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news 28 Sep 17

Kosovo President Woos Pope on Visit to Vatican

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci met Pope Francis in Rome on Thursday, when they discussed his Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Kosovo's dialogue with Serbia.

Die Morina
Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci and Pope Francis in the Holy See | Photo: the Presidency of Kosovo

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci met Pope Francis in the Vatican on Thursday, when among other issues, he informed the head of the Catholic Church about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established earlier this year to encourage mutual forgiveness among Kosovo Albanians and Serbs.

“The aim is to close the chapter of conflict and open the chapter of cooperation,” Thaci was quoted as saying, while talking about the commission during the meeting in the Holy See.

During his meeting with the Pope, Thaci also talked about the dialogue process with Serbia, which has refused to recognise the independence of its former province, declared in 2008.

“We are working to promote values, such as peace, dialogue, cooperation, tolerance, coexistence, in Kosovo, in the region and in the world. This is Kosovo today, although many still have in mind the previous Kosovo - that of war and destruction,” Thaci said.

Thaci also invited Francis to visit mainly Muslim Kosovo and was quoted as sharing the satisfaction of Kosovo's small Catholic community that a new cathedral had recently been consecrated in Pristina, the Cathedral of St Mother Teresa, so named after the ethnic Albanian saint canonised in 2016, who lived for a while in Kosovo in the village of Letnica.

Catholics make up only a small percentage of Kosovo's population, numbering some 65,000 out of a population of some 2 million.The vast majority of Kosovars, well over 90 per cent, are Muslims, followed by Orthodox Christian Serbs.

Traditionally headquartered in Prizren, the seat of the Church is to move to Pristina following the completion of the newe cathedral.

Although Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, the Holy See does not recognise it as an independent country, partly because it is wary of antangonising the Orthodox Church and partly because traditionally the Vatican does not take sides in contentious diplomatic questions until a concensus has emerged.

While most EU member states recognise Kosovo, five do not - Slovakia, Romania, Greece, Cyprus and Spain have not. Moreover, in its campaign against recognition, Serbia enjoys the support of Russia, China and a number of other countries.

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