Bulgarian Church Leader Invites Papal Visit

Echoes an Offer Made by Intellectuals

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ROME, JAN. 25, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Metropolitan Galaktion of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, has invited John Paul II to visit his country. The invitation follows that of Petar Stoianov, the president of Bulgaria, and Yordan Sokolov, the president of Parliament.

Recently, Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Maxim expressed opposition to the Pope´s visit, saying, «It would not be well received by the Bulgarians,» as it «might contradict the rules of the Orthodox Church and cause confusion.»

Bulgaria might well be, therefore, the fourth Orthodox country to be visited by the Pope, after Romania and Georgia. This coming June, John Paul II is scheduled to travel to Ukraine, a Russian Orthodox land.

«When the Pope decides to visit Bulgaria, we will welcome him with warm friendship and respect,» Orthodox leader Galaktion said Tuesday, during a break in a congress organized by the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome on the figure of the Catholic bishop and martyr, Eugene Bossilkov, and on John XXIII, apostolic delegate in Bulgaria from 1925 to 1934.

Moreover, 75 Bulgarian intellectuals of the Orthodox Church wrote an open letter to John Paul II inviting him to visit the country, and deploring that Bulgaria is accused of involvement in the 1981 attack of Mehmet Ali Agca against the Pope.

The letter, published last Friday, says that the Holy Father has made an «extraordinary contribution to the fall of the Berlin Wall and progress in the dialogue among the different religions and persons of good will in the world.»

«A visit by the Pope would manifest the wisdom of the Bulgarian people, their decision to join Europe and their adherence to the values shared by all men,» the intellectuals concluded.

Accusations of collaboration of the Bulgarian secret services in the attack against the Pope on May 13, 1981, surfaced when Ali Agca said that he had called on the help of three Bulgarians in Rome.

An Italian court prosecuted one of them, Serghei Antonov, and two other members of the Bulgarian Embassy, although they were never present in court since they we not arrested. However, the trial did not go forward for lack of evidence.

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