The Latest: Pope to address Bulgaria's anti-migrant stance

The Latest: Pope to address Bulgaria's anti-migrant stance
In this photo taken on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, vocal pedagogue Bernadeta Balabanska conducts the open air choir rehearsal at St. Archangel Michael church 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)

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

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 (45) — and the smallest average monthly pension of 190 euros (13).

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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.