Bulgaria Bishop: God's Wrath over Madonna Concert Caused Ochrid Tragedy
September 6, 2009
The Plovdiv Metropolitan, Nikolai, served Sunday a liturgy for the 15 Bulgarians who drowned Saturday in Lake Ochrid in Macedonia.
The 15 were on the tour boat "Ilinden" in their way to the St. Naum Monastery, when it went underwater. All passengers on the ship were Bulgarians, 40 survived the accident.
The Council of Ministers declared Monday, September 7, a National Day of Mourning, and canceled all Sunday events dedicated to the 124th anniversary of the unification of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia. The official celebration is traditionally held in the city of Plovdiv because the unification was declared there in 1885.
The only events that took place all over Bulgaria Sunday were the services for those who died in Lake Ochrid the previous day.
Over 200 people gathered Sunday morning at the Plovdiv Cathedral. According to its sexton, the cathedral had never before seen such day of mourning. Bulgaria's President Georgi Parvanov, and the Speaker of the Parliament, Tsetska Tsacheva, attended the memorial service for the victims.
During the mass, the Plovdiv Metropolitan, Nikolai, hinted that God had punished Bulgarians over their many sins including celebrating and partying too much on August 29 (the day of the concert of pop diva Madonna in Sofia) instead of mourning for St. John the Baptist.
The Eastern Orthodox believe that John was the last of the Old Testament prophets, thus serving as a bridge between that period of revelation and the New Covenant. They also teach that, following his death, John descended into Hades and there once more preached that Jesus the Messiah was coming, so he was the Forerunner of Christ in death as he had been in life.
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, August 29 is the day of the beheading of St. John the Forerunner.
A solemn laying of the wreath at the "Unification Monument" with military honors, but without fireworks, will still be held in Plovdiv Sunday evening. Tsetska Tsacheva and the Plovdiv Mayor, Slavcho Atanasov, will attend the ceremony.
Bulgarian Church 'Blames' Madonna Concert for Boat Deaths
September 9, 2009
The Telegraph (UK)
By Matthew Day
A senior figure in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has suggested that a wrathful God, angry with Bulgarians attending a Madonna concert, may have had a hand in a recent boating tragedy that claimed the lives of 15 of his countrymen.
Nikolai, the metropolitan of Bulgaria's second biggest city, Plovdiv, linked the disaster, which occurred on Lake Ochrid in Macedonia on September 5, to the behaviour of Bulgarians who attended the concert.
"The catastrophe in Macedonia in which 15 Bulgarian citizens died was a sign from heaven," said the Metropolitan in a special memorial liturgy for the victims.
Nikolai stressed that the day of the Madonna concert, August 29, had coincided with a holy day commemorating the beheading of John the Baptist, and therefore was not a day for enjoyment.
"The Orthodox Church had called for people not to enjoy themselves on the day marking the execution of John," he added. "We should not allow the young to have fun on a day that should be dedicated to spiritual reflection."
Bulgaria's clergy had led vocal opposition to the American's singer concert once it became known that she would perform on August 29.
The Metropolitan's comments come as the latest controversy to dog Madonna's tour of Europe. She faced similar opposition in Poland from conservative Catholics, opposed to a concert that also happened to fall on a holy day, and in Bucharest she was booed after speaking out on behalf of gipsy rights.
Blame It All on Madonna
September 7, 2009
The tendency to blame others for all miseries is a well known Bulgarian character trait. The bad things that happen to us are never our own fault, always somebody else's. Ill-meaning enemies, bad faith, spells and curse had been casting a shadow over Bulgaria and Bulgarians for centuries.
Thank God, we now have one more scapegoat for the tragedies that seem to follow us - MADONNA!
The Bulgarian Church, which had lost the respect of atheists and most believers, had not been known for its criticism. The local clergy never said a harsh word about the Communist regime during its 45 years of power; in more recent days they kept quiet about the scandals surrounding the so-called Triple Coalition. Well, maybe not... They uttered some outrage once. About Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code."
US pop diva Madonna, however, seems to have turned into the target of their hidden deep inside, and for ages, righteous anger. They voiced it even before her concert in Sofia with demands to cancel it over her disrespectful attitude towards the Christian faith and over the August 29 date, when the Orthodox Church marks the beheading of St. John the Baptist.
Then the tragedy happened. 15 Bulgarian tourists drowned in Lake Ochrid in Macedonia, just a week after the concert, when the 85-year-old tour boat "Ilinden" sunk in the waters on its way to the St. Naum Monastery. All passengers were Bulgarian; 40 survived.
In the tragedy's aftermath, as usual, many tried to grab the spotlight. The Bulgarian Church, in the face of the Plovdiv Metropolitan, Nikolai, did not miss the perfect opportunity to shine either. During a liturgy for the departed, served at the Plovdiv Cathedral the day after the tragedy, and on a glorious (for Bulgaria) historic date, the Unification, he hinted God punished Bulgarians over many sins including celebrating and partying too much on August 29 instead of mourning St. John the Baptist. And just for everyone to make sure what he meant, he confirmed before the TV news channel RE:TV that he was, indeed, targeting Madonna.
Anyone, who has seen the faces of those who were in the group that went to Ochrid or read that they scraped BGN 150 for the trip, knows that those people did not attend the Madonna concert, and no concert at all for that matter. And what should the ones who went to see her, their families, friends and relatives, expect to happen to them after such finger pointing? What will be God's Wrath for them then?
Poor Madonna got blamed for many things: the Ochrid fatalities, bringing traffic in Sofia to a gridlock, destroying the pitch of the National "Vasil Levski" Stadium just before the crucial World Cup qualifier against Montenegro (good thing our football team won, otherwise, only God knows what Madonna would have been accused of...). And, yes, the tickets were too expensive - global financial crisis might be her fault as well...
Bulgaria's Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, has a better idea of the cause of the accident: "Poverty breeds tragedy," he said Monday. How very true! It is, however, also true, that accidents happen and will happen. More so in poor countries, but in some very powerful ones too. The very recent June accident in the Washington DC metro that killed 9 and injured 70 comes to mind. The cause - computer failure and obsolete breaks.
In most accidents, the likely causes seem to be attributed to human error and faulty equipment with poor countries, of course, being more prone to both.
Another unthinkable water tragedy, again in the US, occurred on March 6, 2004, at the time when I happened to be visiting Baltimore: during a sudden storm, the Lady D water taxi capsized in Baltimore's Inner Harbor with 25 on board. Five of them died. The investigation listed the following causes: the weather forecast radar understated the storm and the boat did not have the required stability to carry the load of passengers it took that day.
Five years later, the Maryland authorities gave a thorough account of what has been done: 1. The National Weather Service improved weather radar technology; 2. The Coast Guard now recommends lower limits for the number of people allowed on boats and requires testing passenger vessels for stability regularly instead of only upon launch.
So, better equipment and more control to eliminate killer trains, killer buses, killer boats, and National Days of Mourning - now that's a novel idea! Blame it on Madonna instead.
I am not a Madonna fan, have never been, and did not attend the concert. The truth of the matter is, however, that the event, on top of being a splendid show, was very well organized, just flawless. When I asked two friends of mine about their impressions, one very young, the other in his late fifties, from different educational backgrounds, social and financial status, what both told me, struck me: "For the first time I felt Bulgaria is no longer a poor, oriental country. We made it. We are in the West now. Communism is over!"
I am sure many in Bulgaria think that this is more fun and joy than what Bulgarians should be allowed to experience. But somehow I don't believe God will want to punish us for celebrating the end of Communism...