SOFIA (Reuters Life!) - A Bulgarian monk is reopening an age-old debate in the Balkan country between Orthodox authorities and psychics.
In a new book, Monk Visarion denounced internationally respected healer Vanga and spiritual leader Petar Danov and attributed Bulgarians' interest in fortune-tellers and mysticism to decades of atheist communist rule.
Although the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has never explicitly condemned Vanga and Danov, the announcement on its official website says the monk will present his book in two lectures on the "pseudo-icons Vanga and Danov."
Visarion, who serves in a monastery in the all-male Orthodox monastic community of the Mount Athos peninsula in Greece, told the local 24 Chasa daily the book -- "Petar Danov and Vanga - prophets and precursors of the antichrist" -- aims to show the difference between occultism and authentic Christianity.
A recent poll showed some 30 percent of Bulgarians have at least once turned to alternative medicine, most often healers and herbalists, to solve a medical problem. According to another survey, some 47 percent approve of the Orthodox Church while 37 percent do not have an opinion.
"Vanga was a wretched woman, tortured by the dark forces," said the monk of the blind psychic venerated across the Balkans and beyond for her clairvoyant and healing powers.
A priest from the town of Petrich, where Vanga spent most of her life, says she must be canonized.
"Instead of explaining to people what fortune-tellers, magicians and psychics are and that these incidents are renounced by God, he (the priest) is trying to set evil as an example," Visarion said, adding that members of the Church had failed to address these issues earlier.
The monk also said the teaching of Danov, founder of the White Brotherhood movement which is based on the idea of unity between man and nature, was occult.
Danov, revered in his lifetime by Albert Einstein, Indian guru Krishnamurti and others, was voted the second greatest Bulgarian in a television survey four years ago. National revolutionary hero Vasil Levski was first.
"Danov is dangerous because he had the natural capacities of a spiritual leader," Visarion said. "His speech was filled with power but it did not lead to true Christianity but brought people to the abyss."
Editing by Steve Addison