Pope Francis has sent His Holiness Neophyte, Metropolitan of Sofia and Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, the relics of Saint Clement, Pope and martyr, and Saint Potitus, martyr. This was announced by a statement from the apostolic nunciature in Bulgaria.

The ceremony took place the morning of February 27 in the Bulgarian capital, at the Patriarch’s residence. It was the nuncio, Monsignor Anselmo Guido Pecorari, who brought the gift of the Pontiff, a sign that recalls the apostolic journey of Francis to Bulgaria, in May 2019.

The Pope’s prayer for Christian unity

During the “cordial” meeting between the delegation of the Catholic Church present in Bulgaria and the delegation of the Bulgarian Patriarch, Monsignor Pecorari pointed out that the “precious” gift of relics is “a sign of the Pope’s will to seek and pray for Christian unity and of the mutual respect that characterises the relations between the Holy See and the Orthodox Patriarchate of Bulgaria”.

“The relics of Pope St. Clement return, along with those of St. Potitus, to these lands where the two holy martyrs lived and who witnessed the missionary work of the saints Cyril and Methodius”, Pecorari added.

“A great blessing”

His Holiness Neophyte expressed his spiritual joy for the “fraternal gesture” to the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, which receives the gift of the Pope as “a great blessing”.

The Patriarch also recalled the fragments of other relics donated to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church by Saint John Paul II in 2002, of Saint Dasius of Durostorum, and by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2006, of Saint George Martyr.

“The testimony of the faith of the saints and martyrs of Christ is a clear proof of our good relationships, which remain and will continue to exist in peace, mutual understanding and respect”, said Patriarch Neophyte.

Clement and Potitus

According to an ancient tradition, Saints Clement and Potitus are linked to Sardica, the original name of Sofia, and St. Clement is considered the first bishop of the city. His remains were solemnly taken to Rome by Saints Cyril and Methodius.

St. Potitus was martyred at the time of Emperor Antoninus Pius and buried in Tricarico, Puglia.

The relics will be venerated from next March 24 in the old Paleochristian basilica of Hagia Sophia, where a solemn celebration is planned, while the next day there will be a divine liturgy presided by Patriarch Neophyte.

(Source: Giada Aquilino, Vatican News; translation: Novena)

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