« 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
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
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
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.