Cardinal Tettamanzi Visits Yugoslavia

Opening Toward Ecumenical Dialogue

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BELGRADE, Yugoslavia, JAN. 22, 2001 (
Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi described his recent visit to Yugoslavia as a small but not isolated sign of an opening toward ecumenism.

The Italian cardinal made the brief trip to Yugoslavia, which ended Sunday, precisely to make headway in the ecumenical dialogue with the Serbian Orthodox Church, according to the Italian newspaper Avvenire. The cardinal, who is also vice president of the Italian bishops´ conference, aimed to encourage the small Catholic community in the country, which is recovering from the Milosevic years.

Catholics constitute about 5% of the population, but their role and visibility is taking new shape in Serbian society, under President Voijslav Kostunica.

Following talks with the country´s Catholic bishops, Cardinal Tettamanzi described the Church in Yugoslavia as «full of hope.»

The renewal of Serbian society, which is opening to democracy and the West, is the basis for relaunching the dialogue with the Orthodox world, as is the Holy Father´s trip in June to the Ukraine.

Cardinal Tettamanzi explained that he came «to bring the good wishes and greetings of the Holy Father to Patriarch Pavle and the whole Orthodox Church of Serbia.» The coincidence with the celebration of Epiphany in the Serbian calendar obliged the patriarch to remain in Kosovo, cradle of the patriarchate.

However, Cardinal Tettamanzi met with Bishop Vladika Sava in the eparchy of Kragujevac, one of the cities that suffered most from the war. Bishop Sava represented both the patriarch and the synod.

Moreover, the importance attached to the ecumenical dialogue was expressed by the presence of an Orthodox choir in the Mass concelebrated in the Church of St. Anthony in Belgrade, by the cardinal and the capital´s Catholic Archbishop Franc Perko, Coadjutor Bishop Stanislav Hocevar, and all the priests of the diocese.

Last Friday, the cardinal in an address to some Orthodox intellectuals spoke about the challenges faced by Christianity, both in the East and West. He echoed a challenge posed by St. Augustine in his «Confessions»: «Christians are called to dialogue without renouncing their own identity.»

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