Following his meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that would like the Pope to visit Belgrade, but that the visit depended on the Serb Orthodox Church (SPC) whose consent was needed.
Vucic thanked the Pope for the Holy Seat’s policy regarding Kosovo (the Vatican did not recognize Kosovo’s independence) and its support for Serbia’s European integration process.
“We particularly appreciate the support that we get from the Vatican in regard to expediting the process of European integration of the Western Balkans in the EU and would like to further encourage the Member States to assist and support the process,” Vucic said, adding that EU membership was one of Serbia’s foreign policy priorities.
Regarding Kosovo, Vucic added that “the Vatican wants the two sides to continue negotiating and find a peaceful solution.”
A statement from Vucic’s office said he passed on regards from the SPC Patriarch Irinej, adding the Pope held the Patriarch in high esteem.
“I told him (the Pope) about Kosovo and Metohija and our holy places and a difficult situation for our people there and the attempts to find a compromise, but that it takes two to that. I also spoke about the necessity of fixing the relations between Serbs and Croats. Everyone knows that the history and the past have caused a big division among us and that we have different views of what happened, but that it is important to focus on the future. The role of the Holy Seat is important in that process,” Vucic went on to say.
He added that both Croats and Serbs should learn to respect each other more and to focus more on the future instead of dealing with what had happened 20 or 70 years ago.
Vucic also said the two talked about the position of the Catholics in Serbia, the restitution and taxes, and added he hoped there was room to do more on improving the position of that segment of Serbia’s population.
Vucic and the Pope also discussed boosting the cooperation between Belgrade and the Vatican in the areas of culture, historical sciences and the joint projects of the scientific institutes of Serbia and the Holy Seat, the official statement said.