Francis noted that present-day Bulgaria is one of the countries evangelized by the “two holy brothers,” whom St. Pope John Paul II declared patrons of Europe alongside St. Benedict.
In Bulgaria, the pope said he was guided by the example of his predecessor, St. Pope John XXIII, who was apostolic delegate in the country for nearly 10 years as an archbishop.
“Animated by his example of benevolence and pastoral charity, I met that people, called to act as a bridge between Central, Eastern and Southern Europe,” he said. “With the motto ‘Pacem in terris’ I invited everyone to walk on the path of fraternity.”
In Bulgaria, Francis met with Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neophyte and with other patriarchs of the Holy Synod.
“As Christians, our vocation and mission is to be a sign and instrument of unity,” he emphasized. “And we can be, with the help of the Holy Spirit, putting what unites us before what has divided us or still divides us.”
Pope Francis also said two Masses in Bulgaria, and he said he is thankful for the “faith and love” he was shown by the small Catholic community in that country.
In North Macedonia, he was most struck by his meeting with the poor and with some Missionaries of Charity at the Mother Teresa Memorial House in Skopje.
The tenderness of the sisters touched him in a particular way, he said, adding that it was a “tenderness which comes from prayer, from adoration.”
He said he saw the sisters be like mothers toward everyone, and that their charity is joyful, not bitter.
Speaking about St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata, who was born and raised in Skopje, Francis said, “in this woman, petite but full of strength thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit in her, we see the image of the Church in that country and in other peripheries of the world: a small community that, with the grace of Christ, becomes a welcoming home where many find refreshment for their life.”
In Skopje, the pope listened to testimonies from young people and from priests and consecrated, with whom he said there can be the temptation to question if one’s small efforts make any difference in the face of the problems of the world and Church.
“I reminded them that a bit of yeast can make all the dough grow, and a little bit of perfume, pure and concentrated, smells good around the whole atmosphere,” he said.
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He also praised North Macedonia’s welcome of migrants, particularly in 2015 and 2016, during the European migration crisis. Their welcoming hearts are “a great thing about this people,” he said.
“To his inexhaustible Providence we all entrust together the present and the future of the peoples I visited on this journey,” he concluded. “And I invite you to pray to Our Lady to bless these countries, Bulgaria and North Macedonia.”