Kosovo Leader Meets With Benedict XVI

Vatican: Encounter Does Not Reflect Change in Holy See Position

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 5, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's meeting with President Fatmir Sejdiu does not reflect a change in the position of the Holy See regarding Kosovo's juridical status, the Vatican affirmed.



The Pope and the Kosovo president met Saturday. The Vatican press office released a communiqué after the meeting.

"The Holy Father Benedict XVI today received in audience Fatmir Sejdiu, president of Kosovo, in the first place to express his closeness to the entire population of that land, where Christianity has been present since the first centuries of our era," the statement said. "Currently the Catholic Church there numbers about 65,000 faithful and performs an important service -- especially in the fields of health care and education -- in favor of all Kosovars, whatever their ethnic or religious background."

The message continued: "The meeting also served to enable the Holy Father to receive firsthand information on the current situation and future prospects.

"The audience with the highest institutional authority of the current autonomous province of Serbia, administered by the United Nations under the terms of Security Council Resolution 1244, does not represent any change in the position of the Holy See vis-à-vis the definitive juridical status of Kosovo.

"As for any possible declaration of independence by Kosovo, the Holy See will follow developments on the ground with particular attention and, in her appraisal thereof, will bear in mind the position of the international community."

The Vatican communiqué affirmed that the "Holy See neglects no opportunity to exhort everyone to reconciliation, justice and peace."

"In this case," it added, "she reiterates what the Holy Father said to the diplomatic corps on Jan. 7, 2008, when he expressed the hope that security and respect for the rights of those who live in that land be guaranteed, that the threat of violent conflict be definitively dispelled, and European stability reinforced."

Kosovo, Serbia's southern province with a majority ethnic-Albanian population, says it will soon declare independence.