Pope arrives in Bulgaria and asks the country to be generous with emigrants

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Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, greeted the pope at the base of the ladder at the Sofia airport.

Four children dressed in traditional costumes gave him bouquets of flowers as a sign of welcome.

There at the airport, in one of the salons, the pope held his first official meeting with the prime minister and received a pleasant surprise.

'Again, I give you my welcome greeting.'
'Thank you very much.'
'Thank you very much for keeping your word to visit Bulgaria.'

After the meeting, during the exchange of gifts, the prime minister handed him some roses that represent Bulgaria's prayer for peace in the world.

Then, he gave a surprise to the pope.

'This is the yogurt that your grandmother gave you.'
'Do you know my story?'
'You told me.'

It is the yogurt that Francis' grandmother used to prepare for him when he was little. The pope liked the surprise and asked his collaborators to take the sweet treat to his residence.

The official welcome ceremony was a few minutes later at the Presidential Palace, where he was received with full military honors.

Then, the pope met with President Rumen Radev in one of the palace salons.

'Your visit to our country and to North Macedonia is proof that in the struggle to build a more humane world small and poor countries don't exist.'

After the meeting, the pope and the president spoke before the country's authorities and ambassadors.

President of Bulgaria

'Your visit testifies to your affection for the Bulgarian people and your confidence in Bulgaria to build a more peaceful, just and humane world. Welcome to Bulgaria, Your Holiness.'

The pope recalled demographics of Bulgaria. Seventy-six percent are Orthodox, 10 percent are Muslims and only 1 percent are Catholics.

“Here diversity, combined with respect for distinctive identities, is viewed as an opportunity, a source of enrichment, and not as a source of conflict.”

The pope asked them to follow the example of their patron saints, Cyril and Methodius. They sought ways to construct peaceful friendship among peoples.

He spoke about the migrant situation, perhaps thinking about the 167-mile border barrier that Bulgaria built on the border with Turkey.

“To all Bulgarians, who are familiar with the drama of emigration, I respectfully suggest that you not close your eyes, your hearts or your hands – in accordance with your best tradition – to those who knock at your door.”

The speech was received with applause. Then the president accompanied the pope to the small Bulgarian popemobile, which transported the pope from the premises.

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