14 June 2012, 10:00 h, Sheraton Hotel, Sofia
On 14 June 2012, The Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, with the support of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, organized a round table on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Pope John Paul II’s visit to Bulgaria, entitled “John Paul II: The Man Who Changed the World”.
The memorial event was opened by Mr. Maxim Minchev, who defined the visit of Pope John Paul II as one of the most important and long anticipated events in Bulgaria. After that, the former director of the International Center gave the floor to the Papal Nuncio – Monsignor Bolonek.
Mons. Bolonek read a welcome letter on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, who called on Bulgarians to a greater love for the church.
Maxim Minchev consider the visit as a recognition of the enormous contribution of Bulgaria to the promotion of Christian culture and faith, in its role as one of the oldest Christian countries. In his speech about the preparation of the event, he stressed the key role of The Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, which made the first official invitation for a visit to Bulgaria during its delegation’s visit to the Holy See in 1994. In the beginning of the 21st century, the President of ACB Dr. Solomon Passy was part of the organizing committee for the visit of Pope John Paul II.
Mr. Passy said that he considered the visit in the context of creating a new image of Bulgaria for the EU and NATO during this period. He stressed the crucial role of the Holy Father in the solving of the issue surrounding the Bulgarian medics in Libya, as well as his categorical denial of the rumors about the “Bulgarian connection” in the assassination attempt against him. Two Catholic churches were built (in Sofia and Rome) as a result of his visit – an important gesture of friendship between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church after an 11-century-old schism. The former Foreign Minister expressed his hope that the proposal for a Bulgarian cardinal in Rome would also be approved shortly.
Due to the importance of the media coverage of the visit, the floor was given to Mrs. Venelina Gocheva, editor-in-chief of 24 Hours newspaper. She described the visit as a national uplift and noted the extensive help of the Apostolic nuntciature for the realization of the event. She also congratulated ACB’s efforts to do what the Bulgarian state could not and gave her support for all future projects of Mr. Passy.
After that, Monsignor Bolonek shared his memories of his meetings with Pope John Paul II. He defined the late Pope as a lively and sociable person, who preferred to listen, rather than to talk, and recalled his understanding of the church as a ship floating on the waves of the modern world.
Given the enormous help of the Bulgarian Catholic Church in organizing the visit Mons. Proykov was given the floor as the only Bulgarian ordained by the Pope. He presented the visit as a sign of the warm feelings of Pope John Paul II to all Slavic people and his recognition of the Catholic Church in Bulgaria. He also shared a long-standing dream of the Pope to follow Pope John XXI’s footsteps.
The round table continued with an interesting historical note by Mr. Kiril Kartaloff, which answered the question why Pope John Paul II was considered as a man who changed his time. He noted the crucial role of the cleric to resolve the Falklands war between Argentina and England. Because of the awakened nationalism in both countries and their important strategic location, the mediation of any qualified individual and organization was rejected. As a result of the Pope’s two consecutive visits, a peace was reached. What was more, the Pope’s visit to the United Kingdom could be treated as an end of the mistrust between the two churches. And in Argentina, he inspired and gave courage to a nation on the verge of a military defeat.
The Apostolic Pope’s pilgrimage turned religion into a major force in the international relations. That was the conclusion of Mr. Maxim Minchev, who later gave the floor to Prof. Vladimir Gradev.
Our former ambassador to the Holy See emphasized Pope John Paul’s ability to capture the spirit of his time, giving the example of faith and hope that he gave to the East European countries in their struggle for a new political structure. He interpreted his visit as a desire for dialogue with the Orthodox Church, stressing his sincere love and deep humanity to all people. Dr. Gradev noted the important role played by Mr. Solomon Passy for the organization of a personal audience by Simeon II with the Pope during his visit to the Rila Monastery and supported Solomon Passy’s idea for the signing of a legal agreement with the Vatican.