The vatican spokesman

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Vatican Unveils Details for Pope’s June Trip to Sarajevo

Fr. Lombardi says there are no particular security concerns

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The director of the Vatican press office, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, says there are no particular security concerns for the Pope’s June 6 visit to Sarajevo.

During a press conference held at the press office this morning, Father Lombardi briefed journalists on Pope Francis’ upcoming one-day visit to the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It will be Francis’ fourth apostolic visit in Europe and eighth visit abroad.

On February 1, Pope Francis announced at the end of his weekly Angelus address Sundays in St. Peter’s Square that he would be traveling to Sarajevo with the goal of promoting reconciliation between Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Bosnian Muslims. Cardinal Vinko Pulji, archbishop of Sarajevo, had invited the Holy Father and Francis accepted.

Of the Balkan nation’s nearly 4 million people, Bosnians make up 48%; Serbs, 37%; and Croats, 14%.

Also to be present during the trip, the Vatican spokesman pointed out, are Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

«Peace be with you»

The Vatican spokesman also spelled out the Pope’s busy itinerary for this visit, which will focus on peace and reconciliation. Pope John Paul II’s visit there in 2003 also lasted just one day, the Vatican spokesman noted.

He explained the Argentine Pope will give four discourses, all of which will be delivered in Italian, with a translator present. Father Lombardi also noted that for almost all of the Pontiff’s travels in the city, the popemobile will be used.

​When the Pope arrives after his brief flight from Rome, the Croat member of the three-man presidency will welcome the Pope at Sarajevo’s airport at 9 a.m. He will accompany Francis to the presidential palace for a private meeting. 

Immediately after, Francis will address civil authorities and diplomatic corps before traveling to the city’s Olympic Stadium to celebrate Mass. This is the same place where Pope John Paul II also celebrated Mass. The stadium can accommodate nearly 37,000 people.

The Pope then will lunch privately with the six bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina, who the Pope received in audience in the Vatican just two months ago, March 16, on the occasion of their five-yearly ad limina visit.

In the city’s Catholic Cathedral, which the Vatican spokesman noted is relatively small, the Pope will meet with local priests, religious and seminarians. Father Lombardi stressed that here the Pope will hear testimonies that are likely to be «strong and dramatic.»

Right afterward, the 78-year-old Pope will visit a nearby Franciscan student center for an ecumenical and interfaith encounter with leaders of the local Muslim, Jewish and Orthodox communities. Father Lombardi noted how each of the represented religion’s leaders will greet the Holy Father. Francis will give a discourse, say a prayer, and greet those present.

The final stop on the Pope’s agenda will be a youth center dedicated to Pope St. John Paul II where Francis will give his last discourse of the day and where he will hear testimonies of young people from different faith orientations. 

Francis’ flight is scheduled to leave Sarajevo at 8 p.m. and arrive back in Rome at around 9:20 p.m.

After the fall of communism and Yugoslavia’s disintegration, various religious and ethnic groups, including the Bosnian Muslims, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats, fought. From 1992 to 1995, the war lasted in Bosnia, claiming nearly 100,000 lives and making some 2 million refugees. 

While Pope John Paul II couldn’t visit during the conflict which ended in 1997, he repeatedly appealed for peace in the region. Eventually in 2003, he was able to visit Sarajevo. Francis, following his predecessor’s fearless example, is expected to encourage authorities to promote religious freedom and reconciliation.

The war-torn nation is still recovering, Fr. Lombardi noted, saying the current situation there is «very complex.» Despite hopes to recover, Fr. Lombardi said, effects of war, economic difficulties, and social tensions continue to take a toll.

The motto of the visit is ‘Peace be with you,’ Fr. Lombardi noted, saying it is appropriate as the nation still suffers from the wounds of the war. The visit’s logo, he also recalled, depicts a dove with an olive branch in its beak. 

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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