Benedict XVI Receives Balkan Leader

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 9, 2005 ( Benedict XVI received in audience Svetozar Marovic, the president of Serbia and Montenegro, who arrived with his wife and entourage.

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The Holy See gave no details of today’s meeting, which took place in the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

The Pope has held a series of audiences with heads of state, in connection with the start of his pontificate. On Monday he met with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain.

Before leaving for Rome, Marovic met Thursday with the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pavle, and the spiritual leader of Serbia’s Catholic minority, Archbishop Stanislav Hocevar Beograd.

Shortly after being elected president in 2003, Marovic tried to organize a visit of Pope John Paul II to the Balkans. The Serbian press agency Tanjug said on Thursday that that visit never took place because of the opposition of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle.

Some 65% of Serbia and Montenegro’s 10 million inhabitants are Orthodox. Muslims constitute 19%, and Catholics constitute 5%.

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