Bulgarians bid farewell to Patriarch Maxim

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Orthodox heads, officials and believers pay their respects to Patriarch Maxim during funeral service at Alexander Newskiy cathedral in Sofia, Friday, Nov 9, 2012. Bulgaria holds Friday a day of national mourning over the death of Orthodox Patriarch Maxim, who passed away early on Tuesday at the age of 98. (AP Photo/Valentina Petrova)

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Thousands of people have joined funeral proceedings in Sofia for Patriarch Maxim, who was at the helm of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church for more than four decades.

The 98-year-old patriarch died Tuesday of heart failure at a Sofia hospital. The government has declared Friday a day of mourning.

Church elders held funeral prayers Friday at Sofia's main Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, attended by heads of Orthodox churches from neighboring countries and senior government officials.

The Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of world's Orthodox Christians, led a liturgy.

Maxim will be buried later Friday at the Troyan Monastery near the village of Oreshak where he was born.