Patriarch Kirill denies plans to set up independent Russian Church in Bulgaria

Moscow, Russia - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has denied rumors that, while visiting Bulgaria on April 27-29, he is planning to set up an independent Russian Church on that country's territory.

"My visit is called a peaceful visit. If a church split occurs in Bulgaria as a result of a visit, then this is not a brotherly visit and not a peaceful visit. I am surprised why, in the run-up to my visit to Bulgaria, some people should have such thoughts and even make such remarks," Patriarch Kirill said in an interview with Bulgarian media.

The Russian Orthodox Church handed over several monasteries and churches to Bulgaria in 1952, which was a goodwill gesture and a gift, the Patriarch said.

"This is not a commercial deal that can be revised but a gift. Can gifts be taken away, especially from brothers? Nobody in Russia has ever had and I hope will never have ideas reminiscent of what you have just asked me about," he said.

The Russian Orthodox Church has a cathedral in the center of Sofia as a sign of its historical presence on Bulgarian soil, and, apart from its being a historical architectural monument, it also plays an important role in maintaining everyday ties between the two Churches, which "we value very much," Patriarch Kirill said.