Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

Ecumenism of Martyrs and Saints

by Pope Saint John Paul II


Pope John Paul II's address on May 23, 1995 to an official delegation from Bulgaria.

Publisher & Date

Vatican, May 23, 1995

To official delegation from Bulgaria visiting Rome to celebrate feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

Mr. Minister,

Distinguished Gentlemen,

Dear Brothers,

1. I offer you my most cordial welcome as members of the official delegation of Bulgaria. Every year, in accordance with a now well-established custom of great spiritual and ecumenical value, you come to Rome to celebrate with solemnity the feast of the evangelizers of the Slav peoples, Sts. Cyril and Methodius. The close spiritual ties which these peoples have preserved with the two brothers from Thessalonica, whom I proclaimed co-patrons of Europe together with St. Benedict, inspire the Church and the Bulgarian nation to join in this annual pilgrimage which brings its representatives to Rome and shows how the message of Cyril and Methodius, deeply rooted in the conscience of the Slav nations, serves as an exemplary model for ecclesial unity and civil understanding.

I wrote recently that the communio Sanctorum speaks more effectively to people than the factors that divide (cf. Apostolic Letter, Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 37). On the threshold of the third millennium, we are encouraged to read the signs of the times more attentively. We stand before the ecumenism of the martyrs and saints, the witness, that is, of so many sons and daughters of the various Churches and ecclesial communities whose example is already the common heritage of all Christians. Cyril and Methodius, therefore, certainly deserve a rereading in the perspective of the new millennium. They are saints of the period of our common history. Their life and their work belong to the period prior to the schism between the Christian East and West. The situations of conflict with their growing burden of potential ambiguity and painful complexity already made it possible to foresee the gap looming between the Christian East and West. Cyril and Methodius paid a very high price for having tenaciously resolved to serve the good of the Slav peoples and the unity of the universal Church to the very end (cf. Encyclical Epistle Slavorum Apostoli, n. 10).

2. On the threshold of the third millennium, the example of the saintly brothers of Thessalonica must inspire ever deeper goals of mutual understanding and brotherhood, in believers and in people of goodwill. Cyril and Methodius succeeded in translating the Gospel truths into a new language and thus contributed, as the distinguished Minister for Culture has just recalled, to the development of the culture of the Slav peoples and of the whole world.

May this heritage of holiness established by Cyril and Methodius, which links the Christian East and West, imbue each one of us with the most ardent desire for unity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Their example urges us to use every avenue to deepen relationships, collaboration, trust, theological dialogue and the dialogue of charity. Our testimony of unity to the world cannot but foster civil unity, contributing to building a more human, more just and more harmonious society.

Through you I extend my greetings to the Bulgarian people and to your authorities, and my most fervent wishes for prosperity and peace. I also ask you to convey my sentiments of fraternal charity to the Patriarch of Bulgaria, His Beatitude Maxime, and the ancient and noble Church of Sofia.

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