Pope’s visit to Bulgaria: the last surge eastward

Soon after the Pope’s visit to Azerbaijan, President Heydar Aliyev ordered to start construction of the first Catholic church in Baku, in one of its central parts. Baku’s Catholic community, that makes up 120 people, will be able to attend the mass in the new church. By the way, a Roman-Catholic church functioned in Baku at the beginning of the previous century. As of now, the Pope is in Bulgaria with an official and apostolic visit. Bulgarian Patriarchy Maxim changed his opinion at the very last moment and decided to participate in a ceremonial receiving of the Pope. He will also meet with the Pontiff, that has been probably decided because of top authority’s instructions. Reception of Pope John Paul was on a grand scale: Bulgarian prime minister, the cabinet, deputies of the parliament and Bulgarian foreign minister came to greet him. President Georgi Parvanov sent a greeting to Pope John Paul and thanked him for “the help in turning Bulgaria into a free and prosperous power.”

However, Bulgarian church hierarchs are not so much enthusiastic about Pope’s visit, as they consider the visit to be of a political nature. ORT Russian television informs, Bulgarian church sent no invitations for the Pope to visit the country. Bulgarian Catholics make up less than 1% of the population (it is about 60,000 people). “Humanity is to find ways to soften negative consequences caused by globalization, I mean poverty, unemployment and illiteracy”, the Pope said at the meeting with Bulgarian president.

No exact claims of Orthodox hierarchs and people in different countries as concerning Vatican’s policy are traditionally mentioned on the high level. But Orthodox Bulgarians expressed their opinion as concerning the problem. A week before the Pope’s visit religious processions and public prayers started. Pravoslavie.Ru informs, a huge 3-meter icon, image of Zograf Martyrs, was painted in Bulgaria especially for the Pope’s visit. The icon, the symbol of protest against visit of the Catholic Pontiff, was planned to be carried at head of religious processions on the day of the Pope’s visit to Bulgaria.

The Roman Pontiff arrived in Bulgaria just in time of one of Bulgaria’s most important feast day of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, 9th century scripture translators and fathers of the Cyrillic alphabet still used by many Slavs.

The Pope, now 82, is visibly frail, suffering from Parkinson's disease that restricts his mobility, impedes his speech and makes one hand tremble uncontrollably. Leaving Vatican, the Pope for the first time in his life was taken on board a plane with the help of special hydraulic rams.

Sergey Stefanov PRAVDA.Ru

In the photo by Pravoslavie.Ru: Zograf monastery in Bulgaria

Translated by Maria Gousseva

Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/05/24/41694.html

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Author`s name: Editorial Team