- Religion in Bulgaria
Bulgariahas been a traditionally Christianstate since the adoption of Christianity in 865, with the dominant confession being Eastern Orthodoxyof the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. During the Ottoman rule of the Balkans Islamestablished itself in Bulgaria, while Roman Catholicismhas roots in the country since the Middle Ages, and Protestantismarrived in the 19th century.
Despite this plurality of religions, unlike the Western Balkans Bulgaria has not experienced any significant-scale confrotation between Christianity and Islam (as was the case in Bosnia,
Kosovo, Serbiaand the Republic of Macedoniain the 1990s and 2000s). The religious communities in the country coexist peacefully. The freedom of religionand the religious equality are included in the Constitution of Bulgariaas inalienable rights of every citizen.
In fact, the capital
Sofiais known for its so-called "Triangle of Religious Tolerance": the St Nedelya Church, Banya Bashi Mosqueand Sofia Synagogueare located within metres of each other in the real centre of the city.
According to the Bulgarian census of 2001,GR|Bulgaria the most numerous religious groups in the country are:
By far the dominant religion in Bulgaria is the Orthodox Christianity, professed by the prevalent ethnic group, the
Bulgarians, who are adherents of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Other Orthodox churches represented in the country by minorities are the Russian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Romanian Orthodox Churchand Greek Orthodox Church.
Christianity was established in the
First Bulgarian Empireunder Boris I in the middle of the 9th century, although it has had its roots in the Balkans since the 1st century and the mission of Apostle Paul. The rise of the Bulgarian Empire made the Bulgarian Orthodox Church autocephalous in 919, becoming the first new Patriarchate to join the initial Pentarchy. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is the oldest among the Slavic Orthodoxchurches and has considerably influenced the rest of the Slavic Orthodox world by means of its rich literary and cultural activity in the Middle Ages, as well as by the invention of the Cyrillic alphabetin Bulgaria.
Islam is the largest minority religion in Bulgaria. It is professed by the Turkish minority, the
Muslim Bulgarians( Pomaks) and most of the Roma. The former two are concentrated in the Rhodopes, a massif in southern Bulgaria, but are present in clusters in other parts of the country, e.g. the Turks in the Ludogorieregion and the Pomaks in the Rhodopesand some villages in northern Bulgaria.
Islam arrived with the Ottoman Turkish invasion of the Balkans in the 14th-15th century. Turkish notables settled in the larger cities (
Plovdiv, Sofia, Varna, etc.), while peasants from Anatoliaarrived in the Ludogorie and the Rhodopes. Many Orthodox Christians and Pauliciansconverted to Islam, often voluntarily due to the peculiarities of the Ottoman " millet" system, but sometimes forcefully. After the Liberation of Bulgariain 1878 many of the Muslims left Bulgaria, but others chose to remain.
Today, Muslims form the majority in
Kardzhali Provinceand Razgrad Province(mainly Turks) and Smolyan Province(mainly Pomaks).
Roman Catholicism has its roots in Bulgaria and the Middle Ages. It was spread among the Bulgarians by Bulgarianized Saxon ore miners in northwestern Bulgaria (around
Chiprovtsi) and by missionaries among the Paulician and Bogomil sectarians, as well as by Ragusan merchants in the larger cities.
Today the bulk of the Roman Catholic population of Bulgaria lives in
Plovdiv Province, centred around Rakovski, as well as in some villages in northern Bulgaria. The Banat Bulgariansare a Bulgarian minority in Romaniaand Serbiaadhering to Roman Catholicism. Besides Bulgarians, among the Roman Catholics are also many foreigners.
Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church, a Byzantine Ritechurch united with Rome, was formed in the 19th century as part of the Bulgarian church struggle in order to counter the influence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and has some 10,000 members today.
Protestantism in its various forms only arrived in the 19th century because of missionaries, mainly from the
United States. Today it is a quickly growing confession, with membership having doubled from 1991 to 2001. Half of the Protestants in Bulgaria are newly-converted Roma, while the other half are for the most part Bulgarians.
Armenian Apostolic Christianity
The majority of the 10,832
Armenians in Bulgariaare members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which has an eparchy in the country based in Sofia. Most Armenian Apostolics live in Plovdiv, Sofia, Varna or Burgas.
Despite its low number today (1,363), Bulgaria's Jewish population has exerted considerable cultural influence on the country in the past and is still of importance today. The Jews in Bulgaria are concentrated in the larger cities, mostly in the capital Sofia.
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, the law prohibits the public practice of religion by unregistered groups. The Constitution also designates Eastern Orthodox Christianity as the "traditional" religion. There were some reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice. Discrimination, harassment, and general public intolerance, particularly in the media, of some religious groups remained an intermittent problem.
Religion in present-day nations and states
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