.- Earlier today, Pope Benedict greeted Bartolomej Kajtazi, the Holy See’s new ambassador from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and reaffirmed that country’s commitment to reconciliation and peace.
Receiving the new diplomat’s Letters of Credence, the Pope said that if Macedonia keeps along the path to peace and reconciliation, it “can become an example to others in the Balkan region.”
“Tragically,” he added, “cultural differences have often been a source of misunderstanding between peoples and even the cause of senseless conflicts and wars. In fact, dialogue between cultures is an indispensable building stone of the universal civilization of love for which every man and woman longs."
Pope Benedict also affirmed Macedonia’s "goal of social integration" which brings it "closer to the rest of Europe. ... As my beloved predecessor said on a number of occasions: Europe needs the Balkan nations, and they need Europe!”
He said that, “Entry into the European Community should not, however, be understood merely as a panacea to overcome economic adversity. ... The process of the European Union's expansion ... 'will lack substance if it is reduced to merely geographic and economic dimensions'.”
“Rather,” he said, “the union must 'consist above all in an agreement about values which ... finds expression in its law and in its life'. This rightly demands of each state a proper ordering of society that creatively reclaims the soul of Europe, acquired through the decisive contribution of Christianity, affirming the transcendent dignity of the human person and the values of reason, freedom, democracy and the constitutional state."
The Pope also spoke on authentic development, which, he said, "requires a coordinated national plan of progress which honors the legitimate aspirations of all sectors of society and to which political and civic leaders can be held accountable."
Programs, he said, "must be based on the protection of human rights including those of ethnic and religious minorities, the practice of responsible and transparent governance, and the maintenance of law and order by an impartial judiciary system and an honorable police force."
The Holy Father also stressed the importance of presenting young generations with "a vision of confidence and optimism" and hope for the future through "the creation of educational opportunities," especially schools "staffed by people of personal integrity. ... Integral to such formation is religious instruction."
In conclusion, the Pope told Ambassador Kajtazi that, "the Catholic Church in your nation, though numerically small, desires to reach out in co-operation with other religious communities to all members of Macedonian society without distinction. ... I am confident that the Church is willing to contribute even more extensively to the country's human development programs, promoting the values of peace, justice, solidarity and freedom."