During a private audience in the Vatican this morning, May 24, 2019, the Holy Father expressed his gratitude to a Bulgarian delegation, for the “great welcome” he received during his recent visit to the country, on the occasion of the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius.
The Bulgarian delegation, led by Tsveta Valcheva Karayancheva, President of the National Assembly, visits the Pontiff every year, on the occasion of the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius — Saints venerated in the Orthodox and the Catholic Church –, in the framework of the Day of Bulgarian Culture, Education and the Slav alphabet, given that these Saints are regarded as the inventors and expanders of the Glagolitic alphabet, used in Slavic manuscripts.
In this context, Pope Francis mentioned that he was very taken “by the consideration that <the elderly> receive in Bulgarian society.” “This is a sign of veneration of the tradition that, is not the “protection of ashes, but the safeguarding of fire,” he said, quoting a phrase of Gustav Mahler read in yesterday’s L’Osservatore Romano.
The Pontiff also said to Tsveta Valcheva Karayancheva, that he was moved by the 245 children, who received their First Communion in Rakovski.
Finally, he greeted Metropolitan Anthony, and the whole delegation, to whom he gave a Rosary, and asked the President of the Bulgarian National Assembly to convey his greetings, with special affection, to Patriarch Neofit, whom he greatly esteems and has described as a “man of faith, a kind man, a profound man.”
Metropolitan Anthony, delegate for Central and Western Europe in Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church, attended this morning’s audience with the Pope, whom he took care of personally during his Apostolic Journey to the country and accompanied to the Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky in Sofia, where the Pontiff prayed at the tombs of the brothers of Thessaloniki.
A delegation of North Macedonia also visited the Holy Father this morning, where the feast of the <two> Orthodox Saints is celebrated on July 5. These visits are of special relevance this year, given that Pope Francis visited both countries recently, from May 5-7.
The Bulgarian President gave the Pope a golden bell, with beautiful artistic decorations, and the Document o the country’s Constitution.
For his part, the Pontiff gave the President a sculpture as a symbol of Peace, in the form of a vine with shoots and a Message of Peace, in bronze, made by a Roman artist. He also gave the President the Message of this year’s World Day of Peace, the Fraternity Document of Abu Dabi, signed jointly with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and the Apostolic Exhortations: Amoris Laetitia, Gaudete et Exsultate, Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Si’ and Christus Vivit.