The Latest: Traveling pope urges 'revolution of charity'

A man tries for a selfie with Pope Francis as he arrives in Saint Alexander Nevsky Square in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Nuns and faithful wait for Pope Francis in Alexander Nevsky square in Sofia, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/ Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis is welcomed by children wearing traditional dresses upon his arrival in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis greets reporters during his flight from Rome, Italy, to Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is paying a three day visit to Bulgaria and North Macedonia in his 29th Apostolic Journey abroad. (Maurizio Brambatti/Pool via AP)
Pope Francis delivers his blessing outside the Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/ Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis recites the Regina Coeli prayer in Saint Alexander Nevsky Square in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Pope Francis salutes as he recites the Regina Coeli prayer in Saint Alexander Nevsky Square in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A nun holding the Vatican and Bulgarian flags looks up as she waits for Pope Francis in Alexander Nevsky square in Sofia, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that has taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/ Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis and Bulgaria's president, Rumen Radev review the honor guard as they arrive to the Presidential Palace in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Knyaz Alexandar Square in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Pope Francis salutes as he arrives in Saint Alexander Nevsky Square in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Pope Francis speaks outside the Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/ Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis greets reporters during his flight from Rome, Italy, to Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is paying a three day visit to Bulgaria and North Macedonia in his 29th Apostolic Journey abroad. (Maurizio Brambatti/Pool via AP)
In this photo taken on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, a boy looks at a portrait of Pope John Paul II painted on an apartment block, reminiscent of his visit in 2002, in the town of Rakovsky, central Bulgaria, ahead of an upcoming visit by Pope Francis. During his first visit to the Orthodox country of Bulgaria, on May 5 and 6, Pope Francis will visit the capital, Sofia, and the town of Rakovsky, which is home of the largest Catholic community in the Balkan country. (AP Photo/Valentina Petrova)
Pope Francis adjusts his skull cap in front of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov upon his arrival in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis speaks outside the Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/ Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis salutes as he arrives in Saint Alexander Nevsky Square in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Pope Francis and Bulgaria's president, Rumen Radev review the honor guard as they arrive to the Presidential Palace in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis speaks outside the Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/ Alessandra Tarantino)
Faithful gather to see Pope Francis in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Sharpshooters watch over Knyaz Alexandar Square in Sofia, Bulgaria, where Pope Francis celebrates Mass Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis talks to leader of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Neofit, in Sofia, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, Pool)
Pope Francis is welcomed by faithful as he arrives to celebrate Mass in Knyaz Alexandar Square in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A woman holds up a rosary, along with the Vatican and Bulgaria flags, in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that has taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis walks out the Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, May 5, 2019. Pope Francis is visiting Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, a stance that conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative. (AP Photo/ Alessandra Tarantino)

SOFIA, Bulgaria — The Latest on Pope Francis' trip to Bulgaria (all times local):

5:25 p.m.

Pope Francis called for a "revolution of charity" based on God's love while celebrating his first Mass in the majority Orthodox nation of Bulgaria.

The Vatican, citing local organizers, estimated 12,000 people attended the open-air Mass on Sunday afternoon in the capital of Sofia or watched it on giant TV screens in a nearby square.

Catholics account for less than 1% of Bulgaria's population of 7 million.

In his homily, Francis told the faithful God's love inspires all to work for the common good.

He said: "This love enables us to serve the poor and to become protagonists of the revolution of charity and service, capable of resisting the pathologies of consumeristic and superficial individualism."

Francis is scheduled to travel Monday to the Catholic stronghold in Rakovsky to celebrate 200 children receiving the sacrament of first communion.

___

1:20 p.m.

Pope Francis is seeking to build new paths of dialogue with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, noting Christianity's shared history of martyrdom and mission.

Francis met Sunday with Patriarch Neofit at the headquarters of the Holy Synod, the Bulgarian church's governing body, before praying alone in the Orthodox cathedral.

Relations between the two churches are cordial but hardly warm. The Holy Synod doesn't participate in official Vatican-Orthodox theological dialogue, and made clear that it wouldn't take part in any joint services or prayers with Francis.

