Church and State in Bulgaria Hail Discovery of John the Baptist’s Relics

Minister denounces sceptical “fuckers”

The Wall Street Journal reports on developments following the supposed discovery of relics of John the Baptist in Bulgaria:

“I’m not religious but these relics are in the premier league,” says Simeon Djankov, Bulgaria’s finance minister and an avowed atheist. “The revenue potential for Bulgaria is clear.”

Bulgaria’s Orthodox church hierarchy has declared that the bones are authentic. “This is a holy find. It doesn’t matter about the science,” says Metropolitan Bishop Joanikii of Sliven, who oversees church affairs in Sozopol. “The holy relics of St. John radiate miraculous force. I cannot explain it by using words.”

Kazimir Popkonstantinov, the archaeologist responsible for the finding in Sozopol and now hailed as a national hero, insists his discovery is in the same league as the Shroud of Turin. “This kind of discovery happens perhaps once every two hundred years,” he says. “We have very strong proof that this is genuine. I know this is very important for the whole Christian world.”

Meanwhile, Focus Information Agency has a quote from Bozhidar Dimitrov, a historian and Bulgaria’s Minister without Portfolio in charge of the Bulgarian Diaspora:

“After the discovery of the relics of St. John the Baptist, and at the presence of other two precious Christian relics in Sozopol, which turn the city into a ‘Second Jerusalem’ – the piece of the Holy Cross presented by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, and the relics of St. Andrew, given by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew; it became clear that with regard to the preservation, development and millions of pilgrims expected to come here, we should have a worthy feretory for these precious relics,”

Dimitrov claims that an inscription found with the relics proves their authenticity, and Christian reverence for John the Baptist’s earthly remains moved him to a pious rebuke against sceptical archaeologists. The Sofia News Agency has the quote:

“Why, damn it, why, where is all this envy coming from?! This is what I cannot find an explanation with this fucking people, with these fucking colleagues,” the Diaspora Minister and a former Director of the Bulgarian National History Museum, said when expressing his indignation that some of the Bulgarian archaeologists had declared the triumph over the relics of St. John the Baptist premature.

…”I am starting a discussion. Today [Nikolay] Ovcharov came out with his name, and started quarreling with me. The “fuckers” are no longer anonymous. We are now going to be fighting personally, with our names,”

…The conflict between Bozhidar Dimitrov and Nikolay Ovcharov goes back two years ago when Dimitrov claimed he had established the identity of the mysterious muralist of the 13-th century Renaissance like-images in the Boyana Church near Sofia, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

As an encore for this abusive tirade, Dimitrov attacked Bulgarian women for entering churches with “only their nipples covered”:

“…So this is how they come to see the holy relics. This is no good, damn it,”

“Some people are now angry with me, and they want me to apologize to them. I am not going to apologize. When they put clothes on, then I will apologize. Nobody can say about me that I don’t love the Bulgarian women. I have shown that in past 60 years or so. I am always loved the Bulgarian women, and they have always loved me. But one must know when to take their clothes off and when to put clothes on,”

Prime Minisrer Borisov, meanwhile, has donated a silver reliquary to house the remains.

Meanwhile, CNN points out that:

Several sites already house relics purported to be John, such as the Grand Mosque in Damascus, Syria, and Amiens Cathedral in France, which both claim to have his head…

That needn’t be a problem, though, if we recall Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose. One of the main characters, William of Baskerville, mentions having seen the skull of the twelve-year-old John the Baptist at Cologne Cathedral. When his assistant queries how this could be possible, given that John the Baptist lived for much longer than twelve years, William mock-gravely replies that the skull of John the Baptist at an older age must be somewhere else.

A few years ago, Ovcharov claimed to have found the tomb of Orpheus in Bulgaria, prompting a row with Greece.