Speeches 1997 - Saturday, 12 April 1997



TO SARAJEVO (APRIL 12-13, 1997)



12 April 1997

Members of the Presidency of Bosnia-Hercegovina,
Representatives of Governments and of International Organizations,
My Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. My first thought, at this moment when it has been granted me to touch the soil of Bosnia-Hercegovina, goes to God who today has granted my long-cherished desire to make this pilgrimage. At last I am able be here with you, to see you and to speak to you, having shared from afar the pain of your sufferings during the tragic period of the recent conflict.

I would like to embrace all those who live in this region which has endured so much, especially those who have suffered the premature loss of a loved one, those who bear on their bodies the marks of war and those who have had to abandon their homes in these long years of violence. All of you should know that you have a special place in the Pope's heart. In my statements calling for peace in this country, I have been concerned to ensure that respect be shown for all individuals and their rights, without distinction of race or religion, and with special regard for the poor and the victims of hardship.

As I enter the City of Sarajevo, I wish first to offer a respectful greeting to the Members of the Presidency, whom I thank for their invitation, for this welcome and for the hospitality which they are now offering me. My thoughts then turn to the three peoples who make up Bosnia-Hercegovina Croats, Muslims and Serbs. From the first moment of my presence in their land I am happy to assure them of my deep esteem and cordial friendship.

2. I gladly take the opportunity of this direct contact with the leaders of Bosnia-Hercegovina to extend to each of them my cordial encouragment to continue along the path of peace and the rebuilding of the country and its institutions. It is not a matter of material reconstruction alone; what is needed above all is to provide for the spiritual rebuilding of minds and hearts, in which the devastating fury of war has often shaken and perhaps even compromised the values which are the foundation of all civil coexistence. It is here, from the spiritual foundations of human coexistence, that a new beginning must be made.

Never again war! Never again hatred and intolerance! This is the lesson taught by this century and this millennium which are now drawing to a close. This is the message with which I begin my Pastoral Visit. The inhuman logic of violence must be replaced by the constructive logic of peace. The natural instinct for revenge must yield to the liberating power of forgiveness, which must put an end to extreme forms of nationalism and the ethnic conflicts which they generate. As in a mosaic, every part of this region needs to be assured that its own political, national, cultural and religious identity will be safeguarded. Diversity is a source of enrichment, when it becomes a united effort in the service of peace, for the building of a truly democratic Bosnia-Hercegovina.

3. With respect and friendship I likewise greet all the diplomatic, international, civil and military authorities present. With this Visit I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Governments, the International Organizations, the religious and humanitarian organizations, and also to the individual men and women who during these past years have worked to break down in this region the wall of incomprehension and hostility and to re-establish the values of mutual respect for the sake of resumed dialogue, constructive understanding and peace.

Sarajevo Airport, where we now are, has often been, during the years of the recent war, the only port of entry for humanitarian aid. Through this entry I too now pass, "a pilgrim of peace and friendship", desirous of serving as best I can the cause of peace in justice and of reconciliation. To this most noble cause all people of good will must now devote their best energies. The cause of peace will triumph, if all parties can act in truth and justice, responding to the legitimate hopes of the people living in this region, who in their great variety can become a symbol for the whole of Europe.

As I conclude these brief words of greeting, I cannot fail to pay homage to all who have lost their lives in carrying out missions of peace and humanitarian relief sponsored by international, national and private organizations. Thanks to their sacrifice, the door of peace did not completely close and the defenceless and the suffering hardly ever lacked the means needed to survive and to await better Times New Roman. Now that peace has finally been achieved, the commitment to preserve it becomes also a duty of gratitude towards those who gave their lives for this noble cause.

May God grant to Bosnia-Hercegovina, to all the peoples of the Balkans, of Europe and of the world, that the time of peace in justice may never end.



