Peace in Bosnia Hinges on Forgiveness, Pope Tells Envoy

Receives New Ambassador to the Vatican

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 1, 2002 ( When receiving the new ambassador of Bosnia-Herzegovina to the Vatican, John Paul II urged reconciliation and forgiveness so that peace might to take hold in the Balkans.

Recalling the bloody first half of the 1990s, when Bosnia-Herzegovina became independent from Slobodan Milosevic-led Yugoslavia, the Pope stressed that the “circle of ‘faults’ and ‘punishments’ will never end” if there is no forgiveness.

“Yes! It is not easy to forgive, but it is urgently necessary for the good of all,” the Pope exclaimed in his address Saturday to ambassador Iban Misic, journalist and, until recently, Bosnian vice minister of foreign affairs.

“It is true that what has happened in the past cannot be erased from the memory, but one can and must free hearts from rancor and vengeance,” the Holy Father said.

“The memory of errors and injustices must remain as a severe warning not to repeat one or the other, so that new, perhaps even greater, tragedies might be avoided,” he explained.

Recalling the 1995 Dayton peace agreement that ended the conflict, the Pope said, “Now the arms are silent.”

Yet, “concrete programs are necessary, which are based on the person and respect for his dignity, which offer the possibility to work and to earn sufficient means for life, which promote dialogue and cooperation among the different components of civil society, in full respect of the identity of every one,” he continued.

“Only thus is it possible to give life to a real democracy, fruit of the appreciation and of the cultural, social and religious peculiarities of the different components of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in respect of equity, justice and truth,” he said.

Lastly, the Holy Father said that, although the war ended almost seven years ago, “concrete solutions are still not seen for the drama of numerous refugees and exiles who wish to return to their homes.”

“These peoples, like the refugees and exiles of other areas, see how they are denied the right to live peacefully in their native soil,” he said. Respect for these people’s integrity is an imperative, “as well as the creation of acceptable political, social and economic conditions,” the Pope emphasized.

Moreover, John Paul II pointed out that these people are entitled to “the restitution of their property, of which they were deprived with violence during the war.”

In his address, ambassador Misic thanked John Paul II for the commitment he has shown to helping the peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a country with 3.9 million inhabitants, most of whom are Muslim.

Before departing, the diplomat invited the Holy Father to return to his country (the Pope visited Sarajevo in April 1997).

“Your Holiness’ return to Bosnia-Herzegovina would be a stimulus for all those who are willing to build a peaceful life in their own homeland,” the ambassador concluded.

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