2017-01-30 11:21:00

Pope meets bishops of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo in ad limina visit

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday met with the bishops of Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, who are in Rome for their “ad limina apostolorum” visit.

The President of the International Bishops’ Conference of Saints Cyril and Methodius, to which the bishops belong, spoke to Vatican Radio ahead of the ad limina visit.

Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue

Bishop Ladislav Nemét, SVD, of Zrenjanin, Serbia said ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is an important aspect of the Bishops’ Conference.

“As for Serbia, collaboration and ecumenical relations between the Holy See and the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church is very good… In Kosovo, interreligious dialogue is more meaningful, because Catholics live among Muslims. In Montenegro and Macedonia it is difficult for the Catholic Church to maintain relations with the official Orthodox Church and even with two Orthodox churches, which are growing with large state aid.”

Four different countries

Bishop Nemét said the Conference has made a recent proposal to the Holy See to divide the international group into national conferences.

He said the reason for the request is “because of the enormous differences between these countries”.

“We have four countries with differing legislation: only in Serbia do we have the right to teach religion in elementary and secondary schools. As for Montenegro, the government has signed a Fundamental Agreement with the Holy See. However, there are no similar accords with the other countries.”

Top priorities

Bishop Nemét said that, despite the request to divide the International Conference, a top priority is to “maintain a spirit of collaboration between the four countries”.

The second priority, he said, is to “reinforce our presence in these four diverse societies: reconciliation is still far off between Croatians and Serbians, between Albanians and Serbians…”

He concluded that these are areas of “great problems and challenges, and we can truly make a positive contribution, also according to the intentions of the Holy Father, who does much for peace in the world.”

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