ROME – What is already turning out to be a busy spring for Pope Francis has just gotten busier with the announcement Thursday that in addition to his three other international trips at the start of 2019, he will also make a three-day visit to Bulgaria and Macedonia.
Francis is slated to visit Bulgaria May 5-7, 2019, stopping in the cities of Sofia and Rakovski, a small village where many of the nation’s Catholic minority live, and he will also be visiting Macedonia, part of the former Yugoslavia, May 7, stopping only in Skopje.
The theme for his Bulgaria visit, which overlaps with the major holiday of St George’s Day and the national day of the Armed Forces, will be, “Peace on Earth,” and for Macedonia it will be, “Do not fear, little flock.”
Though no details have been released about the pope’s schedule while on the ground, the visit marks the first time a pope has visited Macedonia since its independence in 1991, and is another show of Francis’s attention to the peripheries. Saint John Paul II was the last pope to visit Bulgaria, a majority Orthodox country, in 2002.
The visit will fall on the heels of several other brief trips Pope Francis will make at the beginning of 2019, the first being Panama from Jan.23-27 for the International World Youth Day gathering, followed by a Feb. 3-5 visit to the United Arab Emirates and a March 30-31 visit to Morocco.