For the first time in history, a Roman Pontiff has stepped foot in North Macedonia, formerly known as Macedonia.
With the intention to remember and celebrate the incredible life of Mother Teresa, encourage the country’s minuscule Catholic community (less than 0.4%, with only one bishop) and encourage ecumenical dialogue, Pope Francis has made this visit. He is kicking off his day in North Macedonia, May 7, his final day of his May 5-7, Apostolic Visit there and to Bulgaria.
ZENIT’s Senior Vatican Correspondent, Deborah Castellano Lubov, was on the ground in Bulgaria and ZENIT continues bringing our readers the latest.
Despite a delicate ecumenical situation in Bulgaria, Pope Francis was welcomed with joy. There he celebrated Masses, prayed for peace, gave first Holy Communion to 245 little ones in Rakovsky, visited a refugee camp and addressed authorities.
Always with enthusiasm, local traditions, including edible ones, Francis was welcomed in North Macedonia’s capital of Skopje. Francis met with the President, making a courtesy visit to the Presidential Palace in Skopje, where he met with the President, and as is tradition, addressed authorities, thanking the country for its welcome toward migrants.
Afterward, the Pope and papal entourage went to the memorial of Saint (Mother) Teresa where he was welcomed by three religious sisters, said a special prayer recalling the incredible impact of Mother Teresa, meeting some poor people, and some relatives of Mother Teresa.
Later in the day, the Pope will celebrate Mass for the faithful of the country, meet with clergy and have an ecumenical event with young people.
The Pope will return to Rome later this evening, and will hold a brief press conference on the return flight, which ZENIT will bring you as soon as possible.
Here is the full Vatican-provided program of the Pope’s agenda:
|Sunday 5 May 2019
|07:00||Departure by air from Rome-Fiumicino International Airport to Sofia|
|10:00||Arrival at Sofia International Airport|
|MEETING WITH THE PRIME MINISTER in the Governmental Lounge of the Airport|
|WELCOME CEREMONY in the square adjacent to the Presidential Palace|
|COURTESY VISIT TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC in the Presidential Palace|
|MEETING with the AUTHORITIES, with CIVIL SOCIETY and the DIPLOMATIC CORPS in Atanas Burov Square||Address of the Holy Father|
|VISIT TO THE PATRIARCH AND TO THE HOLY SYNOD in the Palace of the Holy Synod||Address of the Holy Father|
|PRIVATE PRAYER BEFORE THE THRONE OF SAINTS CYRIL AND METHODIUS in the Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky|
|REGINA COELI in Saint Alexander Nevsky Square||Regina Coeli|
|16:45||HOLY MASS in Knyaz Alexandar SquareI||Homily of the Holy Father|
|Monday 6 May 2019
|VISIT TO A REFUGEE CAMP|
|09:30||Departure by air from Rakovsky|
|HOLY MASS WITH FIRST COMMUNIONS in the Church of the Sacred Heart of Rakovsky||Homily of the Holy Father|
|Lunch with the bishops of Bulgaria in the Convent of the Franciscan Sisters|
|MEETING WITH THE CATHOLIC COMMUNITY in the Church of Saint Michael Archangel in Rakovsky||Address of the Holy Father|
|17:15||Departure by air for Sofia|
|PRAYER FOR PEACE PRESIDED AT BY THE HOLY FATHER IN THE PRESENCE OF LEADERS OF THE VARIOUS RELIGIOUS CONFESSIONS IN BULGARIA in Nezavisimost Square in Sofia||Prayer of the Holy Father|
|Tuesday 7 May 2019
|FAREWELL CEREMONY in Sofia International Airport|
|08:20||Departure by air from Sofia Airport for Skopje|
|08:15||Arrival at Skopje International Airport|
|WELCOME CEREMONY in the courtyard of the Presidential Palace|
|COURTESY VISIT TO THE PRESIDENT in the Presidential Palace|
|MEETING with the PRIME MINISTER in the Presidential Palace|
|MEETING with the AUTHORITIES, with CIVIL SOCIETY and with the DIPLOMATIC CORPS in the Mosaique Hall of the Presidential Palace||Address of the Holy Father|
|VISIT TO THE MOTHER TERESA MEMORIAL WITH THE PRESENCE OF RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND MEETING WITH THE POOR||Prayer of the Holy Father|
|HOLY MASS in Macedonia Square||Homily of the Holy Father|
|Lunch with the Papal Entourage|
|ECUMENICAL AND INTERRELIGIOUS MEETING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE in the Pastoral Centre||Address of the Holy Father|
|MEETING WITH PRIESTS, THEIR FAMILIES, AND RELIGIOUS in the Cathedral||Address of the Holy Father|
|FAREWELL CEREMONY at Skopje International Airport|
|18:30||Departure of Papal aircraft for Rome-Ciampino|
|20:30||Arrival at Roma-Ciampino International Airport|