.- Meeting with the Ambassador of Macedonia to the Holy See on Thursday, the Holy Father expressed "great respect and consideration" for the cultural and spiritual heritage of the country. He also said he hopes that Macedonians will carry forward their principles to confront the relativistic and secular aspects of European society.
On the occasion of the presentation of new ambassador Gjoko Gjorgjevski's credentials to the Holy See, the Pope recognized the significant history of the country and hoped for its continued cultural and spiritual strength.
The Holy Father called the human and Christian values "incarnated" in the lives of Macedonians the "priceless spiritual and cultural heritage of the nation," noting the Holy See's "great respect and consideration" for this heritage.
He added that by standing firm in their spiritual identity, Macedonians "will be able to offer European peoples the contribution of their own experience."
Pope Benedict then wished success for Macedonia's efforts to join the EU, "while accepting the relative rights and duties, and with reciprocal respect for the collective demands and traditional values of each people."
This will ensure their commitment to peace, he said, which is "not just the fruit of human plans and activities, but is above all a gift of God to men and women of good will," who are sustained by justice and forgiveness.
Turning to the issue of an increasingly secular Europe, the Pope said, "My hope is that, in a general context of moral relativism and scant interest in religious experience affecting a part of European society," the Macedonian people "may exercise wise discernment in opening new horizons of authentic civility and true humanism.”
To do so, he concluded, it is important that they "seek to strengthen and maintain the principles that lie at the roots of this people's civilization, at both the individual and community level" including "dedication to the family, defense of human life and the promotion of religious needs especially among the young."
This year marks the 15th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Holy See.
The country has been a candidate for EU membership since 2005.