On Second Day of Apostolic Journey to Bulgaria, Pope Francis Pays Private Visit to Refugee Centre, Administers First Communions


On Second Day of Apostolic Journey to Bulgaria,
Pope Francis Pays Private Visit to Refugee Centre,
Administers First Communions

Sofia, May 6 (BTA) - In the early morning of Monday (the second day of his apostolic journey to Bulgaria, May 5-7), Pope Francis paid a private visit to the Vrazhdebna Refugee Centre in Sofia and blessed the residents.

The Holy Father was greeted with songs and a festive programme by some 50 children and their parents from Syria and Iraq who stay at the Centre.

The pontiff thanked the refugees for the hospitality. "There is the pain of leaving your homeland and trying to integrate in another country ... There is always hope. Today the world of migrants and refugees is something of a cross, a cross for humanity to bear, and the cross is many people who suffer... I wish the best to you and to your fellow citizens whom you left in your homeland. God bless you, and pray for me," Francis said in a brief address to the refugees in Vrazhdebna.

Later in the day, thousands welcomed the Pope in the south-central town of Rakovski (home to Bulgaria's largest Catholic community), where he celebrated Holy Mass and administered First Communions to 242 children from Catholic parishes countrywide at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in the General Nikolaevo Quarter. The multitude enthusiastically cheered as the popemobile proceeded to the church, and the guest in turn greeted and blessed the well wishers.

Some 750 people: the confirmants and their parents, representatives of the parishes and the invitees of the Apostolic Nunciature, were presented at the Mass. The rest were able to follow the proceedings on two huge video walls in the town square.

"Dear boys and girls, you have come here from every corner of this 'Land of Roses' to take part in a wonderful celebration. I am sure you will never forget this day: your first encounter with Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist," the Holy Father said in his homily. "Some miracles can only take place if we have a heart like yours: a heart capable of sharing, dreaming, feeling gratitude, trusting and respecting other people," he added.

At the end of the Holy Mass, the Pope called on the confirmants to say together the Lord's Prayer, asking powerholders to work for the greater good.

Bishop Georgi Yovchev, Apostolic Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Sofia and Plovdiv, thanked His Holiness once again for being with the children on such an important day for them. The children sent off the Pope, chanting "We Love You" and "Go In Peace". The route which the distinguished guest's motorcade took from the church was covered with white rose petals.

Also on Monday, Pope Francis met with the Bulgarian Catholic community in Rakovski's Church of St Michael the Archangel. Attending were over 750 believers from all parishes in the country.

"I would like to thank you for helping me to see better and to understand a little more fully why this land was so dear and important to Saint John XXIII," the Pope said in his address to the Catholic community. "Here the Lord was preparing what would be an important step in our ecclesial journey. Here he developed strong friendships with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, and this led him on a path that would help foster the longed-for, yet ever fragile sense of fraternity between individuals and communities," he added.

"It is good to know that you can count on a great living history, but it is even more beautiful to realize that you are being asked to write its next chapter. Never tire of being a Church that continues to give birth, amid the contradictions, sorrows and poverty, to the sons and daughters that this land needs today, at the start of this 21st century. Always listen with one ear to the Gospel and the other to the heart of your people," the Pope told the Catholic community in Bulgaria.


Source: Sofia