Statements from the Holy See Regarding Kosovo, 1999

Year Published
  • 2013
  • English

From Vatican Information Service, May 3, 1999:

Pope Asks Church to Dedicate May to Prayers for World Peace

VATICAN CITY, MAY 2, 1999 (VIS) - ... The Holy Father then asked for prayers for those regions of the world which are suffering conflicts, in particular Yugoslavia and parts of Africa.

"With deep sorrow and concern my thoughts today return to neighboring Yugoslavia and I affectionately embrace all there who are crying, suffering and dying. I again raise my voice to plea - in the name of God - for an end to man's abuse of man, for an end to the instruments of destruction and death and for the mobilization of every possible channel of assistance for those forced to leave their homeland in the midst of indescribable atrocities. May dialogue be resumed, with that intelligence and creativity that God has bestowed on man, in order to resolve tensions and conflicts and to build a society based on the dutiful respect towards every human person.

"With all my strength I invite you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray intensely during this month of May to beseech Our Lady for the gift of peace in the Balkans and in the too many places in the world where violence reigns, fomented by prejudices and hatred towards those who have different ethnic origins, religious convictions and political ideas. My thoughts go not only to the Balkans but to Africa, the continent which is at this moment bloodied by the greatest number of wars, struggles for power, ethnic conflicts and indifference are slowly suffocating it.

He concluded with a plea for all dioceses to devote the month of May to prayers "so that in the Balkans, in Africa and in every corner of the globe builders of peace might flourish, (who will) forget their special interests and become ready to work for the common good."

* * * * *

From Vatican Information Service, April 29, 1999:

Holy Father's Message to U.N. Secretary General Annan

VATICAN CITY, APR 29, 1999 (VIS) - Made public today was the Message written by Pope John Paul to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan,on the vigil of his departure for Europe on a peace-seeking mission aimed at resolving the conflict in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

In the message encouraging Secretary General Annan in his mission, the Pope writes that he is "convinced that the chain of hatred and violence cannot be broken unless it is with the force of fraternity, law and justice."

Following are excerpts from that message, written in French and dated April 27:

"On this occasion I which to express my prayers of solidarity and wish you every success in your mission. The Holy See greatly appreciates the fact that the United Nations finds its full role in the management of a crisis which involves the entire international community. It is indeed urgent that law and institutions be heard and not silenced by the din of arms.

"As you know, since the first moment of the crisis in Kosovo, I have expressed without the slightest hesitation my conviction that only loyal, patient and realistic negotiations are able to give a suitable answer to the legitimate aspirations of the peoples concerned, and I have encouraged every effort in this regard.

"Faced with the deportation of peoples in fear, with demands of all sorts and with the bombings of this past month, I can only exhort all those who, like you and with you, endeavor to resume the way of dialogue in order to arrive at the drafting of a peace plan and thus put an end to a human tragedy which concerns the conscience of all. My true appreciation is expressed to all the organizations and volunteers who dedicate themselves with such generosity to comfort so many of our brothers and sisters, The Catholic Church is also present on the ground and is working to help allthose that she is able to reach. This humanitarian work is irreplaceable: It must continue, intensify and diversify."

* * * * *

From Vatican Information Service, April 20, 1999:

Pope and the Whole Church Pray for Peace in Yugoslavia

VATICAN CITY, APR 20, 1999 (VIS) - Made public today was a letter from the Holy Father to Archbishop Franc Perko of Belgrade, president of the Episcopal Conference of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in which he expresses his spiritual closeness and the prayer of the whole Church for all those who suffer because of the war.

"It is with deep sorrow that I am following each and every day the worsening of the tragic humanitarian situation in the various regions of Yugoslavia, especially in Kosovo. With special affection I am particularly close to the pastors and faithful of the Catholic communities, as well as to all people of good will who are making efforts to aid those who are suffering most at this time, because they have been deprived of the love of their families, forcefully made to leave their homes and unjustly made to live far from their land.

