Belgrade, April 17, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Milos Mitrovic
This morning Serbian President’s plane took off from Belgrade to Rome where Tomislav Nikolic was supposed to meet Pope Francis; however, the aircraft had to move back to Belgrade while flying above the Adriatic sea after one engine failed. Subsequently, Nikolic’s visit to Holly See was canceled.
“Only by the pilot’s extraordinary virtue and high professionalism the tragedy has been prevented. At one point we were falling like the rock”, President’s media advisor Stanislava Pak told Serbian media after arriving back to Belgrade. She described the flight with the “falcon” made in 1981 like “triller in the sky”.
“I’m still shocked, believe me. Considering the Presidency, we will use only regular air lines from now on. We will celebrate this day like our second birthday”, Stanislava Pak said. Alongside Nikolic, his aides were also in the plane.
“We have experienced a real drama in the air and I must say that President Nikolic and his aides has landed at the Belgrade airport exclusively due to the incredible composure of both pilot and copilot”, Nikolic’s foreign politicy adviser told the newspaper Vecernje novosti. The “drama” lasted approximately an hour, Ivan Mrkic added.
Mrkic stressed that the aircraft was produced 34 years ago and admitted he had “survived five incidental situations” when flying with it.
Following the incident, Nikolic sent an apology letter to Pope Francis expressing his hope that the visit would be organised as soon as possible. The presidency stated that “intensive consultations” have started in order to define new date for the visit.
Speculations and mockery
Given the fact that the relations between Serbia and Vatican are delicate mostly for historical reasons – Holly See’s initiative to canonize late Croatian archbishop Alojzije Stepinac who is regarded by the Serbian Orthodox Church as controversial due to his role under Nazi occupation is among them – media in Belgrade speculated a day before Nikolic’s supposed visit to Rome whether the patriarch had “blessed” his move. Finally, the presidency declared that Patriarch Irinej had gave Nikolic his blessing.
Following the plane failure, Vojislav Seselj, leader of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) which Nikolic belonged to from 1991 to 2008, stated in his Twitter account: “By this incident, God has clearly showed what he thinks about ecumenism and the intention of Tomislav Nikolic to invite the Antichrist – Roman-Catholic Pope to visit Serbia”. Seselj, who is indicted for the war crimes in 1990s, has focused all his critics against Nikolic since he has been temporarily released from The Hague based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia last October.
Photo: Nikolic and Pope in 2013