Pope Francis: Northern Macedonia is Example of Being a Bridge Between the East and the West
During his first visit to Northern Macedonia, Pope Francis tried to encourage their efforts to integrate into the European institutions after the name change decides the decades-long dispute with Greece, BTA reported.
At a meeting with the country's leadership, Francis praised the multicultural environment in northern Macedonia and said that the country is example of being a bridge between the East and the West showed that there could be peaceful coexistence.
,,These traits are very important for greater integration with the countries of Europe'', he said.
,,I hope that this integration will develop in a way that will benefit the entire region of the Western Balkans, respecting diversity and fundamental rights, "said Francis.
After landing at the airport in Skopje, Francis arrived with Volksgagen Jeta for talks with outgoing President Gjorge Ivanov. His ten-hour visit will include a prayer in Mother Teresa's memorial, as well as masses for the small Catholic community in the country with a population of 2.1 million people.
Viktor Dimovski, state secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Northern Macedonia, told reporters Monday that the visit was historic and is at a crucial moment when northern Macedonia wants to join the EU and NATO.
The country has been a candidate for EU membership since 2005, but is still awaiting the start of EU membership talks. Once the name dispute has already been resolved, northern Macedonia hopes to get a clear signal for the start of accession talks in June. Macedonia expects to become the thirteenth member of NATO by the end of this year.