Pope Francis met with the bishops of Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Rome for their “ad limina apostolorum” visit yesterday.
Ahead of this visit, the President of the International Bishops’ Conference of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Bishop Ladislav Nemét, of Zrenjanin, Serbia, to which the bishops belong, spoke to Vatican Radio and stressed the importance of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue to the conference.
“As for Serbia, collaboration and ecumenical relations between the Holy See and the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church is very good… In Kosovo, interreligious dialogue is more meaningful, because Catholics live among Muslims.
“In Montenegro and Macedonia, it is difficult for the Catholic Church to maintain relations with the official Orthodox Church and even with two Orthodox churches, which are growing with large state aid.”
The conference, the Serbian bishop said, has made a recent proposal to the Holy See to divide the international group into national conferences “because of the enormous differences between these countries.”
“We have four countries with differing legislation: only in Serbia do we have the right to teach religion in elementary and secondary schools. As for Montenegro, the government has signed a Fundamental Agreement with the Holy See. However, there are no similar accords with the other countries.”
Regardless of the request to divide the international conference, he underscored, their hope is to “maintain a spirit of collaboration between the four countries”
Another priority, he said, is to “reinforce our presence in these four diverse societies: reconciliation is still far off between Croatians and Serbians, between Albanians and Serbians.”
Bishop Nemét concluded, stressing that these are areas of “great problems and challenges, and we can truly make a positive contribution, also according to the intentions of the Holy Father, who does much for peace in the world.”