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Neofit of BulgariaThe Eastern Orthodox Church emerged as a result of disagreements between Greek speaking eastern churches and Latin speaking western churches over doctrine and ecclesiastical authority.

During the Ottoman rule it was placed under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople.

However, with the demise of the Ottoman empire many independent churches emerged in eastern Europe. Remaining in communion they keep their independence.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church as an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church was established in 865 when Boris I was baptised by Greek missionaries.

In the centuries of Ottoman yoke it was the only link with other Eastern Orthodox peoples and with European Christianity in the resistance to the Islāmic invasion.

It became independent in 1870 by a decree of the sultan and thus won the international juridical recognition of the Bulgarian nation before its political one.

During the communist era the church’s property was confiscated by the state. The constitution of 1991 guaranteed freedom of religion while recognizing Eastern Orthodoxy as “the traditional religion in Bulgaria”. 88.5% of the population of Bulgaria belong to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has an extremely rich history of icons which depict Biblical scenes, local saints, the Virgin Mary or Jesus. The icon is of particular importance for the Orthodox Church since it is seen as the dwelling place of God’s grace, creating in the faithful a sense of the presence of God.

Thanks to this, even now Bulgarian artists continue to create icons with the clear sense, that they are an example of an exclusive spiritual and artistic phenomenon. The presence of the icon in our life helps us to overcome the psychological barriers of our material world.

Patriarch Neophyte (Bulgarian: Патриарх Неофит, secular name Simeon Nikolov Dimitrov; born 15 October 1945, Sofia) is the current head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church from 24 February 2013.  Prior to his election on 24 February 2013 he was the Metropolitan of Rousse.

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