At the invitation of President Georgi Parvanov, the Grand Master Fra’ Andrew Bertie paid a State visit to Bulgaria, 12-15 March.
During talks between the two Heads of State in the Presidential Palace of Sofia, President Parvanov expressed his satisfaction at the first state visit of a Grand Master to the Republic of Bulgaria. Also present were the Grand Chancellor, Jean-Pierre Mazery, the President’s Head of Cabinet Andrei Karaslavov, Ambassador Di Capua and Ambassador Gradev. In expressing his gratitude for the Order’s noble mission in defending Christian values and principles worldwide, President Parvanov hoped that the meeting would foster even closer relations between Bulgaria and the Sovereign Order of Malta.
During the visit, two important Bilateral Agreements were signed: for cooperation in the medical and health fields, and for the mutual recognition of philatelic issues.
Significant talks were held between the Grand Master and the Order’s delegation and the Metropolitan Kyril and members of the Holy Synod, and at a working lunch with Prime Minister Serghei Stanishev.
During an official ceremony in St. Alexander Nevski Square, Sofia, the Grand Master and the President of the Republic inspected a Guard of Honour. The national anthems were played and the Grand Master then laid a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier.
The Grand Master, guest of Simeon II at his Vrana residence, conferred on him the high office of Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion. He expressed his great regard for the historic role of the family of Simeon II, the honourable legacy of his parents, and his own example of devoting his life to Bulgaria.
On 15 March, the Grand Master visited the John Paul II Day Hospital, run by the Sisters of the Eucharist, and inspected the ultrasound scanner recently donated by the Order’s embassy in Sofia. During the Grand Master’s visit a dispensary was opened in the hospital, also on the initiative of the embassy.
In honour of the visit, the Bulgarian Post Office issued a stamp celebrating the 610th anniversary of the battle of Nikopol, during which the Order’s fleet intervened to help the Bulgarian people during one of the most dramatic moments in their history.
This was the second meeting between Fra’ Andrew Bertie and Georgi Parvanov. The first took place in May 2005 in the Order’s Magistral Palace in Rome.