On Pope Francis’ first ever visit to Bulgaria that took place this weekend, he focused on appealing for care for migrants, thing that goes against both the country’s government and its dominant orthodox church.
Pope Francis asked Bulgarians to open their hearts and homes to migrants saying that a country like Bulgaria which is losing so much of its population to emigration should best understand the forces that drive people to seek better lives elsewhere: “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.”
Bulgaria has been more than unwelcoming to migrants, they have actually built a fence along their border with Turkey, and in 2016 they patrolled the border in order to prevent an influx of asylum seekers. Moreover, last year, the country’s government declined to join a United Nations global pact on migration, a nonbinding agreement strongly supported by the pope that was aimed at regulating the treatment of migrants worldwide.
The visit of the pope comes with the message of opening up to migrants, as well as bettering relations with the Orthodox Church, the pope spoke of reconciliation between Rome and the Orthodox church, whose schism dates back nearly 1,000 years, but there was no mistaking the gap between them.
After the pontiff’s visit to Bulgaria, he is scheduled to visit North Macedonia next, marking the first visit by a pope to the country just months after the country ended its decades-long dispute with Greece.