Home Page
news 06 Jun 15

Pope in Bosnia Appeals for Lasting Peace

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Sarajevo to hear Pope Francis urge Bosnians to put the “barbarity” of war behind them and work together for a peaceful future.

Elvira M. Jukic, Srecko Latal, Denis Dzidic
  Pope Francis welcomed at the presidency I Photo by AP, Andrew Medichini  

Pope Francis’s message of peace and tolerance drew a warm welcome on Saturday on his one-day visit to the Bosnian capital, where the main streets were lined with well-wishers and all the city’s churches rang their bells in tribute.

“Today, dear brothers and sisters, a cry is rising once again from this city from all men and women of good heart: may there be no more war ever again,” the Pope said in his keynote speech.

“Cooperation between different peoples and religions is possible. Even the deepest wounds can be healed by a joint journey that cleans the memory and gives hope,” he added.

Pope Francis arrived in Sarajevo around 9am on an Alitalia flight and was greeted by the Bosnian Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, Dragan Covic, and Bosnian Cardinal Vinko Puljic.

He travelled to the city centre in his blue Ford Focus hatchback with its SCV1 (Vatican City State 1) registration plates, accompanied by a police motorcade.

  Tens of thousands attended the mass I Photo by AP, Amel Emric

Drago, a 56-year-old from the central Bosnian town of Kiseljak, said he came to Sarajevo to see the Pope despite having a heart condition, and said the visit made him feel that he was “surrounded by positive energy and feelings”.

“I am thrilled… We showed we can all be together. This feeling will remain among common people. Politicians are the problem,” added his wife, Bosiljka.

At the presidency building, Pope Francis was greeted by the Bosnian Serb chairman of the presidency, Mladen Ivanic, and met Bosnian officials, including all three members of the presidency, and the top executive, legislative and judicial officials from different administrative levels.

Ivanic also used the occasion to appeal for tolerance and peaceful co-existence.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina was a symbol of true understanding and love of different nations and religions but also a symbol of deep divisions, mutual conflicts and suffering. We believe that the time of misunderstanding, intolerance and divisions is far behind us and that we have learned a lesson from the recent past… and that we have to work on it all together, with dedication,” said Ivanic. 



The Pope's arrival at Kosevo stadium I Photo by AP, Amel Emric

As he left the presidency, Pope Francis released a flock of white doves and told the thousands of people gathered outside: “Peace be with you.”

He then went to the Kosevo football stadium to hold a mass. Along the way, he occasionally ordered his motorcade to slow down to greet ordinary people who were lining the route and to shake their hands.

The stadium, which had been transformed into an open-air church, was packed with more than 70,000 pilgrims and hundreds of dignitaries.

In his sermon, the Pope again condemned the evils of war.

“War means children, women and the elderly in refugee camps, it means forceful evictions from homes, it means destroyed homes, streets and businesses. Above all, it means so many destroyed lives,” he said.

“You know this very well because you have lived through all that here. So much suffering, so much destruction, so much pain,” he added.

  Pope Francis in Sarajevo I Photo by AP, Darko Bandic

Bosnia’s cardinal Vinko Puljic thanked Pope Francis for his support for the country and its peoples but especially for its Catholics, who are mostly Croats.

“Your visit encourages us,” Puljic said, claiming that Croats, as the smallest of the three main ethnic groups in Bosnia, are struggling to secure equal rights.

Some Sarajevo residents said they were left unmoved by the papal visit.

“I honestly can’t see what the fuss is all about. He came and he’ll leave. It will be news for a day,” said one local resident called Nada.

But many others were excited by Pope Francis’s arrival.

“Today Sarajevo is the centre of the world,” said a newscaster on Bosnia’s Federal Television.

Tina, a 16-year-old student from Kiseljak, echoed the Pope’s appeal for ethnic tolerance.

“We should forget about the war. All politicians talk only about that and that affects the young people in a bad way,” she said.

“I think that in ten years there will be no differences among the people. We, the young people, already live like that,” she added.

Following the central mass, the Pope had lunch with Bosnian Cardinal Vinko Puljic and Catholic Bishops, and then a meeting in the Catholic cathedral with other church officials.


  Around 65,000 people attended the mass at Kosevo stadium I Screenshot from Centro Televisivo Vaticano

The cathedral, built at the end of the 19th century in the Neo-Gothic style, after the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, and located in the centre of Sarajevo’s old town, was surrounded by thousands of people who came to greet the Pope.

In the centre, shops and cafes were closed. Cars were removed from parking lots due to rigorous security arrangements, which involved more than 6,000 police and other security officials from across Bosnia.

Pope Francis left Bosnia on Saturday evening, after meetings with representatives of other three main religious comunities in Bosnia, the Islamic Community, the Orthodox Church and the Jewish Community.


Pope Francis waves from the Popemobile I Photo by AP, Sulejman Omerbasic

  Pope Francis holds a mass at Kosevo stadium I Photo by AP, Amel Emric

  Pope Francis releases a white dove outside the presidency building in Sarajevo I Photo by AP, Darko Bandic

  Pope Francis greets worshippers before the mass I Photo by AP, Amel Emric

 The faithful gather at Kosevo stadium to attend the mass I Photo by AP, Amel Emric


Talk about it!

blog comments powered by Disqus

Premium Selection

20 Feb 18

Birdwatching Paradise on the Borders of Belgrade

Beljarica, a floodplain on the left bank of the Danube, is home to more than 130 species of bird, and several mammals, fish, and amphibians. But now, it faces an imminent threat. 

20 Feb 18

Montenegrins Spy Gold on California’s Cannabis Farms

Impoverished, indebted and disillusioned Montenegrins are heading off to California where they can earn hundreds of dollars a day on licensed marijuana plantations.