SOFIA, Bulgaria, MAY 30, 2002 (ZENIT.org–Avvenire).- John Paul II´s visit to Bulgaria went “beyond expectations,” says Orthodox theologian and philosopher Gueorgi Bacalov, a professor at the University of Sofia.
“We must consider that, in the Balkans, Orthodoxy is a factor closely linked to identity, either because of the Muslim presence or because people also see Orthodoxy as an ethnic-national factor,” he explained.
“Today our faithful wonder who among the clergy was part of the secret services, and there is an attitude of mistrust toward our Church instead of attention to its spiritual vision,” Bacalov added.
“This is why the Pope´s message has made an impression: It was placed at a Christian level, without descending to support one or another political alignment,” the professor continued.
Moreover, the initially cold response also changed, he said. It was no accident, the professor said, “that Hegumen Ioan, superior of the Monastery of St. John of Rila, said that the walls between Catholics and Orthodox are built by men, and men can knock them down.”
It was also unexpected for the Orthodox mentality to hear a religious leader who speaks of politics in the broad sense of the term, namely, topics such as human rights, religious liberty and democracy, Bacalov added.
“Politics here, among us, has a dirty meaning, because it always means to be aligned with someone against someone. It does not have a universal dimension because it operates according the schemes of Caesaropapism and, in the East, religious have never been independent,” Bacalov explained.
“In recent times, ecumenical patriarchs have been elected by the Muslim power, and the patriarchs of national Churches used to be elected by governments,” he said. “At present, the Orthodox Church cannot influence society.”