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Newspaper, Communist Leader Call For Papal Visit With AM-Pope-Soviet

March 23, 1988

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Danas, an influential weekly newspaper in Zagreb, on Tuesday called for Pope John Paul II to visit Communist Yugoslavia.

It said in an editorial, ″In Slovenia there is not a single serious reason against a papal visit.... If there are reasons elsewhere against the pope’s trip, then these should be dealt with in a public discussion.″

If John Paul should come to Yugoslavia, he probably would visit only Slovenia and Croatia, the two northern republics that are predominantly Roman Catholic, according to Danas.

At the annual meeting last week of the Slovenian Socialist Alliance, a Communist-led organization, alliance Secretary-General Joze Smole said it was time to do ″everying possible″ to arrange a papal visit.

Danas noted allegations that Croatian authorities were opposed to a papal visit and said the decision could not be made by one republic alone.

It is expected that if the pope visits Croatia, he would honor the late Cardinal Aloisius Stepinac, who was convicted of collaborating with Nazi troops in World War II. The cardinal died under house arrest in his native village and his body was buried in the Zagreb cathedral.

Danas said there have been 11 visits to the Vatican in the past year by Yugoslav state representatives, compared to one by a ranking Catholic leader - Cardinal Agostino Casaroli’s visit to Djakovo, Croatia, in 1985 to mark a St. Method’s anniversary.

Smole said Yugoslavia ″should at least honor the principle of reciprocity in its relations with the Holy See.″

Government officials have said a papal visit could take place when agreement is reached on all conditions.

There was speculation that such a visit was discussed when Premier Branko Mikulic had a 30-minute audience with the pontiff on Jan.30.

Danas said the clergy of the Orthodox Church and atheists probably ″would not gladly see the pope in Yugoslavia, but the opposition does not come from these quarters alone.

″The situation in Yugoslavia is so complex that a papal visit, unless it gained a kind of (national) consensus, would indeed become a motive for political showdowns.″

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