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5/23/2009 11:54 AM
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The Holy Father today received the Presidents of Bulgaria and Macedonia in separate audiences Friday, May 22, at the Vatican. They are both in Rome to attend the annual manifestation Saturday in honor of St. Cyril who is buried in the Church of San Clemente in Rome.

Cyril and Methodius were Byzantine Greeks from Thessalonia who became Christian missionaries to the Slavic peoples in the 9th century. Cyril died in Rome in 869,and his older brother Methodius lived another 16 years.during which he continued their mission in Slavic lands, dying in Moravia in 1885. They were credited with devising the alphabet that became the basis for the Cyrillic alphabet used in all the Slavic countries including Russia.

They are venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Churches as 'Equals to the Apostles', and in 1980, Pope John Paul II named them Co-Patrons of Europe along with St. Benedict of Nursia. Cyril is the patron saint of Bulgaria, while Macedonia has observed an annual manifestation for St Cyril in Rome for the past 40 years.

Both Presidents were accompanied by their top Orthodox prelates.


Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address to President Georgi Parvanov of Bulgaria, delivered in French:

Mr. President,
Ladies and gentlemen members of the government delegation,
Venerated representatives of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church,

I am particularly pleased to extend to each of you my most heartfelt greetings at this encounter which takes place at the annual celebration in honor of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Ont his joyous occasion, I wish to renew mys sentiments of friendship for teh beloved Bulgarian people whose spiritual roots - as your visit today gives witness - go back to the preaching of the Saints who are co-Patrons of Europe.

I greet each of you with deference and I extend t4his to the Bulgarian authorities and all Bulgarians, as well as to the pastors and the faithful of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in your beloved country.

This meeting allows us to think once again of the evangelical and social work realized by those two distinguished witnesses to the Gospel, Saints Cyril and Methodius.

Their spiritual heritage has stamped the Slavic peoples. Their example has sustained the witness and fidelity of numberless Christians who, through the centuries, consecrated their existence to spreading the message of salvation while working to build a just and fraternal society.

May their spiritual witness remain alive in your nation so that Bulgaria, availing of this source of light and hope, may contribute effectively to constructing a Europe that stays faithful to its Christian roots.

The values of solidarity and justice, of freedom and peace, reaffirmed constantly today, find even greater force and solidity in the eternal teachings of Christ, translated in the lives of his disciples in all eras.

These are the sentiments which I wish to manifest to each of you, assuring you of my esteem and spiritual closeness. Be sure that the Holy See continues to follow with sympathy the course of your nation and the involvement of all those who work for its good.

From my heart, I invoke on each of you the abundance of divine bklessings.


A Macedonian news agency reported that President Gjeorge Ivanov invited the Pontiff to pay a visit to Macedonia in 2010 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa in her hometown of Skopje [she was Albanian by nationality but was born in Macedonia].

Here is the text of the Pope's greeting to President Ivanov, delivered in English:

Mr President.
Honourable Members of the Delegation,
Venerable Brothers of the Orthodox Church and of the Catholic Church!

I am happy to welcome you again this year on the liturgical memorial of Saints Cyril and Methodius. I am pleased that during your visit to pay homage to the Co-Patrons of Europe you have expressed the desire to meet with me, an occurrence that has already become a tradition.

I thank you for this courteous gesture and I extend to each one of you my heart-felt welcome and my appreciation for the sentiments that you bring to this gathering.

I express a special welcome to the authorities and to all the population of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. I also send particular greetings to the faithful and to those who have pastoral responsibilities in your country.

I avail myself of the occasion to express the sentiments of esteem and friendship that unite the Holy See to the beloved Macedonian people.

The annual celebration of the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius, teachers of the faith and apostles of the Slavonic peoples, invites all of us who are united by the one faith in Jesus Christ, to contemplate their heroic evangelical witness.

At the same time we are challenged to conserve the patrimony of ideals and values that they have transmitted by word and deed. In fact this is the most precious contribution that Christians can offer to the construction of a Europe of the third millennium, which aspires to a future of progress, justice and peace for all.

Your beloved homeland, marked by the influence of these two great saints, seeks to become more and more a place of peaceful encounter and dialogue between the country’s many social and religious spheres.

My hope, which I renew today with all my heart, is that you may continue to progress on this path. As I invoke divine protection upon the authorities of your nation, to whom I renew the closeness of the Apostolic See, I wish to assure you of my personal esteem and friendship.

Once again I extend my warm good wishes to each one of you on this Feast-day and offer fervent prayers to the Lord both for you who are present here today and for all the Macedonian people.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/27/2009 8:17 AM]
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