A campaign has been launched to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the Bulgarian Independent Orthodox Church for 'heroic acts' to protect Jews in the Holocaust.
The campaign is being led by Bulgarian-Israeli lawyer Moshe Aloni, according to The Jerusalem Post.
The church voted unanimously in condemnation of anti-Semitic laws during World War II and vocally opposed the deportation of Bulgaria's 48,000 Jews to Nazi death camps.
Aloni, who leads the committee for friendship between the Israeli and Bulgarian Advocates, nominated the church in January for its 'brave acts of heroism'.
Aloni said last week that while his campaign has gained support from Europe and the US, he is still seeking to raise awareness and backing from the Israeli community.
An online petition for the cause has gained 758 signatures so far. The petition notes the particular heroism of two individuals who signified the church's opposition to the ethnic cleansing of the Holocaust: Metropolitan Bishop Stephan, the highest ranking cleric of the Bulgarian Church at the time, and Metropolitan Kirill, the head of the Bulgarian Church in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian government was an ally of Nazi Germany dring the war. Both clerics reportedly put their lives at risk in defence of the Jewish people, with Kirill's intervention at one time saving 1,500 Jews marked for deportation.
Aloni wrote in his letter to the Nobel Committee: 'Due to the heroic acts of these two prominent leaders and their willingness to speak up and take action, the deportation of the Jews of Bulgaria was postponed again and again until it was finally cancelled with the end of the war.'
Aloni concluded that the nomination of the Bulgarian Church was particularly prescient 'in these days filled with hate and racism and modern day ethnic cleansing'.