Speaking to delegations from Eastern European countries in Rome in memory of the evangelizing saints of the Slavic peoples, the Holy Father observed the deep-rooted Christian tradition in the area. All Christians, he said, have the duty to maintain the link between the Word of God and their cultural identity.
The Holy Father met with civil and religious leaders from the ex-Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria separately on Saturday morning to mark the liturgical memory of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Heads of state and Church, top ministers and cultural representatives formed the countries' delegations.
Remembering how the saintly brothers left a lasting imprint of Christianity “in the soul” of Bulgarians, the Holy Father noted that the population is still “anchored to those evangelical values, that always strengthen the identity and enrich the culture of a nation.”
He explained that the Gospel never serves to weaken what is "authentic" in a cultural tradition, but, rather, through the light of faith, "gives man the capacity to recognize the true good and helps him to realize it in his own life and in the social context."
As Bulgarians are called to witness to the Christian roots given to them by Sts. Cyril and Methodius, said Pope Benedict XVI, so too all Christians "have the duty to conserve and consolidate the intrinsic bond that exists between the Gospel and our respective cultural identities."
To the delegation from the former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, the Holy Father spoke of the abundant fruits of the evangelizing saints. Noting the difficulties in the lives of these two brothers and their continued faith and love for God, the Pope said that for modern Christians, "so much more the Spirit can come to help our weakness, indicating to us new way for our actions."
Sts. Cyril and Methodius, who were brothers, brought the Gospel from Greece to the Slavic peoples in the 9th century and are especially remembered for having evangelized in the Slavonic tongue using an alphabet they creating for the language. They were proclaimed the co-patrons of Europe by Pope John Paul II in 1980.
A pilgrimage to visit and venerate the remains of St. Cyril in the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome takes place every year at this time.