Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic will meet with Pope Francis on Friday at the Vatican.
According to Serbian news agency B92, the President’s office stated that the Holy Father and President Nikolic will discuss several issues including the migrant crisis in Europe.
They will also discuss Serbia’s opposition to the inclusion of the Republic of Kosovo into the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
Although Serbia recognizes the Republic’s governance of its territory, it does not recognize its sovereignty. The Republic of Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008.
President Nikolic and Pope Francis will also discuss the establishment of a joint commission of the Serbian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches that will study “historical facts related to WWII and Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac’s role in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH).”
The former Archbishop of Zagreb, who opposed the Communist regime in Croatia and died while under house arrest, was declared a martyr and beatified by St. John Paul II in 1998.
The Serbian Orthodox Church, however, opposes the canonization of Blessed Stepinac, accusing him of supporting the Fascist regime in Croatia, which was responsible for the deaths of Serbs in Croatia in World War II. The commission would study historical evidence to determine his role which is widely disputed. Some say that he supported the Fascist regime aligned with the Nazis while others have said that he opposed it and saved the lives of Croatian Jews.President Nikolic has also expressed his concerns on the canonization of Blessed Stepinac in a letter sent to Pope Francis in 2014.
The Serbian President’s media office stated that during his visit, President Nikolic will also confer a medal on Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State “for his outstanding merit in the building and strengthening of friendly relations and cooperation between Serbia and the Holy See.”