SOFIA (Reuters) – Top Orthodox Christian clergy from across Europe and Bulgaria’s senior government officials gathered in Sofia’s main cathedral on Sunday for the enthronement of the new patriarch of the country’s influential church.

Patriarch Daniil, 52, was elected among three candidates on Sunday morning to succeed Neophyte who died in March.

Representatives from Orthodox Churches in Greece, North Macedonia, Serbia, Russia, and Georgia as well as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew attended the enthronement which started immediately after the bishops voted. The event lasted 3-1/2 hours.

“In the modern world in which we live, we witness how the rebellion of many people against God leads to the legalisation and imposition of sin as a norm in human society,” the Patriarch said after the ceremony.

About 80% of the 6.8 million-strong Bulgarian population are Orthodox Christians. The reputation of the country’s Orthodox Church was damaged after a history commission in January 2012 showed that 11 of its 15 bishops had collaborated with the former communist-era secret police.

Since his enthronement in 2013, Patriarch Neophyte had worked to restore the reputation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, hurt by allegations of corrupt practices and links to communist secret police.

(Reporting by Stoyan Nenov; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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