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Serbian Orthodox patriarch would welcome papal visit

July 10, 2012

Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej I has said that he would welcome a visit by Pope Benedict XVI, despite an earlier decision by the Serbian Orthodox Church not to invite the Pope to a major ecumenical celebration next year.

Speculation about a possible papal visit to Serbia had arisen earlier this year, in connection with the scheduled celebrations in 2013 in Nis, the birthplace of the Emperor Constantine, marking the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan. But the Russian Orthodox Church had frowned on the idea of a papal appearance, and the Serbian Orthodox Synod announced earlier this year that the Pope would not be invited.

Patriarch Irenej, however, expressed enthusiasm for the idea of a papal visit. The Serbian prelate did not specify a time, leaving open the possibility that, if opposition among the Orthodox faithful in Serbia eased, Pope Benedict could travel to Serbia at some time during the year of the 1700th anniversary, if not for the major ecumenical celebration.

A high-level delegation from the Vatican--probably led by Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity—is expected to attend the primary celebrations in Nis.


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