The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has written to the WCC formally advising its April 1998 decision to leave the council, but Bulgarian Orthodox participants at the assembly in Harare have released a critical statement expressing their "pain" at the move.
The 27 November letter from Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria to WCC general secretary Dr Konrad Raiser said the churchs Holy Synod had "decided to discontinue its membership " and expressed thanks to the council "for the mutual contacts and the respective mutual aid so far".
He said the synod had acted to "safeguard the fullness of our holy church". It had "taken into consideration that the hopes from its (WCC) membership ... have not been fully justified, as well as the confusion of the Orthodox Christians in this country with that membership".
The statement from the seven Bulgarian Orthodox assembly participants said their churchs decision to withdraw from WCC "has been taken in the context of spiritual and moral tribulations, a long process of recovering from internal division, paralysed mission and interchurch relations".
"Hence the Holy Synod of our church has been unwilling to benefit from consultations with its own advisory bodies and constituencies. It even neglected the call of the Orthodox meetings at Thessalonika (April-May 1998) and Damascus (May) to stay and witness together with the sister Orthodox churches," they said.
But they also expressed greetings to the assembly from inter-church bodies in Bulgaria, and described these as "positive signs" that their church may renew and continue its ecumenical efforts.
The seven people who signed the statement included former WCC central committee member Dimiter Kirov, former WCC deputy general secretary Todor Sabev, and assembly advisors Ivan Dimitrov and Plamen Sivov.
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