DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     June 28, 1999     vol. 10, no. 124

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Catholic Church's "Marshall Plan" for Balkans

          MILAN, JUN 25 (ZENIT).- In an interview published in the Italian magazine "Il Regno," Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican Secretary of Relations with States, said that the future of the Balkans, in the wake of the agreement between NATO and Russia is especially complex, warning of the remaining ambiguities and problems.

          One of the principal questions, according to Archbishop Tauran, is the "future of the refugees. They must be convinced to return, with the guarantee of an international military presence and with credible forces of peace, which will encourage mutual trust between the people of Kosovo and the Serbs. After the atrocities committed, the desire for revenge or the dream of many refugees of a great Albania, which will protect them from Serbia, cannot be underestimated."

          In regard to the Vatican's position about those implicated in the conflict, Archbishop Tauran said that "the Holy See has not condemned the NATO action as such, as it was aware that such an initiative could be interpreted as an intervention for humanitarian ends, with the objective of putting an end to the unbearable violations of the most elemental human rights in Kosovo."

          Such an initiative should only have been taken, he added, "once all the diplomatic possibilities had been exhausted."

          According to Archbishop Tauran, the Holy See "has been perplexed by the means chosen to put an end to the violations perpetrated in Kosovo against human rights. Like many observers, I asked myself: is it possible to protect a population suffering these threats, from 16,000 feet in the air? Does the protection of the legitimate aspiration of the Kosovo inhabitants imply the destruction of the whole of Serbia? Can the U.N. be kept on the sidelines?"

          The Vatican diplomat said that the Kosovo Army of Liberation (UCK), "will be weighty in the pacification of the region. What must be avoided is a destabilizing withdrawal by the Serbs as well as an anarchic return by the refugees."

          Another thorny question is the American idea of having financial aid for the reconstruction of Serbia depend on Slobodan Milosevic's demise from the political scene. "These are some of the many questions that arise and that reflect the complexity of the management of peace. The great challenge at present is the triumph of peace. And, as the Holy Father has stressed, such a victory must be based on respect for history and for law by and for everyone," the Archbishop said.

    Secretaries of Episcopal Conferences Stimulate Ecumenical Dialogue

          This week the secretaries general of the 34 European Episcopal Conferences met in Dubrovnik, one of the symbolic cities of the Balkans war, to analyze the social and spiritual situation of the Continent at the end of the Kosovo conflict and to study the Christian response.

          According to Fr. Aldo Giordano, secretary of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, during the meeting in Dubrovnik "we saw the difficulty of beginning to implement the process of unification that respects differences. What happened in the Balkans confirms that we still cannot imagine a civil society that is able to combine unity with individual identity. And the same thing happens with ecumenism and with ... religions and cultures."

    Unity in Diversity

          The secretaries of the European Episcopal Conferences arrived at this conclusion after debating the challenge of globalization ("a new fact that requires new pastoral answers"), the information society, migrations ("a way to promote understanding among peoples, the communion of the Church and the inter-religious dialogue"), and the safeguarding of creation, peace and justice.

          A new culture is emerging in Europe. At Dubrovnik, the representatives of the Bishops of the East and West confirmed that "Europe's new culture will continue to be unintelligible without a serious rethinking of Christian values," as "the indispensable premise for a more intense coexistence among nations and persons," beginning with the Balkans.

    The Balkans

          After hearing the testimony of Kosovo Bishop Hil Kabshi, the Bishops' representatives said that "the real tragedy of the war is not just the great material misery, but the deep wounds among peoples, which run the risk of festering for many generations."

          Consequently, the participants appealed "to those who are politically and militarily responsible not to condemn the whole Serbian nation because of the cruelties of their political leaders, but to include Serbia in programs of assistance."

          The Catholic Church's "Marshal Plan" for the Balkans, which is already underway not only in Kosovo but also in Serbia through various national Caritas, does not consist, primarily, in humanitarian aid. Its main contribution is to intensify the dialogue with the Orthodox Churches, "to be able to overcome the errors of recent history and insure a lasting peace for the future."

          The representatives of the Catholic Bishops of Europe believe that the support the Orthodox Serbian Church is even more important, now that its leaders have denounced Milosevic's misdeeds to the point of requesting his resignation. The suffering of the war has united Christians, Orthodox, and Catholics. Fr. Giordano confirmed: "There are real signs of hope on the ecumenical road, including with the Orthodox Churches, although we must admit that the path to a full communion is still a long way off."

    Ecumenical Letter

          The plan will be formulated in an ecumenical letter that will establish the rules of dialogue among Christians. It is a decisive initiative for serenity and cultural fecundity in the old Continent, which will be concluded in 2001.

    Document on Relations with Buddhism

          Nor have relations with believers in other religions been forgotten, particularly adherents of Islam, who already number 12 million in Europe, and Buddhism, which in some European circles continues to be attractive.

          It was announced at the Dubrovnik meeting that a document will soon be published on the relation of the Church in the West with Buddhism. The text includes the conclusions of a meeting held recently in Rome convoked by the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and the Council of European Episcopal Conferences. ZE99062501 and ZE99062507

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

June 28, 1999       volume 10, no. 124


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