VATICAN CITY, 21 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the credential letters of Viadeta Jancovic, Serbia's new ambassador to the Holy See.
In his speech to the diplomat, the Pope affirmed that the Holy See "greatly values its diplomatic links with Serbia, and hopes thereby to offer encouragement to the continuing efforts to build a future of peace, prosperity, reconciliation, and peaceful coexistence throughout the region, as Serbia and its neighbors seek to take their proper place within Europe".
Few countries in the continent of Europe escaped the ravages of war in the last century", said the Holy Father, "and all can learn from the lessons of the recent past. As you work towards a more secure future, it is vital to remember that the identity and the rich cultural tradition of your nation, as of all European nations, is deeply rooted in the heritage of Christian faith and the Gospel of love".
"If we choose to live by the values drawn from our Christian roots", Benedict XVI observed, "we discover the courage to forgive and to accept forgiveness, to be reconciled with our neighbors, and to build together a civilization of love in which all are accepted and respected. I know how deeply the Serb people have suffered in the course of recent conflicts and I wish to express my heartfelt concern for them and for the other Balkan nations affected by the sad events of the last decade".
"The Holy See", he added, "shares your earnest desire that the peace which has been achieved will bring lasting stability to the region. In particular, with regard to the current crisis in Kosovo, I call upon all interested parties to act with prudence and moderation, and to seek solutions that favor mutual respect and reconciliation".
"Not least among the various divisions between the peoples of Europe are those resulting from the tragic loss of Christian unity over the past thousand years", the Pope recalled. He then expressed joy for the progress in relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Christians in Serbia in recent years and for the beneficial collaboration made in various areas. "I earnestly hope that these positive developments will continue to bear fruit", he said, "in particular through joint exploration of Christian social doctrine".
The Holy Father next spoke of the Serbia's geographical situation on the border between Eastern and Western Christianity that offers "a unique opportunity to promote ecumenical dialogue, while its familiarity with Islam, both through its encounter with the Ottoman Empire and through the presence of many Muslims in the region today, opens up rich possibilities for progress in inter-religious dialogue. Both of these processes are of the utmost importance in establishing greater mutual understanding and respect between peoples and nations in the modern world".
"Freedom of religion is an indispensable element in building the kind of society in which such harmony can develop, and the steps taken by Serbia in recent years to guarantee this fundamental human right are greatly appreciated", Benedict XVI said.
"The plan to restore to churches and religious communities property which had been nationalized by the Yugoslav Federation and the introduction of religious teaching in schools have contributed to the spiritual renewal of your country, and in this regard an important example has been given from which other governments can learn".
"I pray that this openness to religious values in society," he concluded, "will continue to grow, so that public debate may be truly nourished by the principles derived from faith".
CD/CREDENTIALS/SERBIA:JANCOVIC VIS 20080221 (580)