TO SARAJEVO (APRIL 12-13, 1997)




13 April 1997

Metropolitan Nikolaj of Dabar Bosnia,
Dear Brothers in Christ,

1. I give heartfelt thanks to Divine Providence for enabling me, during this visit to Sarajevo, to have this meeting with you. I greet "with a holy kiss" (Rm 16,16) of the peace and love of the Lord Jesus, all the Serbian Orthodox of Bosnia- Hercegovina, for whom I have profound respect.

My cordial greeting goes in the first place to you, Metropolitan Nikolaj, and then to all those who assist you in your ministry of governing, sanctifying and guiding the faithful of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

My respectful thoughts and fraternal greeting go to His Beatitude Patriarch Pavle and to the Pastors of your Communities who spiritually lead this portion of the People of God in Bosnia-Hercegovina, proclaiming the Gospel and celebrating the divine mysteries.

2. Divine grace unites us in our faith in the One and Triune God, revealed to us in Christ, and makes us one in our esteem and love for the Sacred Scriptures, which constitute the common roots of the doctrine preached by the Fathers and enunciated ever since the first Ecumenical Councils. We are called to make ourselves proclaimers of this doctrine, in the footsteps of the Apostles, to whom the ministry of reconciliation was entrusted (cf. 2Co 5,18).

This is a task which, in the context of present difficulties, impels us to join forces in order to offer to our contemporaries, often enticed by the allurements of the world, the only Word which truly heals and the grace which gives hope. After the years of the deplorable fratricidal war, at the approaching dawn of a new Christian millennium, we all feel the urgent need for a real reconciliation between Catholics and Orthodox, so that, with a new heart and a new spirit, it might be possible to resume the journey of an ever more perfect following of Christ, the High Priest and sole Shepherd of his flock. Let us forgive and let us ask for forgiveness: this is the first step for creating new trust and new relationships between all those who recognize in the Son of God the sole Saviour of humanity.

3. The patrimony which unites us, the living gift of the Holy Spirit, is so much greater than what still divides us and prevents us from proclaiming our faith in total harmony. The unity of all Christians is a gift of the Lord and in prayer we ask for it constantly.

The Risen Christ lives with us, walks with his Church, constantly raises up disciples, abundantly bestows his forgiveness which heals and the grace which gives life. Together, therefore, we are committed by the Master's will to preach the Gospel to every human being. Together we are filled by the desire that faith should grow and that from faith there should come peace between all the peoples of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

We are all aware that peace cannot be given by the world. It is for this reason that we turn to Christ and listen once more to his voice: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (Jn 14,27).

4. The commitment to achieve peace strengthens still more our brotherly relationship in our common witness to the Lord of history. This is also the prayer which together we raise to him today, uniting ourselves spiritually to all of our Communities.

We are all children of a testimony of love, the testimony of a God who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3,16). Each of us is called to taste and to share the stupendous gifts which God has wished to plant, by the work of salvation, in our hearts and in human history. May the longing for total peace and the practical willingness to build it, combined with a lively desire for perfect unity, guide our steps also today.

It is with these sentiments that I wish to offer to the whole Orthodox Community of Bosnia-Hercegovina the good wish voiced by the Apostle: "May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with you all" (2Th 3,16).



TO SARAJEVO (APRIL 12-13, 1997)




13 April 1997

Members of the Presidency of Bosnia-Hercegovina,

1. I heartily thank Your Excellencies for the kind welcome and cordial words which the President of the Presidency has extended to me in the name of all of you. I offer to you and your families my respectful greeting, which I willingly extend to the Authorities present and to all who, in various ways, have civil and military responsibilities in the day-to-day work of strengthening peace and civil harmony in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

In this region for many centuries East and West have met and not infrequently come into conflict. For a long time there has been the experience of the coexistence of different cultures which, each in its own way, has enriched the region with its values. In Bosnia-Hercegovina there live side by side the South Slavs, united in common ancestry though divided by history. In this capital city, for example, there rise the Catholic cathedral, the Orthodox cathedral, the Muslim mosque and the Jewish synagogue. These four edifices are not only the places where believers in the one God profess their faith; they are also a visible sign of the kind of civil society which the people of this region wish to build: a society of peace, the members of which acknowledge God as the one Lord and Father of all.

