Foundation of the Apostolic Exarchate of Bulgaria

Happy Anniversary !
Thank you.
How many years are you celebrating ?
Eighty !
May God grant you His blessings !
This imaginary dialogue would have been perfectly normal if it dealt with a man and a woman who had the joy of reaching the age of those who are strong (Ps. 90 :10 the length of our years : seventy for some, eighty for those who are strong ) ; but in this case, the wishes are meant for an entire community : the Catholic diocese of the Byzantine rite of Bulgaria.

If one were to call to mind those Christian communities founded at the very beginning of the faith, one could rightly say that our small diocese is one of the last born in the great family of the Church and that its still taking its first steps.

The actual date of its foundation was July 31, 1926, but for practical reasons the official celebration didn't take place until this past Saturday, October 28. It was quite solemn with the presence of the apostolic nuncio, Bishop Giuseppe Leanza, of the bishops of the two Bulgarian dioceses of the Latin rite, Bishops Gheorghi Yovtchev and Petko Hristov, as well as of three bishops of the Eastern rite who came from Hungary, Macedonia, and Serbia.

Bishops at the end of the Holy Mass


The small church of the exarchate couldn't accommodate everyone who wanted to attend the divine liturgy, which, by its solemnity and beauty, prepared our hearts to live this event with joy and gratitude, underlining its mysterious and divine dimension.

In order to understand the history of the birth of our small diocese, one must be aware of the rich and complex history of the Bulgarian people.

One would have to return to the period of Turkish occupation which lasted nearly five centuries, to the dogged defense of this people to safeguard its cultural and religious traditions, and to the desire of many Orthodox Christian communities to celebrate in the Slavic language and to have Bulgarian bishops, while, in fact, having been placed under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Church, they were forced to accept Greek bishops everywhere and to use Greek as the liturgical language.

One would finally have to go back to the passage of a certain party of the Orthodox clergy to the Catholic Church with their faithful, because Rome offered them the possibility to celebrate in the Slavic language and, at the same time, to maintain the Oriental rite.
A bit of human history where God found the way to weave his divine history, thanks as well to Assumption.
One need only look attentively at the photos on display at the occasion of this celebration to realize that there is hardly a photo without a father, a sister, or a brother of the Assumption in it. There one will find Fr. Velik, for a long time pastor of Pokrovan, the two Vitchev brothers (one of whom, Kamen, is counted among our three Bulgarian martyrs), Fr. Hrabar Markov, still young, Fr. Ivan Stanev, Fr. Gorazd Kourtev, and a beautiful photo of the first Oblate Sisters who arrived at Yambol.
In the history of the Catholic diocese of Byzantine rite in Bulgaria, there have been four bishops, including the actual exarchate, Bishop Hristo Proykov.

The third was Bishop Methodi Stratiev, an Assumptionist, who contributed greatly to the survival of this little portion of the Church in the midst of the tragic events which affected it during the Communist era.

To speak of the apostolic exarchate of Bulgaria means, without a doubt, to speak of Assumption. The links between this church and our congregation are so tight that it is impossible to mention one without referring to the other Bishop Hristo Proykov, who was ordained a priest by Bishop Methodi Stratiev, in his homily thank to the Lord abundantly for the presence of the Assumptionists in Bulgaria. And we were still there. on that warm and sunny Saturday.

Oblate Sisters with young people from Plovdiv

 It is a more international presence than in the past : from Romania (Sisters Ana and Eugenia, and Clara O.A.), from the Congo (Sr. Nicole, O.A.), from Italy (Fr. Claudio Sr. Lina), from France (Fr. Daniel), not to mention Fr. Petar from Croatia, who had remained at home to guard the fort .

In the person of the Assumption Family God has continued to take the small Catholic Church of Eastern rite of Bulgaria by the hand.
We celebrate with joy this anniversary, in the hope that this land may once again become fertile as before, when the love and faith of numerous brothers and sisters in the Assumption bore witness to Gods presence.