The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), Patriarch Irinej says he stands by his earlier opinion that the time is not right for Pope Francis to visit Serbia.
“I said what I had to say at the time, and I stand by my opinion,” Patriarch Irinej told the Blic daily.
Speaking about his meeting in Belgrade with the State Secretary of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the patriarch said they did not discuss the pope’s visit.
“We have not exchanged one word about that. Neither side did. We talked about other things, but not about that,” said Irinej.
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At the beginning of this year, the SPC head said that the time was not right for the visit, and that “because of everything that has happened in the past, and a huge number of (Serb) refugees from Croatia, a large portion of the nation is against it.”
Another reason was the SPC position with the Church insisting that the Pope should first pay his respects to the victims of Jasenovac, and then come to Belgrade.
Jasenovac was a concentration camp for Serbs, Jews, and Roma, run during the Second World War by the Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH).
According to Blic, “there have been interpretations that the atmosphere is changing because the Vatican has not recognized Kosovo, and because it did not declare Alojzije Stepinac – the Zagreb archbishop during the NDH, whom Serbia considers an accomplice of the regime in many war crimes committed against Serbs – a saint.”
On the other hand, the Serbian Foreign Minister, Ivica Dacic assessed that the pope’s visit would benefit Serbia.
“My position as a statesman is that the pope’s visit would be in Serbia’s interest, especially in the context of not recognizing Kosovo. There will hardly be a pope who has more understanding of us than Pope Francis,” Dacic told the Blic.
This post is also available in: Italiano