Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, will visit Bulgaria from May 5 to 7 2019, the Bulgarian government information service said on December 13, citing a statement by the Vatican.
His visit to Bulgaria will include stops in capital city Sofia and in Rakovski, the latter a town where a large percentage of the population are members of Bulgaria’s Roman Catholic minority.
The dates announced mean that Pope Francis will be in Bulgaria on an important day in the country’s calendar, May 6, a public holiday celebrated as St George’s Day and as the Day of the Armed Forces.
Pope Francis will visit the Republic of Macedonia’s capital Skopje on May 7, the Vatican said.
Further details of his travel programme would be announced later, the statement said.
In May 2018, after Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov was received in audience by Pope Francis, it emerged that the Vatican was prepared to consider a visit by the Pope to Bulgaria, Romania and perhaps a country from the Western Balkans.
A visit by the Pope to Bulgaria was discussed between head of state President Roumen Radev and the Apostolic Nuncio to Bulgaria, Archbishop Anselmo Guido Pecorari.
The only previous visit by a serving head of the Roman Catholic Church to Bulgaria was in 2002, when Pope John Paul II visited.
The majority of Bulgarians declare themselves to be Orthodox Christians, with Roman Catholics constituting a small minority among the country’s Christians, similar in number to Protestants in Bulgaria.