The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church this past Tuesday officially issued a statement aimed at preventing Madonna's much anticipated Sticky and Sweet tour from taking place in Sophia on August 29, saying that it collides with the strict day of fasting in honor of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.
The purpose of the Holy Synod is to present the ideal response to matters like these from an ecclesiastical perspective, and in this regards they did what they were supposed to do. However, is this a case of being better off late than never? I don't think so.
What comes off with bad taste is that the statement comes out a bit late and seems very detached. 50,000 people are expected to attend tomorrows much anticipated concert, but the Holy Synod decided to give their counsel just four days prior to the event after the tickets had been sold for weeks and the city made its very expensive arrangements. And in a country where over 65% of the population lives in poverty, it seems unfair that the attendees would have to give up their expensive seats to this event just because of a fasting day in which they would probably stay home and watch TV anyway.
I believe the Holy Synod made a serious error here that could tarnish their reputation. I respect the fact that they stand for their Orthodox Christian values, but such a detached papal-inspired statement (which has become all too common in the Orthodox world these days) will probably do little more than make a few people guilty for attending an event they planned on attending anyway. To be honest, if I were put in the same situation as the Bulgarians planning to attend the concert, I would probably proceed in attending the concert while keeping the strict fast according to my own pious conscience.
It would have served the interest of the Holy Synod much better if they made their proclamation when it was officially announced months ago that Madonna was going to be coming to Sophia and prior to ticket sales officially opening. Also, since the Holy Synod has close ties with the government, they could have quite easily arranged for Madonna to show up on a different date than August 29. But they failed to notice these things until a few priests started making their protests. Now in less than a week before the concert and after all the preparations have been made the Holy Synod makes an unwise decision that only makes them look foolish in the eyes of the people for not taking notice any sooner. Now the only thing the Holy Synod has done is put a burden on the conscience of the faithful who may be attending this event.
It would have been wiser if the Holy Synod, even though it was made aware of this concert late in the game, to express their error in not addressing this issue sooner. Acknowledging their error they should have allowed the show to go on with their and maybe just offered some advice regarding the spectacle they were about to witness. Having done this, they should have ended their statement with the encouragement to keep the strict fast nonetheless and to make sure to be in their respective local churches the following morning for the Divine Liturgy. As an added bonus, if they really wanted the concert goers to give up their seats, they could have offered a reimbursement for what they paid for their tickets. In this way they would have showed their humble error and in return made right something that is wrong.
Ideals aside, now the show will go on and the people are left without shepherds and to the voice of their own conscience. What's worse is that Madonna comes off as the winner in this match and the media has a heyday with the controversy. They would have been better off leaving the matter alone and allowing Madonna to disappoint the overly-eager crowd like she did in Romania or allowing fate to take its course.
But at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that it is a shame a concert of this magnitude will be occuring in an Orthodox country on a day in which all celebrations ought to be avoided in memorial of that vile feast that brought about the death of the Holy Forerunner.