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Pope urges Bulgaria “don’t close your heart” to migrants

Pope Francis visited a refugee centre in Sofia and a Roman Catholic Church in Rakovski in Bulgaria where he advocated on behalf of migrants and refugees describing their suffering as “the cross of humanity”. 

The pope’s defence of migrants is a central point of his pontificate and he also hopes that his visit will heal divisions between the Eastern and Western Orthodox Churches which split in 1054. 

Rakovski is a majority Roman Catholic town in the overwhelming  Eastern Orthodox country. The population of Roman Catholic's is less than one per cent. 

He plans to travel to North Macedonia for the final leg of the trip on Tuesday.

The pope urged the government directly to :

“not close your eyes, your hearts or your hands, in accordance with your best tradition, to those who knock at your door”.

Bulgaria is the poorest country in the EU and has had over two million people emigrate since the collapse of Communism in 1989. The government has adopted a staunch anti-immigration position despite its rapidly ageing population and a low birth rate. 

Bulgaria has built a fence across its shared border with Turkey to prevent migration and has increased controls on migration from Greece since 2015.

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