John Paul II Hoping to Foster Reconciliation in Bosnia

Banja Luka Bishop Says City Will Be in the World’s Spotlight

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 18, 2003 ( John Paul II says his trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina will aim to foster reconciliation in the wake of the 1990s wars that split what was once Yugoslavia.

At the end of today’s general audience, the Pope explained that he will undertake his 101st international trip this Sunday «to confirm in the faith that Catholic community, committed to an important endeavor of reconciliation and concord.»

Addressing 11,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father asked them to accompany him with their prayers «in this apostolic journey, which I entrust to the maternal care of the Holy Virgin.»

John Paul II will be traveling for the second time to Bosnia, specifically to Banja Luka, a city in Republika Sprska, a Bosnian Serb entity. There he plans to beatify philosopher and theologian Ivan Merz (1896-1928), a consecrated layman who was dedicated to the education of youth.

Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka said at a press conference Tuesday that the papal visit is an «examination of maturity» for his country before world opinion.

«Never in its history has our city been under the strong spotlight of world public opinion as it will be on the occasion of the visit of the Pope, the greatest moral authority of today’s world,» the bishop said, according to the ANSA agency.

Bishop Komarica added that it would be «an examination of maturity that will demonstrate to what degree we belong to the civil, human, constructive and loving world of peace,» and that he hoped that the apostolic trip would serve to promote the return of the refugees.

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