Francis referred to the "wounds" of division caused by the 1,000-year-old schism that divided Christianity and said he was "confident with the help of God, and in his good time, these contacts will have a positive effect on many other dimensions of our dialogue."

Neofit, however, was clear that he felt the Bulgarian Church would remain the keepers of true Christianity.

___

11:45 p.m.

Pope Francis is urging Bulgarians to open their hearts and homes to migrants, arguing that a country like Bulgaria, which is losing its population to emigration, should well understand the forces that drive people to leave their native lands.

As he arrived Sunday in the Balkan nation, Francis "respectfully suggested" Bulgaria recognize that migrants coming to their country are fleeing war, conflict and dire poverty to find safety and opportunity.

He appealed to government authorities "that you not close your eyes, your hearts or your hands — in accordance with your best tradition — to those who knock at your door."

Bulgaria's center-right, pro-Brussels coalition government has called for the European Union to close its borders to migrants and has sealed off its own border to Turkey with a barbed-wire fence.

Human rights organizations and the European Commission have accused Bulgaria of violating EU asylum laws.

___

11:20 p.m.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has offered Pope Francis a very personal gift at the start of his visit to the Balkan nation: A cup of Bulgarian yogurt.

Borisov said Sunday after meeting with Francis upon his arrival in Sofia that on previous occasions he had been told by Francis that the first time he had heard about Bulgaria was during his childhood in Argentina when his grandmother gave him Bulgarian yogurt.

Borisov gave Francis the yogurt when they met at the airport. The official gifts also included an Orthodox icon and a traditional episcopal vestment.

The prime minister said: "I was happy to welcome a man who is the symbol of faith in our world. Pope Francis' prayers for peace are extremely important for our region that stretches from Ukraine to the east to the Western Balkans."

___

10 a.m.

Pope Francis has arrived in Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants.

That stance conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative.

On a two-day trip that began Sunday, Francis plans to tour a refugee center and dive into the Vatican's complicated relations with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

Later in the day, Francis is meeting with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, whose center-right, pro-Brussels coalition government includes three nationalist, anti-migrant parties. The government has called for the closure of EU borders to migrants and sealed off its own frontier to Turkey with a barbed-wire fence.

Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, is the bloc's poorest country, with the lowest average monthly salary — 575 euros ($645) — and the smallest average monthly pension of 190 euros ($213).

___

9 a.m.

Pope Francis is heading to Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest country and one that taken a hard line against migrants, which conflicts with the pontiff's view that reaching out to vulnerable people is a moral imperative.

Francis is expected to visit a refugee center during his two-day visit starting Sunday, as well as dive into the Vatican's complicated relations with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The trip ends with a daylong stop Tuesday in neighboring North Macedonia, the first by a pope.

Francis starts his Bulgarian trip by meeting with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, whose center-right, pro-Brussels coalition government includes three nationalist, anti-migrant parties. The government has called for the closure of EU borders to migrants and sealed off its own frontier to Turkey with a barbed-wire fence.

The Argentine pope has made the plight of migrants and refugees a hallmark of his papacy. His visit falls just three weeks before European Parliament elections across the EU's 28 nations in which nationalist, anti-migrant parties are expected to make a solid showing.

People also read these

Austrian authorities seeking Hitler double seen...

Feb 11, 2017

US-AUSTRIA-HITLER:Austrian authorities seeking Hitler double seen around birthplace

Austria to sue Airbus over suspected Eurofighter...

Feb 16, 2017

US-AUSTRIA-AIRBUS-GROUP:Austria to sue Airbus over suspected Eurofighter fraud: APA news agency

Austria sues Airbus over alleged Eurofighter fraud

Feb 16, 2017

US-AUSTRIA-AIRBUS-GROUP:Austria sues Airbus over alleged Eurofighter fraud

Austrian court backs extradition of Ukraine...

Feb 21, 2017

US-UKRAINE-FIRTASH:Austrian court backs extradition of Ukraine businessman Firtash to U.S.

Turkish media mogul Dogan summoned to court over...

Mar 1, 2017

US-TURKEY-MEDIA:Turkish media mogul Dogan summoned to court over fuel smuggling

Sign up now!