.- On Thursday Pope Benedict XVI met with officials of Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and encouraged both countries to reaffirm their Christian identity as the backbone of their nations and cultures.
The pontiff met with the president of the Bulgarian parliament, Georgi Pirinski, and immediately afterwards with the president of the parliament of Macedonia, Liubisha Georgieyski, both of whom headed up the delegations of their countries that were visiting Rome for the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius.
Speaking to the Bulgarian delegation, the Pope said their visit was an expression of the nation’s desire to “reaffirm its European tradition deeply impregnated with gospel values. Certainly, given its origin, the history of Bulgaria precedes Christian revelation. But without a doubt, in the Gospel the nation found a source of values, capable of strengthening the culture, the identity and the genius that typifies this people.”
The Pontiff later mentioned the “sad and harsh Communist domination,” but he emphasized that Bulgaria is heading towards “full integration with the other European nations.”
The Pope concluded to express his hope that "Bulgaria and its people will conserve and promote those Christian virtues that descend from the teachings of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, and are still valid and necessary today."
Later during the audience with the president of the Macedonian parliament, the Holy Father expressed his desire that not only "the spiritual patrimony you have inherited be shared, but also that your particular identity be granted its due consideration by the other European peoples who are close to you in terms of tradition and culture."
“My cordial desire is that you may be able to always conserve faithfully the patrimony of your two protector saints, so that your voice, both in the civil sphere as well as the religious sphere, will be heard and be given just consideration,” concluded the Pope.