Pope Francis called on Bosnians to seek lasting ethnic and religious peace and harmony to overcome the deep divisions caused by the 1990s Balkan war.
At a Mass for about 65,000 people gathered Saturday at the stadium of Sarajevo that was a symbol of ethnic and religious diversity in the former Yugoslavia, the pope recalled the suffering endured by Bosnians – refugee camps, destroyed houses and factories, displaced people and shattered lives – and said “war never again!”
“War means children, women and the elderly in refugee camps; it means forced displacement of peoples; it means destroyed houses, streets and factories; it means, above all, countless shattered lives,” Pope Francis said.
“You know this well, having experienced it here: how much suffering, how much destruction, how much pain! Today, dear brothers and sisters, the cry of God’s people goes up once again from this city, the cry of all men and women of good will: war never again!” he said.
At a joint news conference with the Serb chairman of Bosnia’s three-member presidency, Mladen Ivanic, Pope Francis said, “Peace and harmony among Croats, Serbs and Bosnians, and the initiatives taken to extend these even further … among Muslims, Hebrews and Christians, take on an importance that goes beyond its boundaries.”
Ivanic affirmed that belief, saying, “Times of misunderstandings, intolerance and divisions are behind” Bosnians forever. We have learned the lessons of the past. A new age is in front of us. An age of reason, an age of peace, an age of cooperation.”
A Catholic pigeon breeder brought white dove that Bosnia’s three presidents and Francis set free at the end of their meeting, as a symbol of peace.
Nosnia is a country with a multiethnic and multireligious population – 40 percent Bosniaks, 31 percent Orthodox Christian Serbs and 15 percent Catholic Croats – according to Vatican statistics.