SUBOTICA, Serbia, AUG. 20, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The foundation stone has been laid for the first Catholic seminary for Serbia.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., presided over the ceremony, calling it a historic moment.
Archbishop Stanislaw Hocevar of Belgrade, the chairman of the bishops’ conference of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, which covers Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia, told the group Aid to the Church in Need that it is “of great importance that future priests be trained in their own country.”
After the war, Serbia was left without a seminary since the six seminaries of the former Republic of Yugoslavia were situated in other republics, Archbishop Hocevar explained.
“As a result, the seminarians were being trained in various other independent states. [L]ong term, this was not an acceptable state of affairs,” he added.
The Diocese of Subotica is situated in the region of Vojvodina, and has the highest number of Catholics in Serbia at 320,000.
Given that the Serbian Orthodox Church represents 85% of the Serbian population, Archbishop Hocevar is particularly concerned about good ecumenical relations.
“Although there [are] only half a million Catholics in Serbia,” he said, “the expectations with regard to the Catholic Church in the matter of interconfessional dialogue [are] high.”
Bishop Janos Penzes of Subotica explained that he believes the new seminary will strengthen the bonds between clergy, which has particular importance given that people of many nationalities and religions live side by side.
He said that due to the training at different seminaries, after ordination many of the priests scarcely know each other and have very different approaches to their ministry depending on the university.
Bishop Penzes concluded, “A unified and shared formation would make it easier to devise a unified pastoral plan for the local church.”