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Metropolitan Antony Performs Christmas Eve Service, Reads Patriarch Neophyte’s Message to Bulgarian People

Metropolitan Anthony of Western and Central Europe performed the festive Christmas Eve service on Sunday evening in the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. He led the festive liturgy because His Holiness the Bulgarian Patriarch and Sofia Metropolitan Neophyte is still in the hospital.
Together with Metropolitan Anthony, bishops, deacons and archimandrites from the Bulgarian Orthodox Church – Bulgarian Patriarchate, as well as representatives of local Orthodox churches in the country, served in the patriarchal cathedral.
Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov attended the service with his with Prof. Slavka Cholakova.
Towards the end of the liturgy, Metropolitan Antony also read the message from Patriarch Neophyte for Christmas Eve to the faithful and to the Bulgarian people. Together with him were bishops Gerasim, Polycarp and Pachomius.
The Nativity of Christ is a sacred and deeply experienced holiday by all Christians, which is a holiday of quiet but deepest joy, said  Patriarch Neophyte in his messege, calling  it a holiday of God’s glory, peace and favour, a celebration of God’s love and of the freedom given to man from above. 
Patriarch Neophyte said that Christ’s birth is traditionally associated with the warmth of the family hearth, that is is an evening of family reunion. However he urged people not to forget about those who live without a home and family, to  feed the hungry, water the thirsty, help, according to the measure of strength and ability, everyone who lives in want and deprivation, in loneliness and in hopelessness. “This is what God himself wants and expects from us,” said the Bulgarian Patriarch.In his message, His Holiness also stressed on the topic of military conflicts, noting that we are called with even more zeal to witness for the great mercy, for selfless love and for the peace that Christ brought us”.
At the beginning of the service, Metropolitan Anthony also read the Old Testament texts about the birth of the Savior. An evening prayer for peace was also offered to the Lord.
Before the service, Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov wished to all Bulgarians “to have many nice and cozy meetings this evening and the following days, so that they can enjoy the good things in life” He also wished them good health in the coming year, and a gradual decrease of tensions in the world.  “Let them believe in themselves and believe in Bulgaria, things will be fine,” said the Prime Minister, calling for people to unive around universal human values, Christian values, like kindness, humility, care for others.