The tensions which can develop between individuals and ethnic groups as an inheritance from the past and as a consequence of close proximity and diversity ought to find in religious values reasons for moderation and restraint, indeed for understanding, with a view to constructive cooperation.

2. I have had occasion to affirm - and I say it again here today - that Sarajevo, a city at the crossroads of the tensions between cultures, religions, and different peoples, can be considered the city symbolizing our century. Precisely here the First World War began in 1914; here the violence of the Second World War was unleashed in all its fury; here, finally, in the closing decade of the century, its people have experienced, amidst destruction and death, interminable years of fear and anguish.

Now, after so much suffering, Bosnia-Hercegovina is finally committed to building peace. This is not an easy undertaking, as the experience of the months since the the end of the conflict have shown. Nevertheless, with the help of the International Community, peace is possible, indeed peace is necessary. From a historical perspective, Sarajevo and the whole of Bosnia- Hercegovina, if they succeed in setting up their institutional structure in peace, can become at the end of this century an example of coexistence in diversity for many nations experiencing this same difficulty, in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

3. The method which must be rigorously followed in solving the problems which arise along the arduous path is the method of dialogue, inspired by listening to the other side and mutual respect. The method which, despite cases of resistance, is being increasingly acknowledged, requires of those taking part, frankness, courage, patience and perseverance. The effort required by face-to-face encounter will be richly rewarded. It will slowly become possible for the wounds inflicted by the recent terrible war to heal and real hope for a more worthy future for all the peoples who together live in this territory will become possible.

Dialogue must be conducted with respect for equality of rights, guaranteed to individual citizens by appropriate legal means, without preference or discrimination. An urgent effort must be made to ensure that everyone can be guaranteed work, which is the basis of recovery and development, while respecting human dignity. An effort must be made to ensure that the exiles and refugees, in whatever part of Bosnia-Hercegovina, can exercise the right to recover the homes which they had to abandon in the turmoil of the conflict.

Equality of rights must be granted to the ethnic-religious communities. Bosnia-Hercegovina is a mosaic of cultures, religions and ethnic groups which, if recognized and safeguarded in their diversity, can contribute their respective gifts to the enrichment of the one patrimony of civil society.

4. Building a true and lasting peace is a great task entrusted to everyone. Certainly, much depends on those who have public responsibilities. But the future of peace, while largely entrusted to institutional formulations, which have to be effectively drawn up by means of sincere dialogue and in respect for justice, depend no less decisively on a renewed solidarity of minds and hearts. It is this interior attitude which must be fostered, both within the frontiers of Bosnia-Hercegovina and also in relations with neighbouring States and the Community of Nations. But an attitude of this kind can only be established on the foundation of forgiveness. For the edifice of peace to be solid, against the background of so much blood and hatred, it will have to be built on the courage of forgiveness. People must know how to ask for forgiveness and to forgive!

Members of the Presidency, in entrusting to you these considerations, I also wish to entrust them to the other leaders of every rank and competency in order that hope for a steady strengthening of the peace so arduously achieved may be fostered, and an ever more peaceful and prosperous future for every inhabitant of this beloved Bosnia-Hercegovina may be assured. Despite the difficulties, obstacles and hindrances, let hope never fail! God does not abandon peacemakers.

I implore him, the almighty Lord of the universe, to grant everyone his consolation, and to strengthen in people's hearts generous resolutions of sincere dialogue, true understanding, and mutual commitment to reconstruction and peace.



TO SARAJEVO (APRIL 12-13, 1997)





Sunday, 13 April 1997

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopacy!

1. I have fervently desired to have this fraternal meeting with you and am grateful to God for having been able to celebrate with you the Holy Eucharist, the culminating moment of the Church's life. Union around the altar makes more clear the bond which links us to Christ and establishes the communion which exists between us and with the People of God.

