His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia has expressed the view that now is not the right time for a Papal visit to Serbia.
His comment comes in an interview with Blic, reflecting on his recent meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. During the meeting, Pat. Irinej expressed gratitude for the official position of the Vatican, which has not recognized the independence of the southern Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija.
Pat. Irinej notes in the interview that he did not speak about the possibility of a Papal visit with the Cardinal during their meeting, but that he had spoken on the matter earlier in the year, and he still holds the same view, that “because of all that has happened in the past, and the great number of refugees from Croatia, the majority of the people are against it.”
Talk of a Papal visit to Serbia has been ongoing since 2005, but it has yet to come to fruition.
The Serbian Church also earlier expressed the opinion that Pope Francis should first go honor the victims of the Ustaše Jasenovac concentration camp before coming to Serbia, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists. Jasenovac was a death camp for Serbs, Jews, and Roma, run during the Second World War by the Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH).
Another major sticking point between the Serbian Church and the Vatican is the person of Cardinal Aloysius Viktor Stepinac, the Archbishop of Zagreb, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 3, 1998. Serbs consider him a war criminal, complicit in atrocities against Serbs and the Orthodox Church. He is locally venerated in Croatia, and the question of fully canonizing him for Churchwide veneration has come up recently.