National Catholic Register


Archbishop Franc Perko


BY Jim Cosgrove

April 11-17, 1999 Issue | Posted 4/11/99 at 1:00 AM


BELGRADE, Yugoslavia—For five days, the archbishop of Belgrade, Yugoslavia, had no news from the Catholic clergy in Kosovo, who care for an estimated 60,000 Catholics. He expressed his fears in an interview with the Italian daily Avvenire. Despite his confidence in Vatican diplomatic efforts and those of the international community, including Russia, he does not feel the situation will clear up quickly. The following are excerpts from the archbishop's comments.

Avvenire: How long with the conflict last?

Archbishop Perko: 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.

Every afternoon we have eucharistic adoration, the sirens notwithstanding. But, of course, there are very few faithful.

How formidable are the Serbs?

The Serbs are solidly behind their authorities. They will not give in easily. They want to resist until the end. 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.

What will be the outcome of Pope John Paul II's peace efforts?

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.

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.

Are you glad for the NATO intervention?

We cannot be in favor of war — of any war. It goes without saying, however, that the massacres in Kosovo must stop. Arkan's [indicted war criminal Zeljko Raznjatovic] paramilitaries must be stopped. They cannot play this way with so many human lives.

—From ZENIT dispatches.