"At the same time, I wish to assure you, my dear Brother, and all the bishops of Yugoslavia that this Apostolic See will continue in its commitment to peace, so that these people, especially those in Kosovo, who have been so sorely tried, might be spared further suffering.

"Finally, all those responsible for national and international life must be reminded that the path of dialogue is always possible and that such a way can always lead to honorable solutions among the various parties, in the respect of men and women from the same land, who are all children of the same heavenly Father.

"Such is the prayer, at this tragic time, of the entire Church, who is closer than ever to you, invoking the Lord with a single voice, that He might soon let the star of peace shine on your beloved land, in the respect for the rights of every creature of God."

* * * * *

From Vatican Information Service, April 8, 1999:

Balkan Refugees and Humanitarian Issues Discussed in Vatican

VATICAN CITY, APR 8, 1999 (VIS) - Made public yesterday afternoon was a communique with the intervention of the Holy See at the April 6 meeting in the Vatican of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Humanitarian Issues Working Group.

Fr. Michael Blume, S.V.D., an official of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, read the intervention for the delegation. Written in English, it was divided into a brief introduction and seven points.

The first point expressed "the deep admiration of this delegation for the governments and municipalities of countries neighboring Kosovo and for members of so many organizations, who have generously and selflessly responded to this emergency. Few people could have anticipated its extent. Yet with the resources available, they are involved, often heroically, in clothing, sheltering, nourishing, and healing. Many families in these same countries likewise deserve our deep respect and support, for they have welcomed refugees into their own homes, often at great cost to themselves."

Point two of this intervention brought up several areas of concern: "Protection: Humanitarian action, however, will have little long-lasting effect unless accompanied by protection. This delegation is thus very concerned about the safety of the refugees and even of those remaining in Kosovo. It is further preoccupied by reports on the following questions which, if verified, will require special attention: the disappearance of unarmed Albanian Kosovar men, the mining of some border areas, the confiscation of documents of those leaving Kosovo, with the risk that they will become stateless.

"A further protection issue concerns the quality of human life of those protected, which will become evident once the present emergency is more under control. Spiritual and psychological traumas need healing. The handicapped, the aged, and other particularly vulnerable people need special attention. Many families have been deeply wounded with the loss of a spouse and other members."

The Holy See intervention closed in proposing "the following points for the consideration of this meeting:

"A humanitarian corridor: Two days ago, on Easter morning, the Holy Father publicly appealed to the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to permit the opening of what he called 'a corridor of hope', so that aid can reach the populations amassed along the border of Kosovo. We hope that all governments and organizations involved in the area will heed this plea.

"International observers: This delegation further urges measures to bring international observers back to Kosovo, both for an eventual peace process and for assuring residents of Kosovo that reliable reporting of events reaches the wider international community.

"Durable solutions for refugees and exiles: While the offers of several countries to accept quotas of refugees from Kosovo are certainly heartening, it is not clear how many refugees will opt to resettle or find temporary protection in a far-off land. The hope of many for a quick return in freedom, security and dignity needs to be tempered by reports suggesting widespread destruction, insecurity and increasingly strained ethnic relations. This will not change quickly. If exile becomes a long-term fact, then the problem of third country resettlement or local integration into their host country arises. We believe it is worthwhile preparing for this possibility and deliberately involving the refugees themselves in discussions concerning their future, especially when it is a question of being transported elsewhere or where the unity of the family is concerned.

"Help for the countries hosting the refugees: ... Besides the poverty of these countries, they live with their own delicate ethnic balance, which the influx of large numbers of ethnic Albanians is perceived as disrupting. It is in the interest of all to assure that such a disruption does not happen. The importance at this moment of generous investment in and direct aid to these countries cannot be underestimated."