I greet you, Cardinal Vinko Puljic who, assisted by Bishop Pero Sudar, shepherd with courage and wisdom the flock of the Church of Vrhbosna- Sarajevo; I greet you, Bishop Franjo Komarica, strong Bishop of the tormented Church of Banja Luka; I greet you, Bishop Ratko Peric, who zealously preside over the Church of Mostar-Duvno and are Apostolic Administrator of Trebinje-Mrkan. I wish to thank each one of you for the fearless witness borne before the Church of God during the recent conflict when, despite grave dangers and the difficult situation, you always remained with your communities, watchful and concerned, sharing their sufferings, tragedies and every kind of deprivation.

In showing my sentiments of affection to you Pastors, I wish to send my most heartfelt greeting to the Churches entrusted to you: your priests, consecrated persons, lay faithful, especially those afflicted in body or spirit due to the consequences of the suffering caused by the recent war. The Successor of Peter is in your midst. He knows your sufferings and hard work and he confirms you in your faith, as we look to Christ, our advocate with the Father and our sure peace.

2. Divine Providence has chosen you to shepherd the People of God and has made you examples for the flock (cf. 1P 5,2-3). Through your ministry, and in communion with the Successor of Peter, you continue the work of Christ, the eternal Shepherd of souls, who teaches all people and sanctifies with the gift of the Sacraments those who receive his word in faith.

In this task which God has entrusted to you, you are not alone. By governing your Churches in communion with one another and with the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, you are constituted members of the episcopal body and therefore called to share in the care of the universal Church (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 22 Christus Dominus CD 4).

Be zealous, Venerable Brothers, in preserving communion with the Bishops of the whole world, beginning with those of the region and, especially, of Croatia. Be diligent also in mutual charity, in frank and cordial dialogue, in helping one another. May the love which reigns among you be an example for the priests who assist you, the faithful who look to you as enlightened guides, and for the people of good will who often seek in your words and authority an impulse for building a society truly inspired by the values of peace, harmony and justice.

3. The conflict which took place in your region for five very long years puts before you problems which are certainly not easy. With the din of arms ended, the will to build peace must now become ever stronger. The first task which awaits you on this arduous path is to heal minds tried by suffering and, at Times New Roman New Roman, hardened by feelings of hatred and revenge. This is a process which requires all your energy, strengthened by faith in Christ, the Lord of life and Physician of the spirit. This is also the goal which you set for yourselves in your Pastoral Letter of last February.

You are called to be the bearers of a new culture which, flowing from the inexhaustible source of the Gospel, preaches respect for everyone; it calls for mutual forgiveness of faults as the presupposition of the renewal of civil life; it fights with the arms of love to ensure that the will to cooperate in the promotion of the one common good will be strengthened.

This does not dispense you from raising a prophetic voice to denounce cases of violence, to unmask injustices, to call by name what is evil, to defend with every legitimate means the communities entrusted to you. This is especially necessary when excesses springing from minds embittered by past violence try to strike directly at believers and the Church by intimidation or acts of intolerance. Do not be afraid to make your voices heard through every legitimate means at your disposal, without letting yourselves be intimidated by any earthly power.

4. Now, after the recent violence, it is a question of rebuilding not only the Christian community but also civil society, damaged and scattered by so many disasters. In this task God does not leave you alone. He has placed at your side priests, consecrated persons and actively committed lay people, who support your efforts and are ready to listen to your voice, so that there may flourish once more the proclamation which saves, the love which soothes, the solidarity which unites everyone. As you give thanks to the Lord for these gifts, try to make the most of the vitality of each individual so that the path of the new evangelization may be followed with renewed vigour.

Try to understand with fatherly goodness the difficulties which your closest co-workers meet every day; support them with your prayer and your kind heart, encouraging them to have recourse to the energies which flow from a daily encounter with Christ, the Eternal High Priest, particularly in prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist. May your solicitude as Fathers in the faith bring out the best in everyone, so that the gifts of each may benefit the Christian community and civil society.

