"Differences with Catholics should be overcome"

BELGRADE -- Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Patriarch Irinej has spoken in favor of Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI visiting Serbia, Belgrade-based NIN weekly reported.

Patriarch Irinej (Tanjug, file)
Patriarch Irinej (Tanjug, file)

The head of the Serbian Church also believes it was "high time the many unnecessary disputes and differences" that the SPC had with other Christian denominations, "particularly with the Catholic Church" were overcome.

Pointing out that at the end of his life, Christ “begs for all of us be together as one,” the patriarch told the weekly that life itself points to that and leads us to seek a way to make this come true, adding that it is especially true when it comes to Orthodox and Catholic believers.

Irinej believes that the fear of meetings, having discussions and facing different opinions is not the position of the Church and that the fear of such actions is against the Gospel.

"We and the Catholics have much more in common and way less differences than it seems," he was quoted as saying.

The patriarch said that he was not in minority in terms of supporting the arrival of the pope to Serbia - "as the Church was yet to take a vote on that".

He said he thought the coming celebration of the Edict of Milan anniversary in Niš, southern Serbia, in 2013, was a historical event.

The patriarch, however, reiterated that there were problems that could make the pope's visit to Serbia problematic, such as security issues, "bearing in mind the still fresh memories of World War II and also of the recent wars that had taken place in the Western Balkans".

Irinej added that a Catholic Church apology for the crimes committed against Serbs in the WW2 Independent State of Croatia death camp of Jasenovac "would be a gesture that would instill hope that something like that would never happen again".

“However, a useful dialogue and meeting that would address the history and confirm that a crime and a tragedy really did occur there would perhaps be more useful an act than an apology, as a crime is a crime, whoever may have committed it,” the patriarch said.