* * * * *

From Vatican Information Service, April 7, 1999:

Communique on Archbishop Tauran's Mission in Belgrade

VATICAN CITY, APR 1, 1999 (VIS) - Made public this afternoon was the following communique on the mission of Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, secretary for Relations with States, in Belgrade, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia:

... "Before leaving Belgrade, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran made the following declaration:

1. I did not come to offer a solution but to express the Holy Father's deep concern for the tragic situation which is causing tremendous suffering for countless people in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

2. During my talks today, I presented the following points:

  • Pope John Paul II is close to those who are suffering, without distinction of race, creed, or political ideas. He ardently desires that every people be respected with equal dignity. This should be fulfilled out of respect for history and law.
  • Every day the Pope receives from numerous parties requests for aid for the people who have been mistreated, forced to flee their homes, without counting those who have been killed! The Pope believes that no political cause can ever justify cruelty, and that such a situation should cease so that humanitarian organizations can intervene and offer their help to alleviate the sufferings of so many of our brothers and sisters.
  • The Pope is convinced of the validity of diplomacy because it is based on reciprocal respect, on listening to the legitimate aspirations of others, and on courtesy. He believes that only a political solution will offer the possibility for the people of this region to live together in peace.
  • In a few days time, Christians of the world will celebrate Easter - the celebration of the (victory of) life over death. His Holiness, and many religious leaders, like Patriarch Pavle with whom I met, consider that it would be a great humanitarian gesture to cease all military operations during the week which separates the commemoration of this Feast, in the East and in the West (from April 4 to 11). Of course, such an initiative will have to be accompanied by measures on the ground to pursue these very objectives. Obviously, humanitarian organizations must be able to enter without risk and resume their urgent and essential work.

3. I believe that there are neither victors nor vanquished. We should do our utmost so that peace triumph. This is what Pope John Paul II has written to President Milosevic, to Secretary General of Nato Solano, and to President Clinton.

'I hope and pray that my visit - which above all is an expression of John Paul II's ministry of peace - might help to make the voice of conscience heard in the hearts of all once again. This is the objective of the diplomatic work of the Holy See. The Pope and those who work with him believe that mankind is always better that it seems. For this reason, we never lose hope. The Holy See hopes that, once again, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, will find peace for all and will occupy the place which is hers in Europe'."

* * * * *

Regina Coeli: Appeals for Peace in Kosovo, Aid for Refugees

VATICAN CITY, APR 5, 1999 (VIS) - Both before and after praying the Regina Coeli today from Castelgandolfo, the Pope spoke of the dramatic situation in Kosovo and the Balkans, and pleaded for peace to be restored in that region and for assistance to be given to the victims of the conflict, in particular the refugees.

Recalling that today is Easter Monday, also called Monday of the Angel, the Holy Father said: "Today we repeat 'Christ, my hope, is risen!', and beseech Him for courage in fidelity and perseverance in good. Above all we invoke peace, the gift He obtained for us with His death and resurrection. We pray that the precious gift of peace might be given especially to our brothers and sisters of Kosovo, where the Easter bells have not rung out in celebration and where, unfortunately, the war continues with destruction, deportations and death. ..."

... "We cannot, however, forget those who are going through moments of great suffering. I think with affection of the many refugees of Kosovo who are living in dramatic conditions.

"With all my heart I thank those who are generously trying to help them. I especially appreciate Italy's commitment in Albania, as well as in Italy itself, in a vast and generous aid program called 'Rainbow'. I encourage public and private institutions, volunteers organizations and individual citizens to intensify their efforts to come to the aid of our brothers and sisters who are so sorely tried."

* * * * *

Holy See Communique on Possible Ceasefire in Yugoslavia

VATICAN CITY, APR 6, 1999 (VIS) - The following communique was released this evening by the Holy See Press Office:

"If the news concerning a cessation of military and police operations in Kosovo on the part of the the Federal Yugoslav authorities, and the start of negotiations with representatives from the peoples in that republic and the return of its inhabitants is confirmed, it will certainly be a question of an important step towards peace. Obviously all the other parties involved must respond with an attitude of welcome. The Secretariat of State, however, is still waiting anxiously for official confirmation. One thing is certain: continuing with the violence of recent days would represent a serious obstacle in the negotiated search for peace and human co-existence."

