VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Recalling the Balkans wars of the 1990s, John Paul II appealed to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to support reconciliation among citizens of various ethnic groups.
Feelings of hatred should be replaced by an attitude of fraternity and openness to others, the Pope urged.
The Holy Father made his appeal Friday when he received the letters of credence of Ivan Angelov, the new Macedonian ambassador to the Vatican.
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia proclaimed its independence in 1991, but it was only recognized in 1995, due to litigation with Greece over its name.
Among its 2 million inhabitants are numerous citizens of Albanian origin, the reason why Macedonia was troubled in recent years with ethnic tensions, which in nearby Kosovo had devastating consequences.
Two-thirds of the population of Macedonia is Orthodox, and 30% Muslim. There are only 10,000 baptized Catholics.
The Pontiff encouraged the efforts of the Macedonia authorities, who have carried out constitutional reforms and promulgated laws aimed at respecting “the rights of minorities” and fostering their participation in the political process.
The Holy Father said in his address that “this will help to foster progress in the way of dialogue, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence.”
It is an endeavor that must be centered primarily in man’s heart, because it is there “where hatred and the spirit of deceit can nest, feelings that are at the origin of every act of oppression,” John Paul II stressed.
Objective and impartial understanding of others is priceless in helping people accept cultural and religious traditions that differ from their own, the Pope told the ambassador.
If this takes place, the first step has been taken toward reconciliation — “because respect for diversity is an indispensable condition for a genuine relation between individuals and groups,” the Holy Father continued.
Another premise of this way is justice, which demands recognition of and reparation for the evil committed, the Pope said. However, it also implies “restoring the just harmony of each one with God, with others, and with oneself,” John Paul II stressed.
This is why forgiveness and justice are not contradictory. Forgiveness “does not lessen the exigencies of justice, but attempts to reintegrate persons and groups in society and states in the community of nations, through a renewed sense of responsibility and, if possible, through solidarity with the victims of past injustices,” the Pope clarified.
Ivan Angelov, 61, the ambassador, is married and has two children. A biology professor and former Minister of Agriculture, he more recently was his country’s permanent observer at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.