February 11, 2016
Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Patriarch Irinej has said that he "has nothing against" the visit of the Roman Catholic pope to Serbia.
However, Irinej added that perhaps the conditions for that have not been met yet.
"The pope has several times hinted that he wants to visit Serbia as well... I do not see anything bad in this desire, but due to the fact that Serbia has a large number of refugees from Croatia who still bear the wounds of trauma and persecution, and other consequences of that persecution, perhaps the time has not yet come for the pope's visit to take place," Irinej told Beta agency in an interview during his visit to Canada.
The patriarch said the proposal to canonize WW2-era Croatian Catholic Archbishop of Zagreb and Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac was "not good because his activities were incompatible with sainthood."
According to Irinej, genocide was committed against Serbs during the Second World War in the territory of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) - while Stepinac must have known what was happening.
"As far as I know, Stepinac gave statements that were not at all a desire to protect the Serb people. It is also known that he wholeheartedly helped the Ustasha movement of (Ante) Pavelic, as a God-sent person to solve the historical question of the Croatian people," the patriarch told Beta, in reference to the leader of the Nazi-allied NDH entity.
The head of the SPC added that "the pope last year proposed a meeting between representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church historians and representatives of the Roman Catholic Church historians from Croatia, in some way in the papal presence."
"I immediately said that was a good suggestion, because after all, we need to sit down and see why the Croatians have been showing, for a long time - I won't say enmity, although it de facto is - toward the Serbs. We need to see their reasons for such a thing so and to discuss it at the highest historical and cultural level," said Patriarch Irinej.
He added that the proposal came on the occasion of the canonization of Stepinac and noted that "the history of events in the NDH is known - Serbs experienced genocide then."
"To what degree (Stepinac) personally - we do not know, but the Catholic Church, that is, its priests were certainly present, whose supreme elder was Stepinac. He could not not have known what was going on in the NDH," said Irinej.