The cooperation of everybody must not be lacking in the planning and the carrying out of pastoral programmes of the individual Dioceses, under your guidance and with due respect for the specific nature of each charism, whether of secular priests or Religious, so that the mutual exchange of gifts may increase charity, reduce tensions and serve unity. According to these criteria and values educate your seminarians as well, so that they may gain a clear awareness that one day they will be called to serve the Church with sacrifice, conviction and generosity, and in obedience to their legitimate Pastor.

5. The main work to which you will not tire of devoting yourselves is "prayer and the ministry of the word" (Ac 6,4), in order that the Gospel of Christ may continue to be proclaimed in this region, and that the precious "word of life" may bring hope and consolation to the peoples of Bosnia- Hercegovina.

It is through presiding at the liturgical assembly, especially in the Holy Eucharist, that you distribute God's gifts for the nourishment of the faithful, after having instructed them openly in the "truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who never lies, promised ages ago" (Tt 1,1-2).

The Church, at the end of this Millennium and now at the threshold of the next, must continue perseveringly in her mission of proclaiming the Good News, so that "all men will be saved" (1Tm 2,4). May the three-year period of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 find you zealous in your preaching, according to the programme that I myself have set forth in the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente. In following these objectives, you build up the Body of Christ (cf. Eph Ep 4,12) in these lands, in communion with the whole Church.

6. In spite of her poverty, the Church in Bosnia-Hercegovina should not forget the poor who knock at her doors. The destruction caused by the recent conflict has left you with an inheritance of devastated families, widows and orphans, refugees and evacuees, the crippled and afflicted. You must remain close to them and bring the relief of your practical charity and pastoral concern. In this regard, I cannot fail to give special praise to the organizations of Caritas, which in the individual Dioceses have done and are doing so much to relieve the sufferings of those in difficulty.

The witness of charity favours greater understanding between the different cultures and religions which flourish in this region, since suffering and need have no frontiers. Through the tender gesture of charity, you contribute to sincere dialogue with all your fellow citizens and work for the building of a civilization of love. Thus, by forgiving and asking for forgiveness, it will be possible to leave behind the spiral of mutual recriminations and decisively take the path of moral and civil reconstruction. "As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive" (Col 3,13).

The method of dialogue, pursued with perseverance and in depth, therefore, must in the first place mark relations with your Orthodox brothers and sisters, and the other Christian brethren, with whom we are united by many bonds of faith. With cordial words and a sincere attitude, you should also look for opportunities for meeting and understanding the followers of Islam. This will favour the establishment of peaceful coexistence in mutual respect for the rights of every individual and every people.

7. Venerable Brothers, while the Successor of Peter wishes today to confirm you in your good intentions, he also wishes to say to you once again that you are not alone on your journey. We are with you and we shall always be with you in supporting the efforts that you are making, so that in the whole Church there may be strengthened the "love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Col 3,14).

I entrust your apostolic endeavours to the maternal protection of Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Peace, whom you and the communities entrusted to you honour with great devotion. May the Mother of God, model of perfection for the whole Church, support you in your labours and plans, so that the Paschal hymn may continue to echo throughout your lands: "Scimus Christum surrexisse a mortuis vere. Tu nobis, victor Rex, miserere!".

With these sentiments I impart to each of you, as a sign of my affection, a special Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to the priests, men and women Religious and all the faithful to whom you offer your pastoral care.



TO SARAJEVO (APRIL 12-13, 1997)




13 April 1997

Mr President of the Jewish Community in Sarajevo,
Dear Friends and Brothers,

1. I bless the Lord, the God of our Fathers, and I thank all of you for this meeting, at which I have been given an opportunity to share with you my hope for peace. In offering my cordial greetings to you here present, I wish to address all your brothers and sisters in faith living in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

The great spiritual patrimony which unites us in the divine word proclaimed in the Law and the Prophets is for all of us a constant and sure guide on the path of peace, harmony and mutual respect. In fact, it is God who proclaims peace to his people and who guarantees the good things which come from it. He evokes in us a powerful commitment to bring it about, for peace is his design for the People of the Covenant.

