SPC delegation, Pope Francis discuss "his visit, Stepinac"

Pope Francis received on Saturday a SPC delegation that included Metropolitan Amfilohije, Bishop Irinej and former Ambassador to the Vatican Darko Tanaskovic.

Source: Vecernje novosti
(Beta/AP, file, illustration purposes)
(Beta/AP, file, illustration purposes)

According to the daily Vecernje Novosti, the topics of the unannounced meeting in Rome were Vatican's plans to canonize controversial Croatian Catholic WW2-era cleric Alojzije Stepinac and "the possibilities for the pope's visit to Serbia this year or the next."

Amfilohije on Monday confirmed that the visit took place, but said that the pope's visit to Serbia was not on the agenda. According to Tanjug, told reporters the pope was handed Patriarch Irinej's "response to his letter of last year, related to the canonization of Croatian Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac."

Earlier in the day, Vecernje Novosti said that the Patriarchate of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) confirmed that its delegation had met with the head of the Roman Catholic Church, "but no one was prepared to talk about the details yesterday."

The visit was organized away from the public eye, and there was no protocol announcement of the visit, said the paper. The Vatican administration treats it as a private audience, without announcements and presentation of the details of the talks.

The daily said it learned that the SPC delegation reiterated the reasons why the Church opposes the canonization of Stepinac, but also welcomed the pope's desire "that the final decision is preceded by a comprehensive expert discussion about the role of Stepinac in the NDH (Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia) and the genocide committed against the Serb people."

The two bishops and the current Serbian ambassador to UNESCO argued in favor of a speedy beginning of dialogue on this issue.

"The pontiff was presented with the principled stand of (SPC) Patriarch Irinej, who is not against his visit to Serbia as head of the Vatican state. It has also been pointed out to the pope, however, that other forms of his visit require the green light of the Moscow Patriarchate, whose position could be crucial," the paper said it learned from high-ranked SPC sources.

By receiving the SPC delegation, Pope Francis responded positively to Patriarch Irinej's request, presented in a letter sent in July. The delegation that was in Rome on Saturday will in the future be treated as the Church's permanent mission for contacts with the Holy See and with the pope personally - something that was also requested by Patriarch Irinej.

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