Reports of Papal Visit 2002

2003 May:


Coinciding with his trip to Sofia last year, the church of Sts. Vincent and Anastasius near the Trevi fountain in Rome was given to the Bulgarian Orthodox Community in Rome by Pope JOHN PAUL II.

Cardinal WALTER KASPER, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, met with the Bulgarian Orthodox community in Rome, which had gathered to celebrate its first Easter presided over by Archimandrite TIHON, protosyngel of the Bulgarian Orthodox Diocese of Western and Central Europe, in the presence of the ambassadors of Bulgaria to the Vatican and to Italy, as well as the ambassadors to the Vatican of Serbia-Montenegro and Macedonia.

"You Orthodox and we Catholics do not have the same Easter date, but we have the same paschal faith," the cardinal stated to the Bulgarian Orthodox.

The cardinal said that John Paul II's visit greatly improved the relation between the Roman Catholic Church and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. After the Pope's visit Cardinal Kasper had returned to Bulgaria for several visits of monasteries and parishes. "We made friendships. For me, friendship and trust are at the base of theological dialogue."

Cardinal Kasper also referred to the role of Bulgarian Orthodox in Europe, a continent united by a Christian spirit: "The Holy Father always says that the Church, but also Europe, must breathe with two lungs."

"Bulgarians have much to give, because they have a spiritual richness, especially in St. Cyril and St. Methodius, who come from Bulgaria and represent all the Slav peoples," the cardinal explained.

The cardinal president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity added: "We must collaborate, because we Westerners, who are secularized, need this spirituality, but they likewise have need of our help."

New impetus was given to Catholic-Orthodox relations on May 24, the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, when official Bulgarian representatives visited Rome. Bulgarian Prime Minister SIMEON headed a government delegation whereas Metropolitan SIMEON of Western and Central Europe and 5 other metropolitan bishops represented the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Rome.

" ... that they may all be one" (John 17:21)
This was the substance of the sermon of Bulgarian Orthodox Metropolitan Simeon of Western and Central Europe. "Today we celebrate the memory of saints Cyrill and Method, 2 apostles of christianity, their teaching constitutes for the Bulgarians the basis of their national renewal but also for all Europeans a bridge between the christian East and West. Living a life following the principal "Unity in Diversity" they were the first spiritual architects of the road leading to our common european home." Metropolitan Simeon recalled last year´s visit of pope John Paul II: "This visit has left unforgettable memories in the history of our country. It has reminded the faithful as well of the Eastern as of the Western church not to quarrel over points of division but to celebrate our fundamental unity."
The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity answered, that "a door of hope has been opened ... more and more christians in East and West realizing that our century should not lead us to live in solitude, in isolation, in ignorance of the others but that the social, political and cultural developments of our time specially in Europe encourage us to open us towards the other half (of Europe and of Christianity). The cooperation between our 2 churches should expand and enlarge the space of communion we are both longing for ... " Cardinal Walter Kasper concluded.

Saturday May 24 morning Pope John Paul II received the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, SIMEON of Saxe, Cobourg and Gotha and 9 members of the bulgarian delegation in a papal reception.

Metropolitan Dometian of Vidin, member of the Bulgarian Orthodox delegation, took part in a symposium of Catholic and Orthodox theologians and representatives, held in the Vatican from May 21-24 organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

He told Vatican Radio: "… Rapprochement between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches has matured, … the needs of the time are being anticipated.
I think that the Orthodox Church, by its nature, faith and spirit, is very close to our brothers of the Catholic Church "

based on texts ZE03043001 ZE03052802 of ZENIT, an International News Agency
ROME, May 2003, based on BulgariaOrthodoxCatholicDialogueZENIT03D30.doc in Dave Parry's files.-



THURSDAY   May 23 2002:



FRIDAY   May 24 2002:


proclamed patrons of Europe together with St.BENEDIKT by Pope JOHN PAUL II



SATURDAY   May 25 2002:

- RILA MONASTERY receives the POPE

SUNDAY   May 26 2002:

- PLOVDIV: Papal Mass and 3 Beatifications


In several statements the Metropolitan Bishops of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church have stated, that the visit of Pope JOHN PAUL II to Bulgaria is welcome to the people, the state and the church of Bulgaria.

Bulgarian Patriarch MAKSIM declared, that Pope JOHN PAUL II will be welcomed in all due honor. "We are not at all troubled by the visit of Pope JOHN PAUL II, the schedule of the visit has been approved by both sides, every detail was thoroughly examined and so we hope, that the visit will become a success." Patriarch MAKSIM said.
He undelined specially, that the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church had decided all questions concerning the visit of the pope unanimously.

