Pope Francis on May 5, 2019, urged Bulgarian leaders to take advantage of their tradition of building East-West traditions to counter the threat of “demographic winter.”
His remarks came in Atanas Burov Square (Sofia), a stop on his apostolic journey to Bulgaria and North Macedonia May 5-7. He noted that Bulgaria suffers from the emigration of many of its young, who seek job opportunities elsewhere.
“Now, at this particular moment of history, thirty years after the end of the totalitarian regime that imprisoned its liberty and initiatives, Bulgaria faces the effects of the emigration in recent decades of over two million of her citizens in search of new opportunities for employment.,” the Holy Father said. “At the same time, Bulgaria – like so many other countries of Europe – must deal with what can only be called a new winter: the demographic winter that has descended like a curtain of ice on a large part of Europe, the consequence of diminished confidence in the future.”
The Pope explained that in addition to emigration, a falling birth rate has led to a falling population and some cities being abandoned. At the same time, refugees have crossed Bulgaria on their way to other nations or simply to find a place of safety.
“I am aware of the efforts that the nation’s leaders have made for years to ensure that young people, in particular, not be constrained to emigrate,” Francis said. “I would encourage you to persevere on this path, to strive to create conditions that lead young people to invest their youthful energies and plan their future, as individuals and families, knowing that in their homeland they can have the possibility of leading a dignified life.
“To all Bulgarians, who are familiar with the drama of emigration, I respectfully suggest that you not close your eyes, your hearts or your hands – in accordance with your best tradition – to those who knock at your door. Your country has always distinguished itself as a bridge between East and West, capable of favoring encounter between the different cultures, ethnic groups, civilizations and religions that for centuries have lived here in peace. The development of Bulgaria, including her economic and civil development, necessarily entails recognition and enhancement of this specific trait.”