Kosovo Crisis


"I am afraid, very afraid, not because of the bombs that might fall on me -- NATO is only striking military targets -- but because the situation is worsening. The conflict could last weeks instead of days -- months, long months."
    For five days, Bishop Perko has had no news from Bishop Sopi in Kosovo and his priests. There are 60,000 Catholics in Kosovo. The only news he has is that the Franciscans of Grahovica, whose monastery is near the barracks, have had to move to a neighboring parish. In spite of the emergency, the Holy Week liturgy continues to be celebrated. "Every afternoon we have Eucharistic adoration, the sirens notwithstanding. But, of course, there are very few faithful."
    Archbishop Franc Perko of Belgrade expressed this pessimistic point of view to the Italian daily 'Avvenire.' He does not feel the situation will clear up quickly, in spite of having confidence in what Vatican diplomacy is attempting as well as the efforts of the Russian Primakov."

ARCHBISHOP PERKO: "The Serbs are solidly behind their authorities. They will not give in easily. They want to resist until the end. There is a very great risk; the strength of these people lies in their unity. Yesterday Patriarch Pavle sent a message to the Orthodox Serbs calling for unity, saying that this is an unjust war and exhorting them to trust in God. Let us hope that the Russian prime minister can do something good."

-- How are the Pope's repeated appeals and Vatican diplomacy being received in Belgrade?
ARCHBISHOP PERKO: "There is a lot of interest, including by the media, in everything John Paul II and his collaborators say. There is both interest and keen appreciation, for the nuncio's endeavors as well."

-- Where does responsibility lie in terms of causes of this conflict?
ARCHBISHOP PERKO: "We must look at the situation, as Israel's prophets did when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. The prophets did not accuse the Babylonian forces but the sins of the people. In the first place, the sin of lack of trust in God. Today, however, the situation is so difficult that we must believe, more than ever, in God's plan, rather than men's, even if they are powerful."

-- Is NATO's intervention justified?
ARCHBISHOP PERKO: "We cannot be in favor of war -- of any war. It goes without saying, however, that the massacres in Kosovo must stop. Arkan's paramilitaries must be stopped. They cannot play this way with so many human lives."

-- Although you are Slovenian, you have decided to stay in Belgrade.
ARCHBISHOP PERKO: "It is right that I stay with my people. After Easter, I should go to Lubiana for surgery. I don't think I'll be able to leave, however, because I am not guaranteed a return visa. Just today one of the Slovenian priests in my dioceses did not get his visa renewed."

1/04/99 11:10:57 / Zenit


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