Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić meets Pope Francis

Serbian President says Vatican vital for future relations between Serbs and Croats

The Holy See is “very important” for future relations between Serbs and Croats, the Serbian President has said.

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Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić met Thursday with Pope Francis in an audience in the Vatican.

As Croatian state media outlet HINA reports, after the meeting Vučić told journalists that one of the topics of conversation was the need to improve relations between Serbs and Croats.

“It is clear to everyone that we are divided by history and by the past, that we have completely opposite views of past events”, the president said.

“I fear that if we fail to be responsible and continue to talk about the past, we will strengthen all the others and weaken ourselves”, Vučić continued, adding: “We need to respect each other more”.

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Vučić didn’t go into any more detail on Pope Francis’ thoughts on relations between Serbs and Croats, or on the official positions of Belgrade and Zagreb.

The president did say, however, that the Vatican wants a peaceful resolution to the Kosovo dispute.

Although Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, the Holy See has so far refrained from acknowledging that independence.

That’s partly because of its long-established policy of not taking sides on diplomatic disputes until a consensus emerges, and partly because of a concern to avoid antagonising the Orthodox Church.

For its part, the Vatican didn’t comment specifically on either the Serb-Croat or Kosovo issue, apart from confirming that Pope and President discussed domestic and regional issues and the role of religions in fomenting peace and reconciliation.

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One of those regional issues Francis and Vučić discussed was Serbia’s integration into Europe.

In a statement posted on the Serbian Presidency website, Vučić said he appreciated the Holy See’s work towards the incorporation of the Western Balkans region into the EU, and its “encouragement” to EU member States “to assist and support this process”.

According to HINA, Vučić also speculated on a possible papal visit to the country.

“I would love it if the Pope visited Serbia, but that is a matter for our Church to decide”, the president said.

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