Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
The first spontaneous sentiment that wells up in my heart as I accept your
greeting is cordial gratitude for the affection which your Communities
have expressed through you to the Successor of Peter, renewing the
attestation of their faithful attachment to the depositum received from
In these days, the expressions of communion that each one of you has
renewed on behalf of the clergy, Religious and faithful for whom you are
responsible are a comfort to me.
Aware as I am of the ministry I am called to carry out at the service of
ecclesial communion, I ask you to convey my constant concern to them for
all believers in Christ.
From the conversations I have had with each one of you, I feel convinced
that the Catholic Church in Bulgaria is alive and eager to offer its
enthusiastic witness to Christ in the society in which it lives.
I encourage you to persevere on this path despite the limited forces at
your disposal, seeking to spread the Gospel of hope and love: the Lord can
always supplement any possible gaps and the meagre means you have
Rather than efficient organization, what counts is steadfast faith in
Christ, for he also guides, governs and sanctifies his Church through your
In his inscrutable designs, God has set you to exercise your ecclesial
service side by side with our brothers and sisters of the Bulgarian
Orthodox Church. I hope that the good relations that exist will continue
to develop for the benefit of the proclamation of the Gospel of the Son of
God, the beginning and end of every Christian action.
In this regard, I ask you, venerable Brothers, to convey my cordial
greeting to Patriarch Maxim, First Hierarch of the Orthodox Church of
Bulgaria. Please express to him my best wishes for his health and for the
happy resumption of his ministry. I still cherish lively memories of the
respectful and brotherly welcome he gave to my beloved Predecessor, Pope
John Paul II, during the Pastoral Visit he made to your Country.
It is necessary to continue on the journey on which you have set out,
intensifying your prayers to hasten the time when we will be able to take
part in one Mass to eat the one Bread of salvation.
I know well that an intense dialogue is taking place with the civil
Authorities on topics of common interest. I am glad about it because
through everyone's commitment, it will be possible to identify the
problems to be faced together and the ways to take, according to the
practical opportunities for the best possible good of all the Bulgarian
People, who rightly feel they belong to the great family of the European
As it consists of various cultural and religious elements, Bulgaria can
become an example of wise integration, collaboration and peaceful
coexistence. And the Catholic Community, although a minority in the
context of the Country, can carry out the task of generously witnessing to
the universal charity of Christ.
After the sorrowful period of Communist oppression, the Catholics who
persevered with lively fidelity in their attachment to Christ now feel the
urgent need to consolidate their own faith and to spread the Gospel in all
social milieus, especially where there is the most glaring need for
I am thinking, for example, of the considerable drop in the birth rate,
the high percentage of abortions, the frailty of so many families and the
problem of emigration. I am pleased to know that the Catholic Church in
Bulgaria is deeply involved in the area of social assistance, so as to
meet the needs of the numerous poor.
I encourage you, venerable Brothers to continue on this path of service to
the Bulgarian People, who are dear to me.
Do not be afraid also to suggest to the young generations the ideal of
total consecration to Christ, to contribute increasingly to the spread of
the Kingdom of God.
Persevere, likewise, with the help of other Churches and Catholic
organizations, in your efforts to equip your Communities with the
structures you deem useful for pastoral activities and the exercise of
Christian worship. In this regard, I have learned with special pleasure
that the reconstruction of the Latin Cathedral Church of Sofia, dedicated
to St Joseph, is nearing completion.
Venerable Brothers, trusting in your prayerful remembrance to the Lord, I
assure you in turn of my special prayers to the One who is the true Spouse
of the Church which he loves, protects and nourishes: Jesus Our Lord, the
one Son of the Living God.
With these sentiments, I very warmly impart my Blessing to you, to your
priests, to your men and women religious and to all the people whom God
has entrusted to your care.