He called to mind especially a number of initiatives promoted in recent years, including the Jubilee celebrating the 150th anniversary of the union with the Apostolic See; a conference on the work Angelo Roncalli, later John XXIII, who served as Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria from 1925-34; and the 60th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Passionist Bishop Evgenij Bossilkov, who was executed by the Communist regime in 1952.
Pope Francis also mentioned the National Gathering of Catholics in Bulgaria, the National Day of Youth, and a Study Conference on the Second Vatican Council, all held during last year’s Year of Faith.
“These initiatives confirm that the Catholic communities, whether Latin or Greek Catholic — although in terms of a numerical minority in the country — carry on with commitment their mission to witness to both the natural moral values, and the Gospel of Christ, in a society marked by so many spiritual voids left behind by the former atheist regime or by the uncritical reception of cultural models in which the suggestions of a practical materialism prevail.”
The Holy Father said that, in virtue of our Baptism, we are all called to be missionary disciples, “invited by the Lord to evangelize with joy and with spirit.” He emphasized, too, the social dimension of evangelization, “which has as its point of reference the social doctrine of the Church” and which prioritizes inclusion of poor and commitment to common good and to social peace. In this regard, he said it was important for civil institutions to recognize the moral and spiritual authority of the Holy See, and its contribution to the common good and the progress of the country.
Pope Francis also recognized the “courageous witness of fidelity to Christ and to the Church,” and called on the bishops to foster a united effort with regard the formation of the faithful, promoting catechesis, making special efforts for the pastoral care of youth and for the fostering of vocations.
“Your communities,” Pope Francis said, “live and work alongside those of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.” Through the Bishops, he greeted the Orthodox Patriarch Neophyte I, who will celebrate the first anniversary of his canonical election in the coming days. Pope Francis called on the Bishops to promote ecumenical dialogue, praying that “the hearts and minds of all might be opened so that the hope of joining together to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice might become ever more concrete.”
Finally Pope Francis spoke about the upcoming canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II. Both Popes, he noted, have a connection to Bulgaria — John XXIII having served there as Apostolic Delegate; and John Paul II, the first Slavic Pope, having visited the country in 2002.
At the conclusion of his address, Pope Francis entrusted the Churches of Bulgaria and the earthly development of the country to “the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church; to Saint Cyril and Methodius, the evangelizers of the Slavic people; and to the Blessed Bishop and Martyr Evgenij Bossilkov.”
Text from the Vatican Radio website