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The Holy See

Capital Vatican City

Time Zone CET (GMT+1)

Country Code 39

ccTLD .va

Currency Euro

Land Area 0.44 sq km

Population 836

Language Latin, Italian

Major Religion Roman Catholicism

Key Data

Notable Public Figures

Francis I - Jorge Mario Bergoglio,
Pope

Pietro Parolin,
Cardinal Secretary of State

Giovanni Angelo Becciu,
Substitute for General Affairs

Paul Richard Gallagher,
Secretary for the Relations with States

Antoine Camiller,
Undersecretary for the Relations with States

Luciano Suriani,
Delegate for Pontificial Representations

Peter Brian Wells,
Assessor for General Affairs

José Avelino Bettencourt,
Head of Protocol

Domenico Giani,
Chief of Vatican Gendarmerie

Bulgaria and The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans

Bulgaria has played a role in the Holy See’s Balkan diplomacy for over 1,200 years. In the time of the medieval Bulgarian Empire, papal legates came close – but ultimately did not succeed – in winning the allegiance of the country’s rulers. Their decision to embrace Byzantine Orthodoxy instead would have momentous consequences for future European geopolitics.The Vatican challenges in the Balkans Bolstering the Catholic Church in 2015 and beyond

However, as an EU and NATO member in the modern world today, Bulgaria is of less vital interest to the Vatican. Nevertheless, the Holy See does maintain good diplomatic relations with Sofia and uses its operations there to track developments elsewhere in the region.

Summary

Bulgaria resumed good relations with the Holy See with the fall of communism. The country has less than 50,000 Catholics, but has an important focus on Rome at least once a year, when the relics of Ss Cyril & Methodius (saints beloved by both Macedonia and Bulgaria) are venerated at the Vatican. This event draws top delegations from both neighboring states.

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Additionally, after nunciature reforms in recent years, Sofia’s nunciature also oversees Macedonia and thus is the prime communication channel between the Vatican and Macedonian leaders and clergy. It should be noted that the Sofia nunciature has a bit of prestige associated with it, owing to the 1930’s presence there of the recently consecrated Pope St. John XXIII.

Papal nuncios have taken an increasingly active role in Bulgarian politics and public discourse since 2013. We expect this trend to continue, as the country grapples with political instability and remains under pressure from both the EU and Russia. Some recent nuncio speeches have been directed both at Bulgaria’s small but active Catholic community, and at the larger political and ecclesiastic community there.

An unusual fact is that a number of Catholics in southeastern Bulgaria ultimately descend from forcibly-resettled Paulicians (a heretical Byzantine Christian sect that battled the empire in Armenian Anatolia in the Middle Byzantine period).

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