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Metropolitan Neofit of Ruse has been elected the new patriarch of Bulgaria’s Orthodox church amid social unrest which hit the country in recent weeks.
In a secret ballot on Sunday, the 14 bishops that make up the holy synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Christian church chose the 67-year-old Metropolitan Neofit from the three candidates shortlisted.
“Heavy is the cross that God and our holy church are giving me today, but in God's words I trust and ask him for strength, for when I am weak, then am I strong,” Bulgaria’s new patriarch said.
The new Bulgarian Patriarch and Sofia Metropolitan collected 90 votes, ahead of Metropolitan Gavrail, who got 47. The announcement of his election was accompanied by the solemn ringing of church bells in downtown Sofia.
On Monday morning, Neofit delivered his first liturgy as patriarch. He is due to meet with the country's president, the speaker of parliament, the outgoing prime minister and other officials on Tuesday.
Neofit’s election came after the country was hit by mass protests demanding better living standards which caused the resignation of Boyko Borisov, the country’s prime minister.
The new patriarch was born on October 15, 1945, in Sofia. He is a graduate of the Theology Academy in Sofia, where he worked as a lecturer and conductor of the academy’s choir. He also served as the dean of the theology faculty at Sofia University, and was chief secretary of the holy synod.
He is known to have been very close to the late Patriarch Maxim, who led the church from 1971 and died on November 6 last year at the age of 98.
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