authorise their presence in the country, report experts of the Orthodox Christian Encyclopaedia, a theological research centre under the Moscow Patriarchy.

Religious communities will be fined up to US$2,500 for unauthorised activities. Law courts are free to abrogate or suspend the official status of any.

The draconian bill aroused sweeping protest by rights partisans and religious leaders. Many religious communities' activists picketed the parliament premises the day it was voted, and called the Council of Europe to intervene.

Orthodox Christians account for 83% of the eight million Bulgarian population. There are other Christian communities-Roman and Greek Catholics, Armenians and Protestants-alongside Jews and Muslims, say Orthodox Christian Encyclopaedia statisticians.