I read recently that the President of Bulgaria expressed regret that the country did not currently have an ambassador to the Vatican. Missed out on all the excitement with their Roman brothers, with the unexpected need to replace Pope Benedict. Then, in an unrelated article from the New York Times, the story of the enthronement last month of His Holiness Neofit as the Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was tainted with allegations of complicity, by him and a large number of other bishops, with the secret police of the former regime. Sounds familiar. It’s always something…
Stories about Bulgaria are always multi-layered. Further on in the article, elaborating on the connections and similarities between the religious, political and economic worlds, this observation stood out to me in light of what I wrote in A Breeze in Bulgaria:
Few Bulgarians can say the word “democracy” without irony or bitterness, because while they gained freedom and their country has now joined NATO and the European Union, it has remained poor and underdeveloped, with the dreamed-of riches from capitalism reserved for the lucky, often criminally connected, few.
The article, Bulgaria’s Unholy Alliances, is worth reading for an insight on the kinds of dark secrets and unforgiving old burdens that still haunt the land in its current time of troubles. Bulgaria is a beautiful place, with wonderful, warm and giving people, but its difficulties in this age are complex and many-layered.
Things are not so different in other parts of the world, are they? Bulgaria stories are world stories.
Oh, and if you read the book you probably remember reading about candles over and over — every time we went into a church, there was some mention of lighting candles. To remember the dead, to pray to the saints, to pray for the living, candles everywhere. In the article there was a reference to a fight decades ago for control of “the church candle factory,” a major source of income.