Address to Bulgarian Delegation on Europe's Patrons

"In Europe's Complex History, Christianity Represents a Central and Defining Element"

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today to Tsetska Tsacheva, chairwoman of the National Assembly of Bulgaria, whom he received in audience together with a Catholic-Orthodox delegation from the country.

The Pope received delegations from both Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to celebrate the feast day -- May 11 in the East and Feb. 14 in the West -- of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the co-patrons of Europe.

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Mrs. President of the Parliament,

Honorable Members of the Government and Distinguished Authorities,

Venerable Brothers of the Orthodox Church and of the Catholic Church,

I wish to address my deferent greeting to the official delegation of Bulgaria -- headed by Mrs. President of the Parliament -- which has come to Rome as customary, in the context of the liturgical feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. This welcome meeting, which is renewed also this year, gives me the opportunity to reaffirm the spiritual and cultural relevance of these two illustrious and notable pioneers of the evangelization of Europe, whose figures are honored both in the East as well as the West. Thanks to their courageous preaching through the streets of the Continent, they fostered a vast spiritual renewal and laid the basis for an authentic promotion of the liberty and unity of Christian Europe. Cyril and Methodius were "living Gospels" and eloquent signs of the Lord's goodness, that is why their witness reached the men of their time more readily.

To European peoples, who are opening these years to new prospects of cooperation, these two great saints remind that its unity will be firmer if it is based on their common Christian roots. In fact, in Europe's complex history, Christianity represents a central and defining element. The Christian faith has molded the culture of the Old Continent, and is indissolubly intertwined in its history, to the point that the latter would not be comprehensible if it did not make reference to the circumstances that earlier characterized the great period of evangelization, and afterward the long centuries in which Christianity took on an ever more relevant role.

Hence, it is important that Europe grow also in the spiritual dimension, in the wake of its best history. The unity of the Continent, which is progressively maturing in consciences and is also being defined in the political aspect, represents a prospect of great hope. Europeans are called to commit themselves to create conditions of a profound cohesion and an effective collaboration between nations. To build the new Europe on solid bases it is not enough to appeal solely to economic interests, but, rather, it is necessary to begin from authentic values, which have their foundation in the universal moral law inscribed in every man's heart.

It is my heartfelt wish that the moral and cultural legacy of Sts. Cyril and Methodius will always nourish in each one of you the desire to appreciate the spiritual patrimony of your lands and, at the same time, openness and communion in reciprocal respect. May this meeting of ours be the motive for further relations in fraternity and solidarity. May the Lord bless your dear country and all its citizens.

[Translation by ZENIT]