2. Shalom! Peace is a gift of the Most High, but it is also a task given to man. We must therefore invoke peace and, at the same time, commit ourselves to making the divine initiative bear fruit through concrete choices, attitudes filled with respect, fraternal undertakings.

This is a commitment that requires of every individual conversion of heart. God assists this conversion with the abundance of his blessings: "Return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you this day, with all your heart and with all your soul; then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes, and have compassion upon you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you" (Dt 30,2-3).

Let us therefore go forward courageously as true brothers and heirs of the promises, on the path of reconciliation and mutual forgiveness. This is the will of God: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart; you shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Dt 6,5 Lv 19,18). We, the witnesses of the Ten Commandments, know well that perfect observance of the precept "Thou shalt not kill" is possible only through generous acceptance of the commitment to love.

3. It is on this path that we wish to walk, supported by God's help, in order to build a society in which sorrow and tears are no longer caused by the evil actions of man. A society in which all will contribute to the construction of a new civilization, the foundations of which should be none other than those established by true love of others.

Let us turn our eyes and thoughts to the Lord and praise him for this happy meeting today, in the hope that, also thanks to this meeting, there may break the new dawn of a human community that has as its foundations the perennial values of justice, solidarity, cooperation, tolerance and respect.

And to one another let us say: "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever" (Ps 136,1).



TO SARAJEVO (APRIL 12-13, 1997)




13 April 1997

Mr Reis ul-Ulema,
Distinguished Gentlemen!

1. I offer you my cordial greeting and thank you for this meeting which is close to my heart and which enables me to greet - together with you, Mr Reis ul-Ulema Mutafa efendija Ceric, and your closest colleagues - all the Muslims of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

As you know, the Church regards with esteem the followers of Islam who, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, adore the one God, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to man (cf. Nostra Aetate NAE 3).

To this faith in God, which draws Muslims close to the believers of the other monotheistic religions, is added the consideration that the Islamic tradition preserves great respect for the memory of Jesus, esteemed as a great prophet, and for Mary, his Virgin Mother.

May this closeness make possible ever more mutual understanding at the human and spiritual level. May it help bring about greater fraternal and constructive understanding also between communities of different beliefs living in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

2. God is one, and in his justice he asks us to live in conformity with his holy will, to regard ourselves as brothers and sisters of one another, to commit ourselves to working to ensure that peace is safeguarded in human relationships, at every level. All human beings are put on earth by God to make a pilgrimage of peace, starting from the situation in which they find themselves and from the culture in which they live.

The Islamic community of Bosnia-Hercegovina is also aware of this "destiny" willed by God, but it knows, at the same time, the efforts involved in the journey necessary for carrying it out, and today it is experiencing the consequences of a war which spared no one suffering and sorrow.

The time has come to resume a sincere dialogue of brotherhood, accepting and offering forgiveness: the time has come to overcome the hatred and vengeance which still hinder the re-establishment of genuine peace in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

God is merciful - this is the affirmation that all believers in Islam love and share. Precisely because God is merciful and wills mercy, each individual must situate himself within the logic of love, so as to reach the goal of true mutual forgiveness.

Peace, then, which is a gift offered by God in his goodness, is required by him and demanded of our consciences. He wills peace between one person and another, between one nation and another. This is what God commands, for he himself manifests his love to every man and woman, together with his saving forgiveness.

3. It is my hope that the communities of Islam, a religion of prayer, can join in the prayer which all people of good will raise to Almighty God, to implore, with unity of purpose, an active peace which enables people to live and work together effectively for the common good.

May the Most High God protect all those who, with sincerity and mutual understanding, join forces with generous commitment and openness in order to restore the moral values common to all people who believe in God and love his will.

Upon these good people, as also upon all of you here present, I invoke the blessing of Almighty God.

Speeches 1997 - Saturday, 12 April 1997