Pope Appeals for Reconciliation Between Croats and Serbs

At Mass in Osijek-Cepin

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

OSIJEK, Croatia, JUNE 8, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II made an impassioned appeal for reconciliation between Croats and Serbs in the wake of their bloody 1990s conflict.

The Pope made the appeal Saturday during the Mass he presided over at the Osijek-Cepin airfield. A large cross, damaged during the war, was placed next to the Pope’s altar. More than 100,000 pilgrims were on hand, including inhabitants of Serbia, Bosnia and Hungary.

«After the trying times of the war, which has left the people of this region with deep wounds not yet completely healed,» John Paul II said during the homily, «a commitment to reconciliation, solidarity and social justice calls for courage on the part of individuals inspired by faith, open to brotherly love, and concerned for defending the dignity of the human person made in the image of God.»

Among those present was Metropolitan Jovan, who headed an Orthodox delegation sent by Patriarch Pavle of Belgrade, as well as representatives of Protestant, Jewish and Muslim communities.

From the esplanade, one could see Vukovar, the city damaged in 1991 and occupied for six years by the Serbian army. Before the conflict, the city had 40,000 inhabitants. Now it has 27,000, mostly Orthodox.

The war left more than 5,500 dead and forced 100,000 to flee the area.

The Catholic Church paid a high price during the conflict. In the Diocese of Djakovo-Srijem, 30 churches and chapels were destroyed, and 50 were severely damaged.

In his greeting, Bishop Marin Srakic made a commitment on behalf of the faithful: «We do not want to be slaves of the past but wish to look ahead to the future.»

For his part, the Pope invited the laity, in particular, «to assume generously your own share of responsibility for the life of the ecclesial communities to which you belong.»

«No baptized person can remain idle!» he cried. «Do not grow discouraged in face of complex situations! Seek in prayer the source of all strength for the apostolate and draw from the Gospel the light to guide your steps.»

The heat and humidity were stifling. Two people, a 56-year-old woman and a 43-year-old man, died from heart attacks linked to the temperatures that soared to over 35 degrees Celsius (95 F). Fifteen people were hospitalized and 500 needed first aid.

A white canopy gave the Pope some protection from the sun. Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls told reporters later that the heat put the Holy Father «to the test,» but that he was feeling fine, despite moments of discomfort.

The crowning of the statue of the Virgin of Aljmas and of an image of the Virgin of Vocin took place at the end of the Mass. These two Marian shrines, destroyed during the war, have been rebuilt.

In the afternoon, the Pope visited the cathedral of Djakovo and prayed there. He then went to the Osijek/Klisa airport to return to Rijeka, where he is staying at night during his visit to Croatia.

At the airport, John Paul II embraced a young married couple whose legs were mutilated by land mines that are scattered in the region.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation