Pope to visit Bulgaria and Macedonia

The logo for the Pope's visit to Bulgaria and Macedonia

Pope Francis is set to visit Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in May.

An announcement made Thursday by the Holy See Press Office said that the Holy Father had accepted the invitation of the civil authorities and the Catholic Church in the two nations.

The Pope will visit the cities of Sofia and Rakovski during the visit to Bulgaria, which will take place on 5-7 May; and on 7 May will travel to the city of Skopje in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

In the meantime, Christians in the United Arab Emirates are looking forward to Pope Francis’ visit in February, and many are hoping to participate in the Mass that he will celebrate.

Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Saudi Arabia, said in an interview with Vatican News that Christians in the UAE have “greeted the decision” of the Pope’s visit “with enthusiasm”. It is a “great joy” even for him, although it will also be a “logistical challenge”.

Bishop Hinder said the main reason for the Pope’s upcoming Apostolic Journey to the UAE is “the inter-faith event to which he has been invited by our Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. It is an event in which many, many Muslim representatives from different countries will participate”, he continued.

Many Christians in the UAE expect to participate in the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis on Tuesday, 5 February. The Bishop said he does not know if there is a site large enough in the UAE to accommodate everyone who wants to go to the Pope’s Mass. “Many are also coming from other countries belonging to the Vicariate and the Arab Peninsula”, he said. “There is a big interest in it in India, but we will have to respect the limits which are given by the circumstances”.

Joy is the word Bishop Hinder repeated to describe how both he and the faithful feel regarding the Pope’s visit. But he also acknowledged that it presents a logistical challenge that “we have to master”. He hopes that these challenges will be overcome with the collaboration of the Catholic community in the UAE and the government.