Simeon of Bulgaria Receives Path to Peace Award

Recognition of Holy See´s Mission at U.N.

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NEW YORK, JUNE 20, 2002 ( Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, former king of Bulgaria and now the republic´s Prime Minister, received the 2002 Path to Peace Award and praised the work of his fellow citizens.

«I am delighted to accept this award,» he said during the award ceremony Wednesday. «I regard it as an acknowledgment of the peaceful spirit of the efforts carried out by the people of my nation, who during a turbulent decade for southeastern Europe made of our country a place of stability and ethnic tolerance.»

The Path to Peace Foundation is a nonprofit foundation providing support for the permanent observer mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. Its award recognizes an individual´s outstanding leadership in the international community.

The foundation´s president, Archbishop Renato Martino, told Vatican Radio of Simeon: «His whole life is very special.»

Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1937, the son of King Boris III and Queen Giovanna of Savoia. Upon King Boris III´s sudden death in 1943, the 6-year-old Simeon acceded to the throne as King Simeon II.

Two years later, the young king; his sister, Princess Maria-Luisa; and Queen Giovanna were forced into exile. They eventually ended up in Spain.

After a half-century in exile, in 1996, Simeon II was allowed to visit Bulgaria. Over the decades he had closely followed Bulgaria´s national and international affairs. And through his international business contacts and his own work, Simeon II helped Bulgarian emigrants worldwide.

On April 6, 2001, Simeon II proclaimed his wish to return to Bulgaria permanently and to work on behalf of his country.

In a historic address to the nation, Simeon II proclaimed the formation of the National Movement for Simeon II, a non-party political organization whose stated aim was to bring standards of morality and integrity to Bulgarian political life. After the National Movement´s landslide victory last July 24, Simeon was sworn in as Prime Minister.

As head of the Bulgarian government, Simeon received John Paul II in his country last month.

Archbishop Martino, the president of the Path to Peace Foundation and the Vatican´s permanent observer at the United Nations, said of Simeon: «His fidelity, his work, his efforts to bring democracy back to his country, certainly deserve the admiration of all. This is the reason why the foundation awards him the prize.»

Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Vatican State Secretariat, conferred the award at the foundation´s annual awards ceremony.

Past recipients of the award include the Philippines´ Corazon Aquino, Poland´s Lech Walesa and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

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