(ANSAmed) – Serbia’s Orthodox Patriarch Irinej said a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Serbia would foster a return to unity of the Christian world although the time is not ripe for such a trip to take place.
The Patriarch was quoted by Serbian news agency Tanjug as saying the pontiff could visit Nis next year during celebrations for the 1700 years of the Edict of Milan by Emperor Constantine – who was born in the city in southern Serbia – proclaiming religious freedom in the Roman empire.
”The arrival of the Pope would be very useful for Serbia, the Serbian people and Serbian state”, said Irinej who would be the first Patriarch to meet a Pontiff after the tragic division of the Eastern and Western churches in the 11th century.
The meeting would be the occasion to discuss the issue of Christianity’s unity ”for which we pray every day”, he said, in an historic evolution of relations between the Orthodox and Catholic churches. ”However there are positions we respect , including that of the Russian Patriarch who could refuse to come to Nis were the Pope to visit”, he said. ”It is for this reason that our church has decided to invite [to Nis] the heads of all Orthodox churches and to send an invite to high level delegations of other churches”.
The invite will not be sent to the Pontiff personally but to the Catholic Church, asking for the presence of a high level delegation. ”Our opinion is that it is still not time for such a visit to take place”, Irinej said. (ANSAmed)
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