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World

AFP
December 21, 2018

Bulgaria expands official supervision of religion

World

AFP
Fri, Dec 21, 2018

SOFIA: Bulgarian lawmakers on Friday approved changes to the law on religious denominations in a move to better regulate places of worship and limit the spread of illegal preachers.

All places of worship will now have to be registered, in an attempt to limit illegal preaching in homes, garages and cafeterias.

The new measures will also see an increase in public subsidies for the country´s two largest religious communities, Orthodox Christians and Muslims, which will see them receive 10 leva (5 euros) for every worshipper.

This measure is seen an attempt to make Bulgaria´s Muslims more reliant on state funding as opposed to money from abroad.

However, MPs refrained from approving other controversial measures put forward by nationalist lawmakers, who wanted to ban foreign preachers and all foreign donations for religious establishments.

The nationalist United Patriots (UP) party, a junior partner in the ruling coalition, had pushed for a total ban on foreign preachers to prevent imams coming to Bulgaria from Turkey.

UP MPs walked out of the parliament sitting in protest at the ban not passing.

Nationalist MPs also wanted to set a minimum of 300 worshippers for registering a denomination, but this proposal was met with protests from smaller churches and was also rejected by parliament.

Bulgaria´s last census in 2011 showed that over 4.3 million of the country´s 7.36 million population declared themselves to be Orthodox Christians, while over 570,000 said they were Muslim. Smaller groups listed their religion as Catholic, Protestant or other.

However, because the question on religion is voluntary, the true proportion of both Orthodox Christians and Muslims in Bulgaria´s population is thought to be higher.