* * * * *

Pope Receives UN High Commissioner for Refugees

VATICAN CITY, APR 7, 1999 (VIS) - This morning, immediately following the weekly general audience, the Holy Father received the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Sadako Ogata who then met with Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, according to a communique published this afternoon.

The communique continues: ""During the talks, the high commissioner illustrated the tragic data of the humanitarian catastrophe of Kosovo and the measures taken to face it, which were adopted by the summit that the UNHCR called yesterday in Geneva.

"The Holy See, for its part, expressed appreciation for the mobilization by the international community and for the quick assistance given by many countries, groups and individuals, and gave assurance of the solidarity of Catholic humanitarian organizations. Already last week, the Holy Father had sent Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum', to Albania to bring his comfort and to coordinate the efforts of ecclesial organisms."

* * * * *

Excerpted from Pope John Paul II's Easter Urbi et Orbi Message, April 4, 1999:

"Haec est dies quam fecit Dominus." This is the day when, like the disciples, every believer is invited to proclaim the amazing newness of the Gospel.

"But how can this message of joy and hope be made to resound when many parts of the world are submerged in sorrow and tears? How can we speak of peace, when people are forced to flee, when they are hunted down and their homes are burnt to the ground? When the heavens are rent by the din of war, when the whistle of shells is heard around people's homes and the ravaging fire of bombs consumes towns and villages? Enough of this cruel shedding of human blood! When will there be an end to the diabolic spiral of revenge and senseless fratricidal conflicts?

"From the Risen Lord I invoke the precious gift of peace above all for the devastated land of Kosovo, where tears and blood continue to mingle in a tragic spectacle of hatred and violence. I think of those who have been killed, of those made homeless, of those who have been torn from their families, of those being forced to flee. Let the solidarity of everyone be mobilized, so that finally brotherhood and peace may begin to speak once more!

"How can we be insensitive to the sorrowful flood of men and women from Kosovo who are knocking at our door, begging help? On this holy day, I feel duty bound to make a heartfelt appeal to the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to allow a humanitarian corridor to be opened, in order for help to be brought to the mass of people gathered at the border of Kosovo. There can be no frontiers to impede the work of solidarity; corridors of hope are always an imperative.

* * * * *

From Vatican Information Service, March 31, 1999:

"Following is the declaration issued last evening by Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls on yesterday's meeting in the Vatican on the situation in Yugoslavia:

  • Under the presidency of Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a meeting took place on the afternoon of Tuesday March 30, to which ambassadors to the Holy See of NATO member countries and permanent members of the UN Security Council were invited.
  • The purpose of the meeting was to inform the ambassadors of the Holy See position concerning the current situation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and to have an exchange of opinions in this regard.
  • Cardinal Sodano mentioned Pope John Paul II's concern for the peoples who are suffering and Holy See action to contribute to a speedy solution to the crisis.
  • Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, secretary for Relations with States, expressed the Holy See position with regard to: a) appreciation for efforts made in recent months by the international community to end the dramatic situation of the peoples in Kosovo; b) necessity to end military operation so that violence may not have the last word; c) urgent sending of humanitarian aid for refugees and evacuees; d) involvement of the UN and the OSCE in the peace process.
  • Information was also presented with regard to steps taken in recent times by Secretary of State with various governments and international organizations."

* * * * *

From Vatican Information Service, March 29, 1999:

"This morning in the Clementine Hall, the Pope welcomed 300 members of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, and members of the parliamentary committees for political affairs, juridical affairs and human rights, migrations, refugees and demography.

"Speaking French, he told them that the work that has been accomplished by the Council since it was founded 50 years ago, 'has been an eminent service rendered to the peoples of Europe.' He recalled that the Council 'has steered the same course for 50 years: ... to more closely unite the European peoples on the basis of the patrimony of values which they share.'

