Bulgarien: Main monasteries hit hard by energy crisis

. : Bulgarien

Three of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s main monasteries are unable to heat their churches, cells, sacristies, and icon storage due to rising electricity and oil costs. Rila Monastery, the spiritual heart of the Bulgarian Church, is now heated only in 8-hour intervals, while the kitchen is wood-fired, reports actualno.com. The monastery is unable to pay industrial rates and hopes the state will hear its plea, says the abbot His Grace Bishop Evlogy of Rila. “Maybe some people think that what we produce—faith, culture, tradition—is some kind of business production, but, alas, this is not so; it doesn’t depend on us,” His Grace emphasized.

The monastery received an electricity bill of $16,200 (28,000 BGN) for the monastery for December, three times higher than the bill for December 2020. The monastery has already suffered from the decrease in pilgrims due to the pandemic. The state allocated $1 million for the holy habitation in the summer of 2020, as it teetered on the brink of bankruptcy.

Last March, Bachkovo was awarded the title of “Monastery of the Decade” as part of a campaign for the preservation and promotion of the national cultural and historical heritage. However, the Bachkovo brotherhood now has to ask for help too, as does the brotherhood of Troyan Monastery. They are the second and third largest monasteries in the country respectively.

“I don’t know how we’ll cope,” His Grace Bishop Zion of Velichka, who serves as abbot for both monasteries, told 24plovdiv.bg. Thanks to the winter cold and the pandemic, there is almost no income at the monasteries now. Bachkovo lights the square in front of the monastery, and separately heats the museum and the icon storage, where the valuable artifacts require a certain temperature. “At this stage, we’re not doing well,” Bp. Zion said.

Bachkovo’s latest electricity bill was $17,350 (30,000 BGN), and Troyan’s—$9,250 (16,000 BGN). The monasteries would have to sell an extraordinary number of candles or receive some generous donations to get by, His Grace said. According to the hierarch, the state should intervene so the monasteries would be charged domestic, rather than industrial rates, which would cut their bills in half. It would be unacceptable for the monasteries to close, Bp. Zion says. “People with needs come to us. We keep miraculous icons that should be available to believers at all times.” At Bachkovo, they are currently heating only 10 of the 60 rooms. The state allocated considerable funds for restoration work at Bachkovo and Troyan Monasteries in 2020. (Quelle: www.orthochristian.com, 2. Februar 2022)

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