Patriarch of Bulgaria's Orthodox Church dies at 98
By Tsvetelia Tsolova
SOFIA (Reuters) - Patriarch Maxim, who led Bulgaria's Orthodox Christians for 41 years, has died at the age of 98, his church announced on Tuesday, saying he "presented himself to God" at 3.30 a.m. (0130 GMT) following heart failure.
Churches in the Balkan country held mourning masses to commemorate the longest serving patriarch in their 1,100 year-old history, which saw the church survive centuries of Turkish domination and decades of communism.
Maxim eventually overcame a revolt within the church following the collapse of communist rule in 1989 to become the longest serving head in Orthodox Christianity - the mainstream religion in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Greece, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro and Georgia.
He will be buried on Friday in the Troyan Monastery, close to the village of Oreshak in central Bulgaria, where Maxim was born as Marin Naidenov Minkov on October 29, 1914. A funeral service will be held a day before at Sofia's key cathedral.
Under church procedures the Synod of senior clergy will have to choose an interim patriarch until a larger electoral Church Council is held within the next four months to pick Maxim's successor among the country's 15 bishops.
Patriarch Maxim has kept a low public profile but was an influential figure with a controversial past.
He oversaw a major religious revival in Bulgaria after the collapse of communist rule. Dozens of new churches were built across the country and monasteries reopened. Continued...