Bulgarian Orthodox Church celebrates first saints canonisation in 47 years

Bulgaria's Christian Orthodox Church celebrated on Sunday canonisation its first saints in 47 years. Hundreds of worshippers packed the golden-domed Alexander Nevski cathedral in Sofia for the canonisation of the victims of the bloody crushing of an 1876 uprising against Bulgaria's Ottoman rule.

The canonisation was the first in Bulgaria since 1964 and also the first performed by Bulgaria's 96-year-old Patriarch Maxim during his 40-year term. It declared as saints two clergymen, eight nuns and up to 5,000 unknown Bulgarians, rounded up and killed in a monastery in the central town of Apriltzi and the southern town of Batak in 1876.

The crushing of the so-called April Uprising in Bulgaria sparked an international outcry and indirectly led to the Russian-Turkish war and Bulgaria's 1878 liberation from Ottoman rule. Its victims were not proven to have performed a miracle but were nevertheless recognised as "martyrs for the (Christian) faith," Bulgarian Orthodox Church officials explained.

The last canonisations performed by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church were those of clergymen and national revival forefathers Paisiy Hilendarski in 1962 and Sofroniy Vrachanski in 1964.