His Majesty Tsar Simeon II in an interview with Vatican Radio on the occasion of the 16th World Meeting of the Bulgarian Media in the Rila Monastery, distributed by the press office of Tsar Simeon II.
A king who, after 50 years of exile, agreed to become prime minister to serve his fatherland; a monarch whose family is related to the Catholic and Orthodox faiths and who has met with three popes. In his modest and collected style, he recommends more spirituality and elevation to the media and more altruism and dialogue to politicians. This is what Tsar Simeon II spoke about in an interview with Vatican Radio, immediately after the Sixteenth World Meeting of the Bulgarian Media, which opened on October 17, 2021 at the Rila Monastery. From the distance of time he shares his impression of his meeting with John Paul II in the Rila Monastery, what could unite Bulgarian politics, Bulgaria’s image in the world and the rapprochement between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
Question: Your Majesty, you opened the 16th World Meeting of Bulgarian Media in the Rila Monastery, and the director of BTA Kiril Valchev invited the media to humility, having in mind the spiritual advice of St. John of Rila, which was a clear message for more spirituality. During the first world meeting of the Bulgarian media, 20 years ago, the Code of Ethics for the media was signed, do you think that the time has come to sign the Spiritual Code for the media?
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: It would be something very interesting and useful, not only for us, but also for the world, to see that there is such an initiative in Bulgaria. The very idea of the director of BTA Kiril Valchev to gather the media in the Rila Monastery as an intellectual, mental and spiritual attitude, seemed wonderful to me and so I agreed to open the media meeting. I think it would be great and useful for the audience – listeners, viewers, readers – to feel that there is something a little more than pure and simple and only the topical, and that there is a rise. For example, France, which had all sorts of regimes and systems, kings, emperors, but from each of these regimes, the French have preserved and respected something and thus upgrade. Its history is not only rich but also impressive, which gives confidence to the French themselves. I think we can apply it, albeit in a more modest way.
Question: In this regard, let us recall that 19 years ago, you met Pope John Paul II in the Rila Monastery. A historic visit in which the Slavic pope recalled the role of Eastern and Western monasticism in the world and made an analogy between St. John of Rila and St. Benedict of Nursia. How do you look at this moment today, from the distance of time?
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: This was a truly historic event for Bulgaria and it was an honor to visit us. All the more so because of his crucial role in the political changes in Poland. I was very excited, first as a prime minister who hosted this meeting, but also because he read a prayer at my father’s grave. I only thought if my mother had lived to see how much it would move and excite her. But then he asked to see me in private. As you remember and know, he was already too tired or old or not feeling very well, but he wanted to share his view, in summary, of his role with Card. Wiszynski, how they influenced the disintegration of the communist system in Poland. At first I was surprised, but then I felt his desire to share his experience of what it means to believe in the mobilization of a nation. I will not forget this unique gesture.
Question: The graves of your parents are in monasteries – of your father, Boris III in Rila and your mother, Queen Joanna, in Assisi, Italy. Her devotion to St. Francis is well known, and even the street leading up to the Franciscan monastery is called Giovanna di Bulgaria. continues to guide you?
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: For her, the fatherland was really an altar. And the most valuable and most important thing is to serve on this altar. She, of course, spoke about Bulgaria because she was addressing me. But by that I mean that I have always felt her desire to serve. And I tried to do that all my life, and even when the time came to become prime minister, I took it as a sacrifice, but also in fulfillment of her views. If I did it as a private person in my 50 years in exile, I had the opportunity to apply this very covenant to serve, not to serve as prime minister, which in some countries sometimes becomes something personal, but rather to the people. and to the fatherland, as I told the Rila Monastery.
Question: As Prime Minister, you led a unique government of diverse parties. Did the Bulgarians understand this?
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: I return to our government, which consisted of two parties: NMSS with MRF, and then I took part in the triple coalition, which was even broader so that we could present ourselves to Europe with this broad fan and show that a large part of the population supports the idea of joining the EU, which was very important.
Question: In the future, is there anything that could unite the parties that are very divided into something that will be for the benefit of Bulgaria?
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: This would be ideal if everyone thought so, and quite sincerely, and not just demonstratively, and thus achieve normal governance with government, parliament, etc. But I also wonder what cause could unite and be the engine for such an initiative, apart from the homeland and the fatherland. I do not see what can be offered now, because then the cause was the EU. And it really brought everyone together. I think about improving society and correcting some shortcomings and mistakes, there are so many. And if one really wants to, I think we can mobilize for the common good, what could be better than to be happy.
Question: We are electing a parliament and a president again, what would you wish to the candidates?
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: It is difficult for me to give advice, but I think about what was discussed at the media meeting in the Rila Monastery, a little more altruism, modesty and dialogue. I will not say ego for everyone to give in, because it seems that one is targeting one or the other, but to reach a dialogue that will lead to what the voters expect – to have regular government and regular government.
Question: What do you think about the image of Bulgaria in the world? October 25 marked the 91st anniversary of the royal wedding in Assisi, also an important historical moment, which is paradoxically marked by the Western press, while less in Bulgaria. What needs to be done to move beyond our own boundaries?
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: It is very important to go beyond our borders and expand our worldview, especially in the presence of new modern connections and media. Let’s look at our history and recall moments when we talk about Bulgaria or on what occasion we can be proud or see some kind of relationship, for example Italy and Bulgaria, at the wedding of my parents. Such moments must be remembered, because this is not a matter of political preferences or beliefs and ideology, but a matter of the history of Bulgaria, and with that I think we should all be proud and contribute, but not forget it. There are many lessons to be learned from history, especially for politicians. History is not, as I sometimes joke, just for old professors, but for everyone, because if one knows history, and the world too, many mistakes can be avoided and will not be repeated if we are aware of the past. This is very important in politics, because knowing the past can correct the future or the present.
Question: Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Bulgaria. Do you plan to participate in any way in the celebration of this anniversary?
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: If any cultural or liturgical commemoration is organized, of course, because this visit was a great gesture to Bulgaria, especially after the assassination and what had been circulating around the world.
Question: After him, another pope visited Bulgaria, Francis. What impresses you about him, his personality and the way he leads the Church?
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: It’s hard to say, especially since I’m not a Catholic. We met at the Nunciature on the last day of his visit to greet him, but I watched him and read some of his messages or encyclicals. I would say the social side and the way it wants to emphasize the social role of the Church in society. This is a very valuable message for young people, because they feel that there is this understanding and mercy up there.
Question: During their visits to Bulgaria, both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis stressed the need for greater rapprochement between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, especially today. Do you see such a rapprochement?
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: I pray and I hope and it would be ideal if the Christian churches find a more direct dialogue. And if all three monotheistic religions worked together, that would be wonderful. I think that faith is always a guarantee of the positive in people’s actions. The main question is whether we believe or not, and not to be divided into one or the other. My family and I have never been divided, even though I am not a Catholic. My father died very early, but my mother, who was a Catholic, was a strict observer, my sister and I, everything related to Orthodoxy. It may sound like a paradox, but it shows how much in our family, it has never been a question of whether you are Orthodox or Catholic. In this way, and in many ways, it has helped to broaden our vision.