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Bulgaria: The Pope’s Visit, ‘A Strong Encouragement for the Bulgarian People’

‘In the Footsteps of Saints Cyril and Methodius, ‘Giants of Evangelization in Eastern Europe’

A few days before Pope Francis Apostolic Journey to Bulgaria (on May 5 and 6), Kiril Kartaloff, a correspondent of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, expressed high hopes for the visit.

Kartaloff said that this visit can be for all a motive for “ever more intense fraternal and solidary relations and a strong encouragement for the Bulgarian people to persevere in the aim of a society founded on justice and peace.”

In an interview with “Vatican News,” in Italian, on April 30, 2019, Kiril Kartaloff explained that the Pope’s visit “also witnesses the Christian roots of the Bulgarian people” and “enables us to reinforce the secular friendship between the Holy See and Bulgaria, sustained by devotion to the holy brothers Cyril and Methodius, who rooted Christianity providentially in the soul of the Bulgarian people.”

“Bulgaria is called to promote and witness the Christian roots stemming from the teachings of Saints Cyril and Methodius, more than ever timely and also necessary. The work of these giants of evangelization in Eastern Europe constitutes a remarkable contribution to the formation of Europe’s common Christian roots.”

The final preparations for Pope Francis’ visit are underway. The parish of Belene, in the diocese of Nicopoli, has prepared a special gift for the Pontiff: an icon with the four Bulgarians Kamen Vicev, Pavel Dzidzjov and Josaphat Sisikov, Assumptionist priests, martyrs, killed during the years of the Communist regime and beatified on May 26, 2002 at Plovdiv by Pope John Paul II, and Blessed Eugene Bossilkov (1900-1952), Passionist Bishop of Nicopoli, who died a martyr under the Communist regime and was beatified on March 15, 1998 in Rome.

“Seek What Unites Rather Than What Divides”

The theme of Pope Francis’ journey is “Peace on Earth,” which is also the tile of an encyclical of Pope John XXIII, first Apostolic Visitor in Bulgaria. The appointment of Monsignor Angelo Roncalli (future Pope John XXIII) as Apostolic Visitor in Bulgaria took place after his Episcopal Ordination, held in Rome on March 19, 1925.

“His first visit to the Orthodox Holy Synod took place very early, in August 1925. The future saintly Pope wished to insist on the need to seek what unites rather than what divides,” said Kiril Kartaloff.

“From the first days of his arrival in Bulgaria, the Holy See’s representative began to meet the Orthodox, the separated brothers” and “to believe that the path to follow was to develop friendly relations between Christians,” continued Kartaloff. During his stay in the country, which lasted 10 years, Monsignor Roncalli laid the basis of the foundation of an Apostolic Delegation, of which he was appointed the first representative in 1931. He succeeded, not without effort, in re-organizing the Catholic Church, to establish friendly relations with the government and the Bulgarian Royal Household and to establish the first ecumenical contacts with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

“His stay in Bulgaria, therefore, contributed to the development of the ecumenical sensibility that he had the occasion to develop further in the course of the years spent in Turkey and in Greece, up to the convocation of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council,” explained Kartaloff.

“This message of faith is and remains the end sought, so that the Christian East and West can come together fully to make “ the Gospel” shine better together, he concluded.

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