Pope John Paul II and the Balkan Connection
Translated by Kisha D Dorado (OCP Delegate of Serbia, Balkan and East European Region)
Pope John Paul II is the last person in the world to be decaled a saint. Why? Well we, the Orthodox from Balkans, know that well.
The 1990 was the year dedicated to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Few people know that this nun was from Skopje, in the former federal republic of Macedonia, and belonged to the group of ethnic Albanians. That same year the peak of tensions between Albanian terrorists and Serbs has been reached in the region of Kosmet (Kosovo and Metohija). When John Paul II, visited some Albanian villages of southern Italy where they celebratted Our Lady of Shkodra, Albania patron and protector, the Pope said: “Mother of Hope, see this lovely scenery on this day… may this generous people be united,” declaring explicit Vatican support to the cause of the Albanians and their aspirations in Kosovo i Metohija.
The Pope’s visit to Albania (country – by the way – overwhelmingly atheistic or, at least, Muslim) and visited the widow of the Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha, with whom he attended a ceremony in front of a monument to the “Greater Albania.”
What was his role in the conflicts in the Balkans? What did Pope John Paul II do to reconcile Orthodox Slavs and Roman Catholic Slavs in the Balkans? He visited over 130 countries, but he never visited Orthodox Serbia, or Russia, the largest Orthodox country.
Most importantly, the Pope never made a visit to Jasenovac, the largest concentration camp in the Balkans during World War II. The Pope prayed inside a mosque, visited Israel in 2000, went to Zagreb and Banja Luka, but never found the time to visit Jasenovac. Why?
Did the Pope only exacerbate religious tensions and animosity in the Balkans between the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Sunni Muslim communities? The Pope was greeted warmly in only one Orthodox country, Romania. In Greece and the Ukraine, he received a cold and hostile reception. In Serbia and Russia, he was never even invited.