The Black Hands of Pokrovan
Pokrovan is a small village (200-300 inhabitants) near the Greek border.
From Plovdiv it takes
about three and a half hours to get there by car. Itís really the only
convenient way to get there, because the bus stops at the neighboring town
of Ivailovgrad, some 8 kilometers away (5 miles).
The small church, where
Mass is still celebrated in the Byzantine Rite, having just been rebuilt
to replace the older one destroyed by the Turks, conserves the memory of
this visit thanks to a commemorative plaque located on the wall just next
to the main door.
After the ďeventsĒ of 1989 (fall of Communism), with the help of two Eucharistine Sisters who had arrived before him, he actively began a program of catechesis for children and adolescents, something that was forbidden by the regime before that time.
Since it was located near the border, one needed to obtain special permission to go there during the Communist period. Even to this day one can see along the road the control posts where the police forbade free entry to and exit from the areas adjacent to the village.
If you didnít know the
way, it was not easy to get directions from road signs....because there
werenít any! At the time of the previous regime it was one more way to
exercise control and to restrict freedom.
When he returned to Bulgaria at the age of 75, after the change in regimes, Bishop Cristo, the ordinary of our diocese, entrusted the parish of Pokrovan to him. At the end of December, 2005, as a result of a bad fall, he had to end his ministry.
Now it is the community
here in Plovdiv that has taken over by assuring Mass once a month and on
Nevertheless, itís not
so much the faces that strike me; itís the hands.
The people receive in their hands this bread given by the priest and then kiss his hand. So it is that now my hands have encountered those of the people of Pokrovan several times. Sixty people or so, mostly elderly, line up to receive the bread as they kiss my hands.
They do it by taking my hand in their hands. Large hands, black, hardened by work meet my hands, white, well kept, which have never known the hard work of the fields. I always have a strange feeling.
I also have the sense that the hands of these people are Godís hands which take mine and kiss them. Whatís surprising is that this isnít just an impression; itís the truth.
Truly God is touching
me and caring for me concretely.