Milanović Agrees with Pope that Vaccination is "Act of Love for Oneself"

By 15 November 2021
President of Croatia Zoran Milanović with Pope Francis
President of Croatia Zoran Milanović with Pope Francis Photo: Vatican News Portugal/Twitter

ZAGREB, 15 Nov 2021 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović met with Pope Francis during his visit to the Vatican on Monday, discussing the situation in the Western Balkans and Europe, as well as vaccination against COVID-19.

Speaking to reporters after a private audience with the pontiff, Milanović said he agreed with the Pope's view that vaccination is "an act of love for oneself." He added that he does not think this is different from the recent statement made by Croatian bishops, who said that vaccination should be voluntary and testing non-invasive.

"In the Vatican, everyone has been vaccinated, and it appears that a scientific view on this matter prevails, although face masks are not being worn much," Milanović said.

He said he had a problem with COVID restrictions because they were not based on science. "The vaccines have been invented by several brilliant minds, while this nonsense with anti-epidemic measures has nothing to do with science. In Austria, they are banning unvaccinated people from leaving their homes as of today. What is that? Is that science or are those methods reminiscent of the 1930s?"

Milanović called on citizens to get vaccinated but noted that they also have the right to be protected from arbitrariness. "I am wondering where are human rights champions, where is the European Court of Human Rights, which has the ambition to tailor countries' constitutions? They are nowhere to be seen," he said, adding that he would like to hear the Court's opinion on the rights of people who are being forbidden to leave their homes because they are not vaccinated.

Milanović said that Pope Francis has "interesting views on Brussels as a somewhat alienated center of power that does not understand that European states are historically nation-states."

He said that the Pope presented him with a mosaic showing a winegrower picking grapes, as well as his works and speeches, while he presented the Pope with a 14th-century Glagolitic missal written by Duke Novak.

Milanović also met with the Holy See's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher. They discussed the situation in Croatia's neighborhood, notably in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"We discussed things that are troubling us and that we can perhaps resolve better with the Vatican's assistance. Their view suits us. They can help. There are limits, of course, but we can also help ourselves because we are members of the EU and NATO," Milanović said.

"As long as the (Bosnian) Croats insist that they should not be deprived of the right to choose their representative and as long as they look to Sarajevo, you can be happy. Once the Croats turn away from Sarajevo and say they are no longer interested, that will send chills down your spine. An educated guess is that the Croats still care about Bosnia and Herzegovina," Milanović said.

He said he has invited the Pope to visit Croatia. "He is quite old, and I'm not sure if he should be a globe-trotter after turning 80, but he is absolutely welcome to Croatia."

Croatia's ambassadorial post in the Vatican has been vacant for a year now, and this issue has been raised by Cardinal Gallagher, Milanović said.

Asked by the press whether he would confirm Davor Stier as the new ambassador to the Holy See, the president said he was following the rules of conduct, including one that the names of future ambassadors are not made public.

Milanović said that Stier used to be an editor of an Ustasha newspaper in Argentina. "You don't know that. Do you know that he is from Argentina? He was politically active there. One of the last things he was doing there was editing an Ustasha newspaper. And what was he doing there? He certainly wasn't selling ice cream," he told Croatian reporters covering his visit.

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