Pope Francis used his May 8, 2019, General Audience in St. Peter’s Square to express his gratitude to many people who made his trip to Bulgaria and North Macedonia possible. Some of those people are actual saints.
Of course, he said thank you to the civil authorities and Church leaders who welcomed him with such courtesy, even joy, during the May 5-7 journey. But he also credited some rather famous predecessors in the faith for laying the foundation for his visit.
“I was guided in Bulgaria by the lively memory of Saint John XXIII, who was sent to that country in 1925 as Visitor and then as Apostolic Delegate,” Pope Francis recalled. “Animated by his example of pastoral benevolence and charity, I met that people — called to be a bridge between Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, — with the motto “Pacem in Terris,” I invited all to walk on the way of fraternity and on this way I had, in particular, the joy of taking a step forward in the meeting with Patriarch Neofit of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Members of the Holy Synod. In fact, as Christians, our vocation and mission are to be sign and instrument of unity, and we can be so, with the help of the Holy Spirit putting first what unites us to what has divided or still divides us.”
The Holy Father also remembered Saints Cyril and Methodius. Bulgaria was among the lands they evangelized. And Saint John Paul II placed them next to Saint Benedict as Patrons of Europe.
“In North Macedonia, I was accompanied by the strong spiritual presence of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who was born in Skopje in 1910 and received, in her parish there, the Sacraments of Christian Initiation and learned to love Jesus,” the Pope said. “In this woman, minute but full of strength thanks to the Holy Spirit’s action in her, we see the image of the Church in that country and in other peripheries of the world: a small community that, with the grace of Christ, becomes a welcoming home where many are restored for their life.
“At Mother Teresa’s Memorial, I prayed, in the presence of other religious leaders and of a large group of poor, and I blessed the first stone of a Shrine dedicated to her. North Macedonia is a country that has been independent since 1991…Significant, therefore, was the fact that the meeting with young people happened there. They were boys and girls from different Christian Confessions and also from other religions, all united by the desire to build something beautiful in life. I exhorted them to dream big and to get involved, as young Agnes — the future Mother Teresa — listening to God’s voice who speaks in prayer and in the flesh of needy brothers.”