Serb president wants Pope Benedict XVI to visit country

Serbian President Boris Tadic met Thursday with Pope Benedict XVI and said he hoped the pontiff could visit the country "very soon," but said certain preconditions had to be negotiated first with the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said Tadic had invited the pope to visit, and that the pope had thanked him for the invitation and "expressed hope that such a visit could take place in the future."

Tadic told reporters that the possibility of a papal visit was raised during his 25-minute meeting _ the first between a pope and a Serb president. There were some "preconditions" that had to be worked out first, Tadic said, referring to an agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church to invite the pontiff.

A pope has never visited Serbia - a traditional ally of Russia - partly due to an enduring rivalry between the Catholics and the Orthodox, the two traditional Christian churches separated since the Great Schism in 1054, the AP reports. AM

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