The celebration of Sts. Cyril and Methodious, Greek missionary brothers who evangelized the Slavs, brought the presidents of Bulgaria and Macedonia to Rome on Friday. Pope Benedict received both of the presidents separately and encouraged them to take inspiration for building a peaceful, Christian Europe.
The first head of state to be received was Georgi Parvanov, president of the Republic of Bulgaria, followed by Gjeorge Ivanov, president of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Each of the men was accompanied by his wife and a delegation.
In his address to the Bulgarian delegation, the Pope highlighted how the spiritual heritage of these two saints, co-patrons of Europe, "has marked the lives of the Slavic peoples; their example has supported the witness and faithfulness of countless Christians who, over the centuries, consecrated their lives to spreading the message of salvation, while at the same time working for the construction of a more just and united society."
"May their spiritual witness abide in your nation," he added, "so that Bulgaria, thanks also to this source of light and hope, may make an effective contribution to building a Europe faithful to its Christian roots. And may the values of solidarity and justice, of freedom and peace ... find even greater force and solidity in Christ's eternal teaching, as translated into the lives of His disciples in all times."
Then, switching from French to English, the Pope spoke to group from Macedonia about how the memory of Sts. Cyril and Methodius "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."
"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," the Pope concluded.