"To accomplish this, John Paul II observed that 'what must be remembered is that there is no just political, economic or social life without respect for the dignity of each person.' He added that the values of human rights, freedom, democracy, and solidarity 'are deeply rooted in the European conscience; they represent the strongest aspirations of European citizens. They must inspire every project whose noble ambition is to unite the peoples of this continent.'

"The Holy Father then spoke of the conflict in Kosovo, saying it 'wounds all of Europe. I ask insistently that everything be undertaken to establish peace in the region and that people be able to live in fellowship in their land. Answering violence with violence is never the way to get out of a crisis. What must be done is to silence arms and acts of vengeance in order to undertake negotiations" leading to a peace agreement respectful "of different peoples and cultures.'

"Pope John Paul then said: 'I add my voice to that of the Council of Europe in asking that the most basic right, the right to life for every person, be recognized throughout Europe and that the death penalty be abolished. This premier right ... not only implies that every person must be able to survive, but that each can live in just and dignified conditions.'"

* * * * *

From Vatican Information Service, March 26, 1999:

John Paul II yesterday evening called for an end "as soon as possible" to the war in Yugoslavia and for a just and lasting peace. The Pope made this plea during a meeting with young people from the diocese of Rome in the Paul VI Hall.

As is traditional every year before the World Youth Day on Palm Sunday, the Pope took part in a time of celebration and reflection with the youth of Rome. Those who could not enter the hall followed the event on a big screen outside.

He answered three questions asked by the young people. The first was: How could the love of God the Father be understood in the face of hate, violence and war? The Holy Father referred to the current conflict in Yugoslavia and said: "I hope with all my heart that arms are silenced as soon as possible and that dialogue and negotiation are resumed so that with the participation of all, a just and lasting peace may reign throughout this region." He explained that evil "has its root in sin," and that in spite of all, "the Father's love is not lacking for us because God Himself wanted to share suffering and death with us. ..."

* * * * *

From Vatican Information Service, March 25, 1999:

"Last evening, Wednesday, March 24, shortly after the start of the bombings by NATO forces against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls made the following declaration:

  • Recourse to the use of force is always a defeat for humanity. One cannot help but think of the eventual victims and the feelings of hatred that will inevitably arise. It makes one think of Pius XII's words on August 24, 1939: 'Nothing is lost with peace. All can be lost with war'."

* * * * *

From Vatican Information Service, February 23, 1999:

"In response to journalists' questions on the Holy See's position concerning the current crisis in Kosovo, the Holy See Press Office made the following declaration yesterday afternoon:

  1. The Holy See has always been close to the people of Kosovo who have been suffering greatly for more than a year now. Pope John Paul II has publicly spoken many times to ask the parties concerned to commit themselves to sincere dialogue, also encouraging the international community to help them (the parties concerned) to find a solution to their legitimate aspirations.
  2. For this reason, the Holy See deeply appreciates the commitment on the part of the international community, particularly of European countries, shown in these days at Rambouillet to help all to walk the path of sincere dialogue. She hopes that a lasting and peaceful solution to the contention will be found, respecting the principles of international law and in the conviction that recourse to arms always brings serious risks and deep suffering to civilians.
  3. The Holy Father's call of January 20, 1999, still holds: 'We ask God with renewed trust that where there is hate, there may be an outpouring of the Father's mercy, reawakening the consciences of all those who guide the future of the peoples and encouraging all souls to work for peace.'"

* * * * *

Excerpted from Pope John Paul II's Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, January 11, 1999:

"Again recently, Kosovo has been the scene of deadly confrontations for both ethnic and political reasons which have prevented a peaceful dialogue between the parties and hindered any economic development. Everything must be done to help the people of Kosovo and the Serbs to meet around a table in order to defuse without delay the armed suspicion which paralyzes and kills. Albania and Macedonia would be the first to benefit, since in the Balkans all things are closely related. ..." 

See more resources by category: