Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic, during a visit to the Vatican on Thursday, expressed hope that the process of canonisation of the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac would begin this summer and finish as soon as possible, expressing understanding for the Pope's desire to bring Catholic and Orthodox Christians closer on this issue.
"I think the process will start this summer and it is important to us that it is completed as soon as possible. Cardinal Stepinac is part of our identity," Oreskovic told the press after a 30-minute tête-à-tête meeting with the Holy Father. "I hope it won't take too long because the Croatian people will suffer again," he added.
Oreskovic expressed his understanding for Pope Francis's decision to include the Serbian Orthodox Church in the process through a joint commission presided over by the Holy See. "The Holy Father wants to bring the Catholic and Orthodox Christians closer together," he said.
The Croatian prime minister asked the Pontiff for support for the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina so that they would have the same status as the two other constituent peoples: the Christian Orthodox Serbs and the Muslim Bosniaks. He emphasised the strategic importance of that issue for Croatia, noting the stabilising effect of the issue of equality of the three peoples on the region.
"It is important that Croatia assists the Croats there, that is in our strategic interest, and we are also exploring ways of helping them economically," Oreskovic said. " We have asked the Holy Father for support so that all three people have equal rights. That is also important for stability in the region and the Holy Father can have great influence on these issues," he added.
Also discussed was the migrant crisis, and Oreskovic told Pope Francis that Croatia had treated humanely more than half a million migrants who had passed through it along the Western Balkan route. "We did not put up wire fencing or walls. We treated the refugees humanely. I told the Pope that we were now ready to accept 500 refugees from Turkey."
They also discussed what Europe could do about this issue. "I hope we will find a solution," Oreskovic said.
The Croatian delegation included Foreign Minister Miro Kovac, who said that Croatia could be proud of its role in the migrant crisis. "We have demonstrated humaneness and efficiency, and shown that, together with our neighbours, we are aware of the European Union and the importance of its stability. With our policy we contributed to the common European solution," he said.
Prime Minister Oreskovic said that, after President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, he, too, had invited Pope Francis to visit Croatia.
In the afternoon, the Croatian prime minister is scheduled to go on a sight-seeing tour of the Vatican, which will include a visit to the Pontifical Croatian College of St. Jerome.