President Georgi Parvanov, a former Communist and Socialist representative, was reciprocating for the Pope’s visit to his country last year. On that occasion the Holy Father said he “perceived the firm determination to build the country with new serenity and confidence in the future, within the great European home.”
On Thursday, addressing Parvanov, the Pope requested that he greet Patriarch Maxim, head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, whom John Paul II met in his residence in Sofia.
The Pope described that meeting as a “further stage in the progressive growth of the ecclesial community.”
“With him I was able to verify how Europe hopes for the common commitment of Catholics and Orthodox in defense of the rights of man and of the culture of life,” John Paul II added.
Bulgaria, which has 7.5 million inhabitants, is 83% Orthodox. Catholics number 80,000.
The Pope promised Parvanov “dialogue and collaboration” on the part of Catholics with the other religious communities for “the good of the whole society.”