Pope Francis visits Bulgaria and North Macedonia

5-7 May 2019

The visit of Pope Francis to Bulgaria and North Macedonia was an opportunity to strengthen ecumenical friendships. On 5 May, Pope Francis visited Patriarch Neofit of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Holy Synod. In his address, the Holy Father mentioned three dimensions of ecumenism: ecumenism of blood, ecumenism of the poor, and ecumenism of mission. He also recalled the journey of Saint John Paul II in 2002, marked by the visit to Patriarch Maxim and to the holy monastery of Rila. At the Regina Coeli after his prayer at the Orthodox Cathedral of St Alexander Nevsky, Pope Francis spoke of how Saint John XXIII learned to esteem the traditions of the Eastern Church and of how his experience in Bulgaria led him to promote the prospect of ecumenical dialogue. On 6 May, Pope Francis presided at a meeting for peace with leaders of various religious confessions in Bulgaria. On 7 May, the Holy Father attended an ecumenical and interreligious meeting with young people in Skopje. On the same day, on his return to Italy, Pope Francis held a press conference outlining the ecumenical aspects of the visit. During the apostolic journey, the Holy Father was accompanied by Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

In the general audience on 8 May, Pope Francis recalled his recent visit, reflecting that as Christians, our vocation and mission is to be a sign and instrument of unity, and that we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, do this by placing first that which unites us rather than that which has divided or continues to divide us.