translated from Spanish: In Bulgaria, Pope Francis asks to open up immigrants

Sofia.-This Sunday, Pope Francis asked to open hearts and homes to immigrants in Bulgaria. Claiming that the country is losing so much population by emigration, they should therefore understand the forces that lead people to leave their homeland on arrival for a two-day visit to the Balkan country, Francisco «respectfully suggested» that the Bulgarians recognize that migrants flee from war, conflict, or extreme poverty «to find new opportunities in life or simply a safe haven.» To all Bulgarians, who are familiar with the drama of emigration, I respectfully suggest that they do not close their eyes, their hearts or their hands according to their best tradition _ to those who call at your door, «he told members of the government at the presidential palace in The capital, Sofia. The coalition Government, centre and EU supporter, includes three nationalist and anti-immigrant parties. The government has called on the EU to close the borders of the migrants and seal their border with Turkey with a barbed wire fence.

Pope Francis talks about opening up immigrants in Bulgaria. Efe

But it is also losing population faster than any other, according to the United Nations. The current 7 million inhabitants of Bulgaria are expected to be reduced to 5.4 million for 2050 and 3.9 million by the end of the century. Francisco, a national of Argentina, has made the situation of migrants and refugees one of the key issues of his pontificate, urging governments to build bridges instead of walls and do what they can to receive and integrate refugees fleeing wars and Poverty. His visit took place just three weeks before the European Parliament elections in the 28 EU members, where nationalist and anti-immigrant groups are expected to achieve a good outcome. Francisco planned to visit a refugee centre in an old school outside Sofia. The visit will show solidarity with those in need, said Radostina Belcheva, of the Council of Refugee Women in Bulgaria.
«But in reality all their acceptance is a matter for each one of us and for our society,» Belcheva said to The Associated Press.

Bulgaria’s harsh position on refugees has served as a deterrent: While some 20000 people sought asylum in Bulgaria in 2015, the figure fell to 2500 people last year, according to the state refugee agency. Economically, however, the EU’s poorest country could need more immigration to stabilize its future. Bulgaria has the highest rate of mortality in the EU and one of the lowest birth rates in the block. That, combined with the march of dozens of thousands of workers each year going to seek better-paid jobs, poses serious problems in financing the country’s pension system. Francisco also scheduled a meeting on Sunday with Patriarch Neofit, leader of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, during a visit to the headquarters of the organization that governs the Bulgarian church.
The Conservative Bulgarian Church does not participate in the official dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox and refused to attend a council of Orthodox congregations in Crete in 2016. The institution has made it clear that it will not participate in services or joint prayers with the Pope, although a chorus of children was expected to sing for the pontiff.

Original source in Spanish

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