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Bulgarian bishop appeals for support

 Bishop Ivanov Georgi Jovcev of the Bulgarian diocese of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, has appealed to the Catholic Church in Western Europe for support. While East and West are growing together, the Church in Bulgaria must not be forgotten, Bishop Jovcev told the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need yesterday (1 August). He said that, although theoretically there was now religious freedom under the law in Bulgaria, most Catholics continued to live on the margins of society - 10 years after the end of communism. He said just one example of this marginalisation was the fact that Catholics are discriminated against in the awarding of official positions. Now that the establishment of parish structures is more or less completed, the emphasis is being shifted in the direction of social work and the formation of the laity, the Bishop said. Parishes are beginning to offer a range of activities for young people. A catechetical centre has been established in Plovdiv. With an international team of educators, it now turns out some 20 catechists each year, said Bishop Jovcev. The Catholic Church represents no more than a small minority in this Balkan nation, which formerly depended on the export of agricultural produce as one of its economic mainstays. Only around one per cent of the eight million Bulgarians are Catholic. Both the Latin-rite Catholic dioceses of Plovdiv and Nicopolis are financially dependent on outside support. Over the past 10 years, Aid to the Church in Need has contributed about 1.5 million pounds in priority aid, mainly for the renovation and construction of parish centres and religious houses.