Dioc., 2; ap. ex.1; abp., 2; bp., 3; parishes, 44; priests, 47 (15 dioc., 32 rel); sem., 9; bros., 2; srs., 85; bap., 333; Caths., 80,000 (1%), tot. pop., 7,870,000.
Republic in southern Europe in the eastern part of the Balkan peninsula; capital, Sofia. Most of the population is Orthodox. Christianity was introduced before 343 but disappeared with the migration of Slavs into the territory. The baptism of Boris I about 865 ushers in a new period of Christianity, which soon became involved in switches of loyalty between Constantinople and Rome. Through it all the Byzantine, and the later Orthodox, element remained stronger and survived under the rule of Ottoman Turks into the 19th century. The Byzantines are products of a reunion movement of the 19th century.
In 1947 the constitution of the new republic decreed the separation of Church and state. Catholic schools and institutions were abolished and foreign religious banished in 1948. A year later the apostolic delegate was expelled. Ivan Romanoff, vicar general of Plovdiv, died in prison in 1952. Bishop Eugene Bossilkoff, imprisoned in 1948, was sentenced to death in 1952; his fate remained unknown until1975 when the Bulgarian government informed the Vatican that he had died in prison shortly after being sentenced. He was beatified in 1998. Latin - and Eastern- rite apostolic vicars were permitted to attend the Second Vatican Council. All Church activity was under surveillance and/or control by the government which professed to be atheistic. Pastoral and related activities were strictly limited. There was some improvement in Bulgarian- Vatican relations in 1975. In 1979, the Sofia-Plovdiv apostolic vicariate was raised to a diocese, and a bishop was appointed for the vacant see of Nicopoli.
Diplomatic relations with the Holy See were established in 1990. In the late 1990s, the government instituted religion classes in the state schools, but Church leaders complained they had no input into the curriculum and that teachers were predominantly Orthodox. In 2002, Pope John Paul II visited Bulgaria, one of several trips to predominantly Orthodox Soviet-bloc countries, and said Catholics and Orthodox should work for closer relations.
(The above exert comes from Our Sunday Visitor's 2004 Catholic Almanac and is used on this web site with the publisher's permission.)