Bishop NAUM, Abbot of BATSCHKOVO, consecrating an icon as gift to the pope
Bishop NAUM, Abbot of BATSCHKOVO, personally consecrating an icon as gift to the pope

BTA reports:

The upcoming visit to Bulgaria of Pope John Paul II will be beneficial for both the state and the public, as well as for the church, Metropolitan DOMETIAN, Bishop of Vidin, says.
Dometian says that in the course of years the Pope has built an image of a true leader of a religion with thousands of millions of followers in the world. "Wherever he has been to, the Pope has never urged people to become Catholics but to accept belief in God and be tolerant toward each other. We are waiting to welcome the Pope as worthy people, with respect and attention," Dometian says. He stressed that this will show that Bulgaria and the Bulgarians are tolerant.

Metropolitan NEOPHYT, Bishop of Rousse, says that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is the spiritual mother of the Bulgarian people protecting its links with Orthodox Christianity and at the same time trying to share the joys of the rich spiritual fruits. "This is our message to Pope John Paul II. We are sure that his visit will be a mark of respect to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Bulgarian nation," Bishop Neophyt says.

Asked to comment the development of dialogue between religions, Nevrokop Metropolitan NATHANAIL says that such a dialogue is possible on human, and not just strictly religious terms. "The important thing is to help the needy, without forcing them to become one of us," he says. Natanail is of the opinion that the religious leaders should condemn violence and help abolish it.

Lovech Metropolitan GAVRIIL says that there has been and will be dialogue between the religions and that there are many places where people of various faiths live together in peace. The Metropolitan says that there are many people who try to use religion to attain personal benefits, which sometimes looks like a conflict between religions.
Gavriil says that the Papal visit will hardly reconcile the differences between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity dating back to thousands of years ago, but could help advance the dialogue between the religions. "We very much want such a dialogue," Gavriil says.
Metropolitan JOSIF, Bishop for the Bulgarians in USA, Canada und Australia, pointed out, that pope JOHN PAUL II as first pope from Poland, with his slavonic soul had the potential to develop a special relationship to St. Cyrill and Methodij as apostels of the slavonic people. And through St.Cyrill and Methodij he is approaching Orthodoxy, as specific Christiannity for most slavonic people.

Metropolitan SIMEON, Bishop for the Bulgarians in Western- and Central Europe, issued a special letter, in which he stated, that the common cyrillo-methodian heritage of the Eastern and the Western church. Now as the First Hierarch of the Western Church visits Bulgarian (Eastern) Orthodox Church precisely on the day commemorating cyrillo-methodian culture, this is an occasion to start behaving as christians, to live together in LOVE of GOD and of our HUMAN NEIGHBOUR, as our Lord had prayed for us: "... so that they may be completely one, in order that the world may know that You sent me and that You love them ..."(John 17:23)




Father Peter from Plovdiv teaches Bulgarian language to the Pope 4 hours a day , because the Holy Father wants to speak only Bulgarian in the course of his visit.

Car Honks Banned At Graduation Balls ...
Till May 26 only Coca-Cola will be served at graduation parties
In Sofia and Plovdiv there will be no honking cars or loud music at the graduation balls because of the Pope's visit to Bulgaria. The ban imposed by the Interior Ministry will be valid from May 23 to 26. The school-leavers partying in both cities will have also to withstand prohibition. Two hundred schoolchildren from the "Paisius of Hilendar" high-school in Plovdiv haven't learnt yet that their ball in the "Princess Trimontium" hotel scheduled for May 25 will be postponed because of tightened security measures. The hotel is only 50 meters away from the square where the Pope will recite the solemn mass the next morning. Already a month ago all school-leaving celebrations in the prestigious Sofia hotels were canceled.

Craze for Pope ...
12 checkpoints in Sofia, Plovdiv downtown under blockade for 48 hours
It's like a pressure-cooker in Sofia and Plovdiv. The preparations for the visit of John-Paul II are feverish. There'll be a strict security regime in Sofia and Plovdiv during the Pope's visit. 12 checkpoints will be stalled around the square in front of the 'St. Alexander Nevsky' Cathedral in Sofia. There, on May 23 the Holy Father will be officially welcomed in Bulgaria. The 6 entrances to the area have already been chosen. At each of them there'll be two checkpoints. Everybody who wants to enter the heavily guarded zone will pass through two detectors. The checkpoints will be open 4 hours before the event, everybody who want to see the Pope in front of the 'Alexander Nevsky' Cathedral will be examined. There'll be checkpoints in the center of Plovdiv, too. The blockade there will last 48 hours. There on May 26 the Pope's mass will be served. No people with bulky luggage, weapons, bottles neither those who aren't sober will get access to the high mass. The worshippers will be admitted from 6 a.m. till the square is full with people. Then the checkpoints will be closed. The mass starts at 10.15 a.m.
(from bulgarian daily STANDART by Antoaneta Peteva, Kostadin Arshinkov and Sofia Popova)

Pope's Car Was Brought ...
from Italy by a truck. The automobile, in which Pope John-Paul II will travel during his visit in Bulgaria is with armoured glasses and will be guarded by the National Security Service. The Holy Father will be accompanied by four cardinals, director of the international press center Maxim Minchev said exclusively for 'Standart'. Father Peter from Plovdiv teaches Bulgarian language to the Pope 4 hours a day , because the Holy Father wants to speak only Bulgarian in the course of his visit.

