The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, said in Skopje that the Republic of North Macedonia is a bridge between East and West and a place where a large number of cultural currents meet and is a special place in the region with the richness of its millennium culture.
Addressing the President and Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia, Djordje Ivanov and Zoran Zaev in Villa Vodno, Pope pointed out that these great cultural assets are an expression, he said, of the priceless heritage of this country and its multiethnic and multireligious people, rich history and their centuries-old relationships.
This mixture of cultures and ethnic and cultural identities, he said, led to a peaceful and lasting coexistence where these individual identities found their expression and developed without mutual denial, domination or discrimination.
"In this way, they built relationships and communications that could serve as an example and a reference point for peaceful and fraternal life among communities through diversity and mutual respect", said Pope Francis.
These special features, as Pope Francis says, are also of great importance for integration with the European peoples.
Hopefully, he added, that this integration is developing, to the benefit of the entire region of the Western Balkans through constant respect for diversity and basic rights.
- I encourage you to continue your journey so that your country will be the torch of peace, acceptance and fruitful integration of cultures, religions, and peoples. Reflecting on their particular identities and vitality of their cultural and civic life, they will be able to express their common destiny through the particular wealth they offer. God will protect and bless Northern Macedonia, preserve unity and give her good and only good - said the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Pope thanked the President for the welcome and invitation to visit Northern Macedonia and all those present in the Villa Vodno.
Reminding that this is the first visit of the descendants of the apostle Peter to Macedonia, Pope Francis said that it is a great honor for him to do so on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Holy See, which took place several years after the declaration of independence in September 1991.
He thanked the Macedonian state authorities for the cooperation and organization of the work of Red Cross and Caritas and other non-governmental organizations to accept and provide assistance and easier life to migrants and refugees from various Middle Eastern countries who left the war or extreme poverty conditions often caused by war.
- It was so in 2015 and 2016, a large number of them crossed there, most of them headed to the northern or western part of Europe, a part of them found sanctuary here - he said and expressed the hope that such solidarity will be preserved in the future as well.
While speaking to Ivanovic, the Pope said that the Holy See, from the moment when Northern Macedonia became independent, greatly supported every move that state performed in order to promote dialogue and understanding between the authorities and religious communities.
THE POPE HOLDS THE MASS
The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, served the Mass at the Skopje Square of Macedonia, which is attended by some 15,000 citizens from Northern Macedonia and neighboring countries, and most of them are from Croatia.
The Pope drove to Macedonia Square in his "Popemobile".
Previously he met with the highest officials of the Republic of Northern Macedonia in the villa Vodno, as well as representatives of religious communities, and then a group of citizens from vulnerable categories in Mother Teresa Memorial House.
After the liturgy, he held an ecumenical and inter-religious meeting with young people in the Catholic Church.
(Telegraf.co.uk / Tanjug)