WASHINGTON (June 10, 1999) -- In welcoming the end of the Kosovo conflict, the President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U.S. Catholic Conference today expressed his hope that the settlement marks the beginning of a "more just and peaceful future for the Balkans."
Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston issued his statement upon word that Yugoslav forces had begun withdrawing from Kosovo and that NATO had halted its 78-day bombing campaign.
"We urge all sides to implement this agreement without delay," Bishop Fiorenza said. "Successful implementation of this agreement requires not only the rapid return of Kosovar refugees and displaced persons, but also the safeguarding of the rights of the Serb minority."
Bishop Fiorenza noted that the principles accepted by Yugoslav authorities include the cessation of all hostilities, prompt withdrawal of all Yugoslav forces, suspension of the NATO bombing campaign, and the safe return of all refugees under an international military force under United Nations auspices.
"Since the beginning of this conflict, we have insisted that the right of refugees to return in safety should be an essential part of any interim solution and final settlement," he said. "We urge that no effort be spared in assisting the return of refugees and displaced persons, given the early onset of winter in the region."
" Now is the time to begin healing the wounds suffered by all the victims of this conflict," Bishop Fiorenza said.
Text of Bishop Fiorenza's statement.