By Luke Coppen
THE POPE and UN secretary general Kofi Annan met on the feast of Corpus Christi last week to discuss the crisis in Kosovo.
Kofi Annan described the audience as "an important opportunity to exchange points of view on the moral and political issues underlying the Kosovo crisis". Annan also met Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican's foreign minister.
According to a UN spokesman, the objective of the secretary general's visit to Rome was "to construct peaceful alternatives to the conflict and create conditions for coexistence respecting the civil, political and human rights of everyone".
The Holy See hopes that the UN will play a leading role in the peace process in Kosovo, which was given a fillip last week when Belgrade approved a plan proposed by Finland's president, Martti Ahtisaari, European Union mediator for Kosovo, and his Russian colleague, Victor Chemomyrdin.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin NavarroValls said that the Pope "has renewed his appreciation for the UN's role at the heart of the international community and expressed the hope that it will continue
and increase in taking the initiative in preventing conflicts-.
He added: "After recalling the role that Christians can play in respect for human rights and education for peace, the Holy Father mentioned the Holy See's position toward the current conflict, emphasizing the need for the end of hostilities to be accompanied by the simultaneous return of the refugees to the Kosovo region under the aegis of the United Nations and with the support of an international peace-keeping force accepted by all those involved."
The Pope led a day of prayer for peace on June 3, the day Yugoslavia agreed to a deal with Nato. Archbishop Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, celebrated a Mass for peace in Belgrade's cathedral and papal legate Bishop Diarmuid Martin, secretary of the Pontifical Council, visited a refugee camp in Macedonia.
The papal envoys carried a message from John Paul II. "For a long time now, too many have suffered," the Pope wrote.
"It is my hope that all those who share some responsibility for resolving the present conflict will have the courage to embrace peace. Only justice, dialogue and reconciliation will enable this part of Europe to be a place where diversity does not mean confrontation but mutual enrichment."
CAFOD has raised an estimated £3.5 million for Kosovar refugees.
The agency plans to spend over £1 million over the next six to nine months in emergency aid. It is directing the money towards three aid stations in AlbaMa run by local CAFOD workers. At the first station, in the south of Albania, near Lushnje, CAFOD workers are distributing food to over 3,000 refugees housed in an old army barracks and a former holiday camp. The second station is on the northern border with Montenegro, where staff are providing food, blankets and counselling to refugees crossing the border from Kosovo. The third station, in the capital, Tirana, is the agency's administrative headquarters.
The agency is taking on more volunteers in an effort to meet growing demand. It is also continuing its development programmes with native Albanians. conscious that if all aid is directed to refugees, the poor local population will feel aggrieved.