Thousand will wait in the open ...
not to miss the mass on May 26 in Plovdiv.
Including all groups having come from neighbouring countries, but also from Italy and even France 20.000 people are expected in Plovdiv, most of them having not booked any hotel. They will camp outside the security zone in the parks of Plovdiv city. The central square previewed for the papal mass will be closed and checked for security reasons 25 hours before the service. Sunday May 26 in the morning at 5 o´clock 16 check-points will be opened. As benches having been set up on the square the square will hold not more than 20.000 people, the city authorities of Plovdiv warn.
(from bulgarian daily STANDART by Pavlina Zhivkova, Kostadin Arshinkov and Sofia Popova)

No Alcohol during Pope's Visit ...
In all regions along the Pope's itinerary no alcohol will be sold. After the meetings with regional governors and interior ministry officials the mayors of Sofia, Plovdiv and Kjustendil issued orders which temporarily ban from sale alcoholic beverages in these cities. Shops and bars in the guarded zones will be closed till the end of the Pope's visit.

Starting from today till May 29 the center of Sofia will be blocked off. The National Police Directorate warned that all cars parked in the no-parking zones will be lifted by cranes. People who live or work in the cordoned-off areas will be let through without special passes.
from Bulgarian daily STANDART by Stefan Tashev

Combat Vehicles to Guard Pope and NATO Officials ...
Combat vehicles of the gendarmery will secure order during the Pope's visit to Bulgaria. 330 elite gendarmery officers, armed to teeth, will assist the police during all events connected with the visit of the Holy Father and NATO assembly in Sofia. The officers will wear bullet-proof vests, helmets, plastic shields, clubs, gas masks and automatic guns for tear-gas grenades. Apart from the combat vehicles the gendarmery will have ambulances at their disposal.
All in all 5,978 policemen are mobilized to be on duty from May 24 to May 28, the Interior Ministry reported. In Sofia only they will be 3,665.
from Bulgarian daily STANDART by Stefan Tashev


For the first time the Pope Comes to Bulgaria.
And we, the Bulgarians, are quite overzealous.
We became greater Catholics than the Pope. Repairs, rehearsals, blockades.
The post offices already released a post stamp with the image of the Pope on it. The village teachers compete in weaving icons and writing poems about the Holy Father.
The everyday life of the Sofia and Plovdiv residents will look like an US action film full of masked policemen, blocked streets and combat vehicles. Several top officers became victims of the overzealousness. They were gas-poisoned at the rehearsals for guards. In all this turmoil we forget that temperance is good when it is temperate.
(from Bulgarian daily STANDART)

Invasion of Journalists ...
One day before the landing of the pope 980 Journalists have been accredited in the International Press Center in Sofia. 55 TV-broadcasters of 25 countries including teams of CNN, NBC, Rai Uno and Rai Due, The Washington Post, The Daily Telegraph, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung will report from Bulgaria.
For a small country of only 8 million inhabitants, these numbers proove an unusual record of interest of the world.




2002 January 9

is in preparation
for May 23 - 26 2002

Delegation from Vatican headed by Archbishop LEONARDO SANDRI visited Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch MAKSIM.
Archbishop RENATO SANDRI and Mons. RENATO BOKARDO visiting Bulgarian Patriarch  MAKSIM

Preliminary talks were held in Sofia last Nov. 27 by the papal chief of protocol Mons. RENATO BOKARDO and the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop ANTONIO MENINI with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Muslim Community. As a result of a meeting with Bulgarian Patriarch Maksim the General Secretary of the Holy Synod Archimandrite Boris informed that Pope JOHN-PAUL would be welcome to meet the Patriarch and the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Church.
In recent years bulgarian politicians have always pronounced the usual invitations, Pope JOHN PAUL had always responded positively provided a friendly attitude of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church would be granted. Now Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passi declared with special referring to the wish of Prime Minister Zar Simeon that "the new Bulgarian government supports the visit and will make the greatest efforts" to receive the Pope.
The Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop ANTONIO MENINI since many years worked continuously in this direction. Visits to Sofia by Bishop Dr. JOSEF HOMEYER of Hildesheim (Germany) organized by Monsignore Dr. NIKOLAUS WYRWOLL of the Catholic Institute for Eastern Churches in Regensburg favoured a postive atmosphere between the two churches.
As the Bulgarian Orthodox Church sees it the program for this visit should be prepared by a joint commision of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in Bulgaria "working synchronized with the Bulgarian Government to give a good example of the hospitality of the Bulgarian People and the Bulgarian Church.
For the Roman Catholic Church Bulgaria is very much linked to the commemoration of later Pope JOHN XXIII who had witnessed bulgarian orthodoxy during his years as Nuntius in Sofia.
This is also in the center of a movie now prepared in Bulgaria by an italian and US film team.

