Pope Francis says Bosnia and Herzegovina has advanced from “a culture of conflict and war” to “a culture of encounter,” and is calling on its authorities to heal existing wounds and look toward the future with hope.
Speaking to authorities and diplomatic corps at about 10 a.m. this morning in the presidential palace during his one-day apostolic visit to Sarajevo, the Pope said, “I am pleased to be in this city which, although it has suffered so much in the bloody conflicts of the past century, has once again become a place of dialogue and peaceful coexistence.”
The Holy Father began by thanking members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina for their kind welcome, and went on to say that Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have a special significance for Europe and for the whole world. He lauded how, for centuries, it managed to maintain fraternal and cordial relationships among its distinct ethnic and cultural groups and different religions.
“We need to communicate with each other, to discover the gifts of each person, to promote that which unites us, and to regard our differences as an opportunity to grow in mutual respect. Patience and trust are called for in such dialogue, permitting individuals, families and communities to hang on to the values of their own culture and welcome the good which comes from others’ experiences.”
In doing so, Francis stressed, “even the deep wounds of the recent past will be set aside, so that the future may be looked to with hope, facing the daily problems that all communities experience with hearts and minds free of fear and resentment.”
“I have come here as a pilgrim of peace and dialogue, eighteen years after Saint John Paul II’s historic visit, which took place less than two years after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accord,” the Jesuit Pontiff stressed, noting he is happy to see the progress made.
Symbol for the world
However, he continued, we should not become complacent with what has been achieved so far, but rather seek to make further efforts towards reinforcing trust and creating opportunities for growth in mutual knowledge and respect.
“In order to favor this path, the solidarity – solidarity! – and collaboration of the International Community is fundamental, in particular that of the European Union and of all Countries and Organizations operating in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Bosnia and Herzegovina, he stressed, is an integral part of Europe. Saying its successes and tragic experiences of the former are integrated fully into the latter’s history, he noted that such experiences constitute “a clear call to pursue every avenue of peace, in order that processes already underway can be yet more resilient and binding.”
“In this land, peace and harmony among Croats, Serbs and Bosnians, and the initiatives taken to extend these even further, as well as the cordial and fraternal relations among Muslims, Hebrews and Christians, and other religious minorities, take on an importance that goes beyond its boundaries, and can extend to the whole world.”
Pope Francis urged the authorities and diplomats to advance initiatives that offer a witness to the entire world that “such cooperation among varying ethnic groups and religions in view of the common good is possible; that a plurality of cultures and traditions can coexist and give rise to original and effective solutions to problems; that even the deepest wounds can be healed by purifying memories and firmly anchoring hopes in the future.”
Sign of hope
He pointed out the joy and togetherness of the Muslims, Orthodox, Jews, Catholic and children of other religions whom he met at the airport.
“This is a sign of hope!” he said. “May we stake our future on this.”
“In order to successfully oppose the barbarity of those who would make of every difference the occasion and pretext for further unspeakable violence, we need to recognize the fundamental values of human communities, values in the name of which we can and must cooperate, build and dialogue, pardon and grow; this will allow different voices to unite in creating a melody of sublime nobility and beauty, instead of the fanatical cries of hatred.”
“Responsible politicians are called to the important task of being the first servants of their communities, taking actions which safeguard above all the fundamental rights of the human person, among which the right to religious freedom stands out.” This, he stated, will make it possible to concretely build a more peaceful and just society.
“In order for this to come about, it is vital that all citizens be equal both before the law and its implementation, whatever their ethnic, religious or geographical affiliation. All alike will then feel truly involved in public life,” Francis said. “Enjoying the same rights, they will be able to make their specific contribution to the common good.”
He also expressed how the Holy See is taking part in the process of “material and moral reconstruction” of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Through everyone contributing and “leaving behind completely the dark clouds of storms gone by, the Holy See fervently hopes that Bosnia and Herzegovina may continue along the journey embarked upon, so that after the winter chill, springtime may come to blossom. And already we see spring blooming here,” the Pope said.
The Holy Father concluded, imploring God for peace and prosperity in Sarajevo and all of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On ZENIT’s Web page: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-address-to-authorities