Plovdiv : Formation Session for Priests


On 13 to 15 February, our community was host to the participants in a formation session for the priests of the three Catholic dioceses of our country.

This session was organized by Caritas Bulgaria in collaboration with Caritas Italy. Caritas is an international organization that presents itself in the following manner on its Internet site:

“Caritas International is a confederation of 162 Catholic organizations for help, development, and social service. Its goal is to build a better world with a special focus on the poor and oppressed in more than 200 countries and territories.

Caritas pursues its work without distinction of religion, race, sex, or ethnicity and counts as one of the largest humanitarian resources in the world…
Caritas’ approach is based on the social teaching of the Church with an accent on the dignity of the human person.
Caritas’ work with the poor strives to manifest God’s love for all of creation. It has the socio-pastoral orientation of the Church and will continue to deploy all its efforts to promote the social mission of the Church and help the Church understand the specific role that Caritas is to play,”

In Bulgaria, Caritas is a very active organization involved in many aid and solidarity projects in collaboration with the local Church.
The goals of this formation session that took place in our Assumptionist community was to reflect on the social doctrine of the Church in order to help priests become formators and develop socio-pastoral activities in their parishes.

On this level, the stakes are very important concerning a reciprocal collaboration and enrichment among the Churches since there is almost no social doctrine in the Orthodox Church.
Some ten priests took part and on the first day, Bishop Petko CHRISTOV, bishop of the Latin rite diocese of North Bulgaria, was present. Dom Giovanni Perini, Italian biblical scholar, who works with Caritas Italy, led the meeting. Almost all of the proceedings were held in Italian since almost all of the priests studied in Italy, although a bit of French and English were used.
The work proposed to us was to reflect on the identity of the human person taking into consideration historical, political and social events that marked the development of the Western civilization during the last century.
After events like the extermination of Jews, destructions and wars provoked by totalitarian regimes, is it possible to maintain the same idea of man that we formerly had? What idea of development and connection with material goods should we promote?
The social and economic models of recent and present history created an unbalanced world with situations of injustice and discrimination that are no longer tenable.

Other models have to be sought through a new reflection concerning man and his relationship to material goods.
This starting point led us through an interesting journey in philosophy, psychology, and theology to try to better define our Christian identity and life in the present world.
Pope Benedict XVI never misses an occasion to warn us against secularism and relativism in our society. What attitude should we adopt in the heart of our societies that tend to exclude God or relativize Christian values?
According to our speaker, the official Church has not yet totally gone beyond the Galilee matter, that is to say, an attitude of lack of trust concerning the problems presented through scientific evolution that opens us to new ethical reflections.
What is the correct position to take concerning a secularized society?

Is it a danger for the Christian community? Oftentimes the Church limits itself to condemning it, but are we able to define our Christian identity by opposition to others?

Is it possible to lose one’s faith because of an external factor or shouldn’t the reflection rather develop itself inside the Church and be centered on its capacity to witness to Christ?

Does not the attitude of opposition become one of the elements that contribute to develop secularism and remove people from the Church?
These questions stimulated us during the whole session and became the occasion to return to the beginnings of the Christian experience.
We looked at St. Paul’s missionary method and his way of founding small churches that were like yeast in a reality that remained foreign to the Christian message.
Our speaker invited us to notice that in certain situations the apostle Paul was invited to announce the ‘Good News’ where the Lord already had had people ready to receive it (Acts 18:10: ‘I have so many people on my side in this city.”) This remark permitted us to reflect on our missionary activity. God goes before us to the place where He calls us to witness.

The missionary does not have the task to give rise to faith, but to bring it to the fore, and make man become conscious of his vocation.
A formation session by “Caritas” that would not take into account the Pope’s encyclical: “Deus caritas est” would be inconceivable today.

That is why we decided to consecrate our next session to reading and reflecting on the encyclical, especially Part Two: “Caritas. The exercise of love on the part of the Church as a “Community of love.” ‘
St. Augustine with his affirmation “ You see the Trinity when you see charity”, could help us understand that the exercise of charity is the expression of triune love. ~