Specially coming on May 23 to 26 for the occasion of the feast of St.Cyril and Methodi (with St.Benedict together co-patron saints of Europe) the ancient Christian tradition of Bulgarian Orthodoxy as cradle of Eastern, Northern and Southern Slav Christianity will be honored by the Holy Father.
The Head of the Roman Catholic Church may also do a pastoral visit to the few bulgarian catholics, organized since 1994 in 3 dioceses. (1 of byzantine and 2 of western Rite)
Only 1 % of the bulgarian christians are catholics (approx. 90 % of western rite / 10 % of byzanine rite). Recently growing over 2 % are considered protestants (over 20 different registered denominations) but 96 % of the christian believers still belong to Bulgaria´s traditional Orthodox Church. Christians today represent 85 % of the Bulgarians.

of   P A P A L   visit to

Sunday       May 26 2002

8:00 Departure for the city of PLOVDIV

10:00 Arrival in PLOVDIV
In central PLOVDIV square:
Papal Mass with solemn Proclamation of Beatitude of priest-martyrs Kamen Vichev (1893-1952), Pavel Djidjov (1919-1952) and Yosafat Shishkov (1884-1952). The three Assumptionists were shot on November 11, 1952 at 11:30 p.m. inside Sofia´s central prison, along with Bishop Eugene Bossilkov of Nicopoli, beatified in 1998.
Sermon of the Pope, Angelus Prayer, Speech of the Pope

13:30 In the episcopal palay near the Roman Cathedral "St. Louis of France" in PLOVDIV: Lunch with the Roman Bishops in Bulgaria and invited guests

17:00 Meeting with the Young Generation in the Roman Cathedral "St. Louis of France" in PLOVDIV
Speech of the Pope

18:30 Farewell at PLOVDIV airport and Departure for ROME

Thursday       May 23 2002

18:00 Arrival at Sofia airport

18:30 Welcome at the square of the Orthodox Patriarchal Cathedral of St.Alexander-Nevski
Speech of the Pope

Friday       May 24 2002

7:30 Private mass in the chapel of the Nuntiate

9:30 Visit to Bulgarian President Georgi PARVANOV

10:30 Patriarchal Cathedral St.Alexander Nevski
Solemn Memorial of Sts. Cyril und Methodij, Apostles of the Slavonic People

11:15 Solemn Deposition of flour wreath at the monument of Sts. Cyril und Methodij,
who have been proclamed patrons of Europe together with St. Benedict by Pope JOHN PAUL II

11:30 Visit to the Bulgarian Patriarch MAKSIM and the Holy SYNOD of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church
Speech of the Pope

13:30 Time together with the Roman Catholic Bishops in Bulgaria in the Apostolic Nuntiate

17:30 Meeting with representatives of the Jewish Community in Bulgaria in the Apostolic Nuntiate

18:15 Meeting with representatives of Bulgarian Culture, Science and Art in the Sofia Palace of Culture
Speech of the Pope

Saturday       May 25 2002

10:30 Arrival near the monastery founded by St. JOHN of RILA
Pilgrimmage to the Reliquiary of St. JOHN of RILA
Talks with the bulgarian orthodox monks and the Representative of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church at the II Vatican Council and today Abbot of the Rila-Monastery Bischof IOAN of Dragovitsa.

11:20 Private talk with the Bulgarian Prime Minister Tsar SIMEON of Saxony-Coburg and Gotha in the reception rooms of the RILA-monastery

12:10 Departure for Sofia

17:30 Meeting with the Supreme Mufti of Bulgaria and representatives of the Islamic Community of Bulgaria
in the Apostolic Nuntiate

18:00 Meeting with representatives of the Evangelic Churches in Bulgaria
in the Apostolic Nuntiate

18:45 Visit of the Roman Cathedral of Latin Rite
"St. Joseph" in Sofia

19:30 Visit of the Roman Cathedral of Byzantine Rite
"Dormition of the Virgin Mary" in Sofia

Last Update:
01.06.2003 13:30 MEST