Pope Francis in Bulgaria: Peace is a gift and a task

Pope Francis in Bulgaria May 6 Vatican Media Interreligious meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria May 6, 2019. | Vatican Media.

At an interreligious meeting in Bulgaria Monday, Pope Francis told Orthodox, Muslim, and other religious leaders that peace is both a gift and a task.

"Peace requires and demands that we adopt dialogue as our path, mutual understanding as our code of conduct, and reciprocal understanding as our method and standard," Pope Francis said in Sofia May 6.

A children's choir sang "We are the world" as Pope Francis entered Nezavisimost Square for the "meeting for peace" with five other religious leaders representing the Orthodox, Jewish, Protestant, Muslim, and Armenian Apostolic traditions.

"Peace is both a gift and a task; it must be implored and worked for, received as a blessing and constantly sought as we strive daily to build a culture in which peace is respected as a fundamental right," Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis recited St. Francis' prayer "Make me an instrument of your peace," before delivering his reflection on peace.

The pope called St. Francis "a true peacemaker," who showed "deep respect for the beauty of creation and for all those whom he encountered on his pilgrim way."

"Each of us is called to follow in his footsteps by becoming a peacemaker, an artisan of peace," he said. "With the fire of love, we can melt the icy chill of war and conflict."

The outdoor interreligious meeting included musical performances by Bulgarian singers for a small ticketed audience using umbrellas and ponchos due to the rain.

"Let there be peace on earth: in our families, in our hearts, and above all in those places where so many voices have been silenced by war, stifled by indifference and ignored due to the powerful complicity of interest groups," Francis said.

Nezavisimost Square, also called Independence Square, is surrounded by former Communist party buildings. The red star and other communist symbols were removed from the buildings during Bulgaria's democratization following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989.

The square is also located above the site of the 4th century Council of Serdica, which was convened at the request of Pope Julius I to address the Ayrian heresy.

"For many centuries, the Bulgarians of Sofia belonging to different cultural and religious groups gathered in this place for meetings and discussions. May this symbolic place become a witness to peace," Pope Francis said.

The interreligious peace meeting concluded the pope's second day in Bulgaria. On Tuesday, Pope Francis will travel to North Macedonia. It will be the first papal visit in the history of the recently renamed country.

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