Pope Francis: They are two totally diverse nations. Bulgaria is a nation of a tradition from centuries ago. Macedonia, on the other hand, has a tradition from centuries, but not as a country: as a people, that ultimately rose to form as a nation... It is a beautiful fight! For us Christians Macedonia is a symbol of the entrance of Christianity in the East. Christianity entered in the East through you all.. those Macedonians that appeared to Paul in a dream: "come to us, come to us." He was leaving for Asia, it is a mystery that call... And the Macedonian people are proud of this, they do not lose the opportunity to say that Christianity entered Europe through us, through our door, because Paul was called by a Macedonian.
Bulgaria has had to fight so much for its identity as a nation. The mere fact that in the 1800s, I believe 1823, more or less, 200,000 Russian soldiers died to regain independence from the hands of the Turks ... we think of what 200,000 means. So much struggle for independence, so much blood, so much mystique to find consolidation of identity.
Macedonia had the identity and now it has come to consolidate it as a people, with small, big problems, like its name, and this we all know. Both have Christian, Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim communities. The percentage of Orthodox is very strong in both with a small amount of Muslims and even fewer Catholics, in Macedonia more so than Bulgaria. A thing I saw in both nations is the good relationship between the different faiths. In Bulgaria we saw it in the prayer for peace. This is a normal and beautiful thing for Bulgarians, because they have a good relationship, each person has the right to express his own religion and has the right to be respected. This touched me. Then the dialogue with Patriarch Neophyte was a beauty... he is a man of God, a great man of God. In Macedonia I was struck by a phrase the president told me: "Here there is not religious tolerance, there is respect." They have respect. In a world like this respect is missed very much. Respect for human rights, we miss respect for so many things, respect for children, for the elderly, that the mystique of a country would be respect is striking. I do not know if I answered more or less briefly.
Holy Father, the next question will be asked by Peter Nanev from Bulgarian television.
Peter Nanev, BTV: Good evening. Peter Nanev, BTV Bulgaria. [In English] It is more of a personal question, as Your Holiness, you’re like a human being, from where do you find strength in your body, in your spirit in cases when you have to give even more strength for a heavily sick child?
Pope Francis: First of all I would like to tell you that I do not go to the witch... [laughs]. I do not know. I do not know, really. It is a gift from the Lord. When I am in a country, I forget everything, but not because I want to forget it, I forget it, and I am only there. And then this gives me perseverance, I don't know, but [when] I am on the trip I am not tired! Then I am tired! After! But where do I take the strength from? I believe that the Lord gives it to me, there is no explanation. I ask the Lord to be faithful, to serve him in this work of travels, that the trip will not be tourism. I ask. All is his grace. Nothing else comes to me to say. But then I do not do so much work, huh? Thank you.
He will now address a question. We remain in Eastern Europe, Silvije Tomasevic of Croatian press and television, Vecernij List.
Silvije Tomasevic, Vecernij List: The national Orthodox Churches are not always in agreement among them, for example, they have not recognized the Macedonian Church. But when they have to criticise the Catholic Church they are always in unison, for example the Serbian Church does not want Cardinal Stepinac to be canonized. Your comment on this situation?
Pope Francis: In general, the relationships are good, they are good and there is good will. I can tell you sincerely that I have met men of God among the patriarchs. Neophyte is a man of God, and then him that I carry in my heart, a favorite, Ilia II of Georgia is a man of God, that has been good to me, Bartholomew is a man of God, Kirill is a man of God. They are great patriarchs that give witness. You can tell me. But everyone, we have defects. Everyone. But in the patriarchs I have found brothers and some... I do not want to exaggerate, but I would like to say the word 'saints' and this is important.
Then there are historic things between our Churches, some old things, for example today the president was saying to me that the Eastern schism began here in Macedonia.
Now the pope comes for the first time, to mend the schism I do not know, but to say we are brothers, because we cannot adore the Holy Trinity without hands united as brothers. This is not only my conviction, also the patriarchs', everyone.
Then there is a historic world... you are Croatian? It was seeming to me I sensed the aroma of Croatia. The canonization of Stepinac is a historic case. He is a virtuous man for this Church, which has proclaimed him Blessed, you can pray [through his intercession]. But at a certain moment of the canonization process there are unclear points, historic points, and I should sign the canonization, it is my responsibility, I prayed, I reflected, I asked advice, and I saw that I should ask Irenej, a great patriarch, for help. We made a historic commission together and we worked together, and both Irenej and I are interested in the truth. Who is helped by a declaration of sanctity if the truth is not clear? We know that [Stepinac] was a good man, but to make this step I looked for the help of Irenej and they are studying. First of all the commission was set up and gave its opinion. They are studying other sources, deepening some points so that the truth is clear. I am not afraid of the truth, I am not afraid. I am afraid of the judgment of God.
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Gisotti: There is time for another question. Joshua McElwee.
Josh McElwee, National Catholic Reporter: Thank you so much, Holy Father. In Bulgaria you visited an Orthodox community that has continued a long tradition of ordaining women deacons. In a few days you will meet with the International Union of Superiors General*, that three years ago requested a commision for women deacons. Can you tell us something you have learned from the report of the commission on the ministry of women in the early years of the Church? Have you made some decision?
Pope Francis: I did not hear the first part of your question.
McElwee: [repeats a part of the question.]
Pope Francis: The commission was made, it worked for almost two years. They were all different, all toads from different wells, all thinking differently, but they worked together and were in agreement until a certain point. But each of them then has her own view that does not agree with that of the others. And there they stopped as a commission and each is studying [how] to go forward.
For the female diaconate, there is a way to imagine it with a different view from the male diaconate. For example, the formulas of female deacon ordination found until now, according to the commission, are not the same for the ordination of a male deacon and are more similar to what today would be the abbatial blessing of an abbess. This is the answer of some of them. I'm speaking a little from the ear, from memory.