Pope Francis Urges Bulgaria to Open Its Heart to Refugees

merlin_154412190_17405d93-80fc-4fb3-8633-b2720950ed03-jumboSource: The New York Times

By Boryana Dzhambazova and Jason Horowitz


SOFIA, Bulgaria — Making his first visit to Bulgaria, Pope Francis on Sunday pointedly appealed for care for migrants in one of the corners of Europe that has been most unwelcoming to them — a stance that puts him at odds with both the country’s government and its dominant church.

Since the migrant crisis of 2015, one of the pope’s most emphatic and consistent messages has been the need to welcome refugees, who he believes have been exploited by fear-mongering European nationalists.

But rarely has he delivered it in a nation that has so few Roman Catholics — they make up less than 1 percent of the seven million people in a country that is mostly Bulgarian Orthodox — or such powerful opposition to his view (though the Vatican itself is surrounded by widespread hostility toward immigrants that enabled the right to take power in Italy).

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