The Bulgarian Orthodox Church-Bulgarian Patriarchate is conventionally associated with the Bulgarian national identity, statehood, and culture. Recognizing its contribution for their preservation, the state has ensured certain privileges to the Church, including regulation of its legal status. During the Bulgarian monarchy (1878-1944) and under the 1879 Tarnovo Constitution, Eastern Orthodoxy had been recognized as the official religion of the state (Art. 37), and religion was present in the public schools, the army, and the public sphere in general. After the fall of the totalitarian communist regime, in the new democratic 1991 Constitution, Eastern Orthodoxy was recognized as the traditional religion in the state, without explicitly providing specific privileges. In the last decades, however, the public role and influence of the Church has been increasing. Starting with the government of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (2001-2005) and the adoption of new 2002 Denominations Act, and continuing during the terms of Borisov’s three governments (2009-2020), church-state relations have developed to the point that the state takes increasing responsibility for the well-being of the Church (from ensuring public funding for reconstruction and maintenance of churches to paying salaries of clergy). This new approach to church-state relations will be analyzed, thus raising questions whether it remains within the initial constitutional frame or tacitly shapes and gradually recognizes a new official religion status of the Church vis-à-vis the state and society.



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