Balkan Bishops Elaborate a Strategy for Peace

Interfaith Collaboration Among Suggestions

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VIENNA, Austria, MAR. 20, 2001 ( At a time when Macedonia is destabilizing the fragile Balkan peace, the Catholic bishops of the nations involved met here to analyze the situation and offer a joint Christian response.

«Our intention in organizing this meeting was to make a reading of the last years of history of these Balkan regions to see how the local churches, both episcopal conferences, as well as Catholic organizations active in the territory, can contribute to promote justice and reconciliation,» said Archbishop Noel Treanor, secretary of the Commission of the Episcopal Conferences of the European Union (COMECE).

«Without these conditions, as many Pontiffs have already stated, there are no real conditions for a lasting peace,» he added.

Participants at the March 14-15 meeting in Vienna reflected on «Reconciliation and Stability in the European Southeast.» It was convoked by the Council of the European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) and the COMECE.

At the ending of the meeting, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said that when the strong points of power give way and the social fabric is blurred, the Church is among the very few institutions that can help, even if it cannot impede war.

Among the participants were the presidents of the bishops´ conferences of the Balkans, that is, of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Albania and the Yugoslav Federation. This is the first meeting of its kind, centered on the role of Catholics in the troubled areas.

In the final statement, the churches are requested to have greater commitment to solidarity and peace. At the same time, international institutions, beginning with the European Union and the stability pact for the Balkans, are asked to be more aware of the contribution being made or potentially made by the churches.

Two critical elements for Catholics´ commitment in this region were highlighted: first, collaboration with other Christian churches and faiths, including the Orthodox and Muslims; second, greater commitment to the democratic formation of the citizens of the long-socialist countries.

Archbishop Franz Perko of Belgrade, Yugoslavia, mentioned the not-always-easy dialogue with the Orthodox, but he emphasized hope for the future.

Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka, Bosnia, and Archbishop Angelo Massafra of Shkoder, Albania, requested more active assistance for the poor, beginning with the children, elderly and the most isolated localities.

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