Pope Francis addressing the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Sofia, May 5, 2019.   Pope Francis addressing the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Sofia, May 5, 2019.  

Pope in Bulgaria: ecumenism and the example of Saints Cyril and Methodius

Pope Francis reflects on the example of Saints Cyril and Methodius during his meeting in Sofia with Patriarch Neophyte, Head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, along with Metropolitans and Bishops of the Holy Synod.

By Vatican News

In the Christian East, today is “Saint Thomas Sunday”. Pope Francis began by referencing the Apostle, “who puts his hand in the Lord’s side”, and touches His wounds.

“The wounds opened in the course of history between us Christians remain painful bruises on the Body of Christ which is the Church”, he said. “Even today, their effects are tangible”. Yet, said Pope Francis, “perhaps together we can recognize our failings and immerse ourselves in his wounds of love”, discovering “the joy of forgiveness”.

The ecumenism of blood       

Pope Francis spoke of the many Christians in Bulgaria who “endured suffering for the name of Jesus, particularly during the persecution of the last century”. He called this “the ecumenism of blood”, and referred to those who suffered as “witnesses of Easter”.

“While so many other brothers and sisters of ours throughout the world continue to suffer for their faith, they ask us not to remain closed, but to open ourselves”. This is the only way the seeds they have sown can bear fruit, he said.

The ecumenism of the poor

Pope Francis recalled that Bulgarian delegations have visited the Vatican annually for the past fifty years. “With the help of God, and in His good time”, these contacts will have a positive effect on dialogue, he said.

In the meantime, said the Pope, “we are called to journey and act together in order to bear witness to the Lord, particularly by serving the poorest and most neglected of our brothers and sisters, in whom He is present”.

The ecumenism of mission 

Our guides, said Pope Francis, are Saints Cyril and Methodius. Byzantines by culture, they were “daring enough to translate the Bible into a language accessible to the Slavic peoples, so that the divine Word could precede human words”. They remain “a model of evangelization and a challenge to proclaim the Gospel to the next generation”.

While “respecting our own traditions and distinctive identities”, we need to help one another find ways of passing on the faith to young people, said the Pope. Otherwise, they risk putting their trust “in the deceitful siren songs of a consumerist society”.

The ecumenism of example

Quoting Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis gave the example of Saints Cyril and Methodius as “the promoters of a united Europe…showing the basis for a new art of living together, with respect for differences, which in no way are an obstacle to unity”. 

Again, the Pope called Bulgaria a “spiritual crossroads” where various confessions and religious traditions have found a welcome.


Pope Francis with the Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch
05 May 2019, 11:48