Belgrade Gets a New Archbishop

Appointment Comes Hours Before Milosevic´s Arrest

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BELGRADE, Yugoslavia, APR. 1, 2001 (Zenit.org).- A few hours before former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic was arrested, John Paul II appointed a new archbishop for Belgrade.

The papal decision comes a few months after Archbishop Franc Perko, 72, resigned for health reasons. He was substituted by Coadjutor Bishop Stanislaw Hocevar, who worked closely with Archbishop Perko at a critical time in the country´s history.

Archbishop Hocevar, 56, a Slovak Salesian, told the Adn-Kronos agency that he regards himself, and wishes to be regarded, “as part of the Serbian people.”

Interviewed at midday Saturday, after his appointment became public, the new archbishop stressed that it is “important to continue in the path of justice, as President Voislav Kostunica has been doing for some time, especially by instituting a special commission to identify the roots, responsibilities and war crimes in the Balkans.”

He added: “I think it is an important sign for the people, for all of us, that the chief of state together with the democratically elected government, is addressing the issues in order to render justice to those responsible for 10 years of horrors.”

“To face the historical truth, to make the one who has caused so much evil face his responsibilities, is the only way to make progress on the path to the economic and social reconstruction of the country, Archbishop Hocevar clarified.

Referring to President Kostunica, the archbishop said that he is “very open and available to the country´s other minority Christian communities. He is actively supporting the pastoral work of the historical churches, not that of sects, but of the churches.” In this way, he guarantees the collaboration of the Catholic Church and the other Christian communities in the country´s reconstruction.

Milosevic was arrested — collaborators say he surrendered — at 4:30 a.m. today without violence, if one discounts his daughter Marija´s five warning shots.

According to Dusan Mihajlovic, a former Milosevic collaborator, at present the Serbian Interior Minister, the former Yugoslavian leader was taken before the regulatory magistrate, and imprisoned since the court is closed today.

The United States gave Belgrade a March 31 deadline to demonstrate its cooperation with the International Court of War Crimes of The Hague, which accused Milosevic and appealed for his extradition. If Yugoslavia proves that it has complied with these conditions, it could receive $1 million in aid and U.S. support before international financial institutions.

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said that Milosevic´s arrest is due to his alleged violation of national legislation and not The Hague court´s accusation. He added that it was a “pure coincidence” that the arrest of the former Yugoslav leader took place when the deadline was reached for Washington´s ultimatum.

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