Papal Trip to Belgrade Appears More Likely

City Is a Center for the Serbian Orthodox Church

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RIJEKA, Croatia, JUNE 8, 2003 ( Following the visit to Croatia, an apostolic trip by John Paul II to Belgrade, headquarters of the patriarchate of the Serbian Orthodox Church, is that much more possible.

Prompted by a reporter’s question as to when the Pope might visit Serbia, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls said: «I don’t know, but it is only an organizational question, not one of relations, which are certainly very cordial.»

The Croatian press stressed the new possibilities that have now opened for a papal trip to Belgrade, a symbolic visit that would help to promote reconciliation in the postwar Balkans.

In an interview with Rijeka’s newspaper Novi List, Orthodox Metropolitan Jovan of Zagreb, who attended the papal Mass on Saturday as envoy of Patriarch Pavle of Belgrade, left the possibility open.

«Personally, I don’t see any problem in the fact that the Pope might visit Serbia,» he said. «As head of the Catholic Church, he has the right to visit his faithful, as we visit ours in the West.»

Istria’s newspaper Jutarnji List published a photo on the front page of the Pope greeting the delegation of five bishops of the Orthodox Church in Osjiek on Saturday. They came, in 15 buses, accompanied by the faithful from Serbia and Montenegro.

Zagreb’s newspaper Vecernji List reported on the seven Serbian journalists who greeted John Paul II personally on Saturday at the end of the Mass.

President Svetozar Marovic of Serbia and Montenegro, who was in the Vatican recently, invited the Holy Father to visit the federation, and requested his support to accelerate its integration in the European Union.

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