Sofia, October 24, 2023
The Sofia St. John of Rila Theological Seminary celebrated its patronal feast and the 120th anniversary of its foundation last week.
The year’s events in honor of the anniversary culminated on Thursday, October 19, when the Church celebrates the translation of the relics of St. John of Rila (New Calendar). The Divine Liturgy for the feast was led by His Eminence Metropolitan Gabriel of Lovech together with another 10 hierarchs of the Bulgarian Church and a host of clergy, including Fr. Neluts Opria, the representative of the Romanian Patriarchate in Bulgaria, reports the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
Also present was His Eminence Metropolitan Gregory of Veliko Tarnovo, a former rector of the seminary, according to the school’s report.
The service was sung antiphonally, with a Byzantine choir, and a choir made up of seminary students.
His Holiness Patriarch Neofit sent a congratulatory address, calling on the rector and all involved with the seminary to “be worthy successors of your ancestors. Continue their apostolic and enlightening work with zeal and diligence. Study and follow the Covenant of the Rila hermit, together with the entire ascetic and spiritual tradition of the Church of Christ.”
In his speech, His Grace Bishop Pachomy of Branitsa, the current seminary rector, spoke of the school as “a house of Wisdom, where young people from all over the country and beyond are trained and brought up in the virtues of Christ, polished like precious stones and prepared to become … worthy priests and teachers.”
One of the most important things that the young people in the seminary have learned, are learning, and will learn is that man is God’s most precious creation, that he bears His immortal image. Spiritual education is the teaching of the ever-present truth that man has his origin in God; that man is called to be a co-worker with the Creator; that man is promised eternity.
All the hierarchs present were gifted with episcopal Panagias with icons of St. John of Rila, and all official guests were given icons of the beloved Bulgarian saint.
The celebration ended with a general photo and reception in the seminary hall.
The service was broadcast on the Patriarchate’s Facebook page:
The Sofia Seminary of St. John of Rila is the Bulgarian Church’s main educational institution. It was preceded by a seminary in Samokov, founded in 1876. The seminary later moved to the capital when the city council donated a plot.
Construction on the new seminary began in 1902. The complex was completed in late 1902 and consecrated on January 20, 1903. The Seminary Church of St. John of Rila was opened on October 26, 1904.
During the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) and the First World War (1914-1918) the seminary complex was used as a wartime hospital, and the Agrarianist rule of 1920-1923 opened an agricultural faculty inside. The events after the Second World War saw the forcible moving of the seminary to Cherepish and the use of the seminary complex in Sofia in turn as a Soviet Army headquarters (1944-1946), by the Union of the Soviet-Bulgarian Friendship (1946-1950) and a Palace of Pioneers (1951-1990).
In the spring of 1990, the buildings of the seminary were returned to the Holy Synod and education was restored.
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