DAILY CATHOLIC     WEDNESDAY     February 24, 1999     vol. 10, no. 38

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          MOSCOW (CWNews.com) - The Russian Orthodox Patriarch warned on Tuesday that the threatened use of force by NATO against Serbia over the rebellious Kosovo region could ignite a third world war.

          Patriarch Aleksei II told reporters, "World War One began in the Balkans as the result of an insignificant conflict. God forbid that a third world war should break out in the same region." The Russian government has strongly condemned NATO plans to attack Serbian targets if the former Yugoslav republic does not sign peace accords being negotiated in France. Russian has traditionally maintained close ties to the Balkan state, mainly through the common adherence to the Orthodox Church.

          The patriarch said the Orthodox Church would continue to press for a peaceful solution to the conflict. "We are categorically against any use of force to resolve disputes .. If one side takes on itself the functions of an international policeman then peaceful people will be killed as a consequence," he said. "We all remember how much suffering and grief the Second World War brought to Europe, how many losses. What happened then must not be repeated."

          The Vatican has also expressed opposition to the planned use of force to end the conflict in Kosovo.

          The Holy See issued a new statement on Kosovo, expressing "lively appreciation" for international efforts to find "a peaceful and lasting solution" to the crisis there.

          In a communiqué issued late on February 22-- the eve of an American- imposed deadline for peace talks-- the Vatican also expressed keen concern for the plight of the people of Kosovo. The statement pointed out that "Pope John Paul II has intervened publicly several times, asking the parties involved to engage in sincere dialogue, and encouraging the leaders of the international community to help find a solution which responds to their legitimate aspirations."

          Pope John Paul has addressed the Kosovo crisis several times during the first weeks of 1999. He mentioned the conflict during his first Sunday audience of the year, on January 3, and again in his annual address to the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, on January 11.

          The new Vatican statement praises the international leaders who convened peace talks in the Rambouillet chateau in France this week, and urges them "to push further in an effort to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the disputes." The statement also reminds all parties that "recourse to armed force always entails grave risks, and profound suffering for the civilian population."

          In addition, the Archbishop of Belgrade has voiced skepticism about the durability of any last-minute agreement to curb fighting in Kosovo.

          Archbishop Frank Perko, the Catholic leader in the Serbian capital, told the Italian daily Avvenire that he hopes to hear news that a peace agreement has been struck in the Rambouillet chateau talks, but "I have to ask whether an agreement on paper would be confirmed by the facts."

          The archbishop, who is also president of the Yugoslavian bishops' conference, pointed to the "great complexities" caused by the fact that Serbs and ethnic Albanians have taken positions which are "diametrically opposed" regarding the future of Kosovo. The Albanians seek independence from the Belgrade government, while Serbs insist that Kosovo is not only a part of Yugoslavia, but actually a province of "Greater Serbia."

          "Anything is possible," Archbishop Perko admitted. But he said that if a peace pact is signed-- and even if a NATO peacekeeping force is put in place- - "there is a risk that the signatures will have no value."

          The Belgrade archbishop also pointed out that Serbian leaders know that if Kosovo gains independence, it can never again be recaptured by Yugoslavia. And he suggested that the international community would not favor complete independence, because if Kosovo gains such autonomy, there will soon be demands for independence in Macedonia, Montenegro, and elsewhere. He observed that others seeking independence might include "the 2 million ethnic Hungarian residents of Romania," as well as "Corsicans, Basques... and why not 'Padania' in Italy?"

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales. Both CWN and NE are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

February 24, 1999       volume 10, no. 38


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