By Joachim Teigen
On Tuesday 7 May, Pope Francis concluded his Apostolic journey to Bulgaria and North Macedonia, after a day spent meeting Christian and religious leaders in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia.
Following the visit, Fr. Goce Kostov, an Eastern rite Catholic priest from Macedonia, spoke to Vatican News about his experience of the Holy Father’s presence and his meeting with the Pope.
A small but living community
“There are about 20 000 Catholics spread across North Macedonia” Fr. Kostov said. With the country being overwhelmingly Eastern Orthodox, the visit of the Holy Father to such a “small and living community demonstrates the greatness of the Catholic Church, and we felt the unity in faith that comes from communion with Peter”.
Fr. Kostov was also grateful for the presence of faithful and leaders from other Christian denominations and religions during the Pope’s Mass in Skopje on Tuesday.
“Their presence just enriched the beauty of the event” he said, hoping that this meeting between Christians and members of other religions will give strength to further ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. “This dialogue is very important for Macedonia, and should not be interrupted”.
The importance of family life in pastoral work
“I’m a priest of the Byzantine rite, and I’m married with four sons” Fr. Kostov said. “We also had a daughter, but she died 14 years ago, having only lived for 14 days”.
On Tuesday, he and his family got the opportunity to speak with the Pope personally, and among other things, he shared with the Pope his experience of the importance of family prayer in those times of mourning.
“It was the one thing that strengthened us in faith and communion” he told the Pope. “It was special for us to be able to share with the Holy Father the importance that family life has for pastoral work.”
In return, the Pope had spoken to Fr. Kostov and his family of the indispensable role of the domestic church. “We received the Apostolic blessing, and I was very grateful for these words, but above all I am grateful to God”.