Serbian Hopes for Visit by Benedict XVI

Extends Invitation, But Awaits Move by Orthodox Church

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 29, 2005 ( Serbian President Boris Tadic invited Benedict XVI to visit his country, but added that “it is important also that the Orthodox Church invite him.”

The two met today, and afterward Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls issued a statement.

“In the course of the cordial meeting, which lasted 25 minutes, President Tadic illustrated to the Pope the current situation in the Republic of Serbia,” reported Navarro Valls. “Talks concentrated particularly on the need to teach values to young people, especially in the scholastic field.”

“President Tadic also invited the Holy Father to visit the Republic of Serbia. In thanking him for his invitation, Benedict XVI expressed the hope that such a visit may take place in the future,” said the director of the Vatican press office.

Later, Tadic informed the press: “There is the will that the visit be made as soon as possible.”

But he clarified that it is important that the Orthodox Church also invite the Pope. Serbia is a predominantly Orthodox republic. Tadic said that he would speak with the Orthodox Patriarch Pavle of Belgrade about extending this invitation.

“I, unfortunately, am only the president of Serbia,” Tadic said.

Kosovo a topic

Tadic added: “A specific dialogue between the Churches is necessary, which has begun and I hope that the visit will take place as soon as possible.”

The president revealed that during the meeting with the Pope there were discussions about Kosovo and its Christian roots.

“Without people, without believers, there is no Christian community and tradition disappears,” Tadic said. “It is a great problem and we also spoke about it.”

Tadic said that he also spoke with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano on Kosovo’s status, “which must be something less that independence and something more than simple autonomy, protecting all the communities and religions.”

The Serbian president gave the Pope a book on the history of religion in Serbia, signed by Patriarch Pavle, and the Holy Father gave Tadic commemorative medals of the Vacant Apostolic See.

From 1992, the Serbian Republic was part of Yugoslavia and since 2003 it forms part, together with Montenegro, of a federation called Serbia and Montenegro.

The federation of Serbia and Montenegro has 10.8 million inhabitants, of whom 65% are Orthodox, 19% Muslim, 4% Roman Catholic, 1% Protestant and 11% other.

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