Pope Francis: No more war - dialogue, peace, forgiveness

May there never again be war, head of the Roman Catholic Church Pope Francis said and called for a dialogue, peace and forgiveness during his one-day state and pastoral visit to Sarajevo under the slogan 'Peace be with you' in the year when Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) is celebrating two decades of the signing of the Dayton Treaty.

The Pope called on Muslims, Orthodox believers and Catholics to leave behind deep wounds from the BiH past and work together on building a peaceful future. He underscored that dialogue is the most important process and addressed politicians by a message in which he said that they are responsible for the noble task of being the first ones to serve their communities by working on protection of fundamental human rights.

We need to be artists in the promotion of peace, we should be flexible, patient and advocate the preservation of the simplicity of the heart, Pope Francis said and added that he has come as a pilgrim of peace and dialogue. Peace and unity among Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks have an importance that stretches far beyond BiH borders, Pope Francis said and added that the words can heal the deepest wounds through joint steps


SARAJEVO, June 6 (FENA) – Pope Francis visited today the monastery of the Holy Cross in Kovačići in Sarajevo, known as the Franciscan International Student Center, which is also the seat of the Franciscan Province of Bosna Srebrena, as part of his visit to BiH.

The Pope met with the leaders of the religious communities involved in the Inter-religious Council and he arrived to the center with Vrhbosna Archbishop, Cardinal Vinko Puljić.

The Holy Father from this place sent a message of peace, coexistence, tolerance and forgiveness.

The Pope said that he was glad that he was given a chance to participate in this meeting that brings together representatives of religious communities in BiH.

“I cordially greet each one of you and your communities and I thank you for the particularly beautiful greetings and thoughts. The meeting is a sign of the common desire for fraternal communion and peace,” said Pope Francis.

He recalled the year 1997, when as a result of the desire for communion and reconciliation the Council for Interreligious Dialogue was established, which brings together Muslims, Jews and Christians.

He said that really appreciates everything that has been done so far.

“I encourage you in your efforts to establish peace as you are its guardians here in BiH as the religious leaders. I guarantee you that the Catholic Church would continue to provide full support and be fully at your service,” added Pope Francis.

He pointed out that Sarajevo in the recent past became a symbol of war and destruction, but that with its diversity of cultures and religions of the people can again become a symbol of unity, in a place where diversity would not pose a threat, but richness and an opportunity for mutual growth.

The Pope was welcomed by Cardinal Puljić, Raisu-l-ulama of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina Husein effendi Kavazović, Bishop of Zahumlje-Herzegovina and the Littoral Grigorije and the President of the Jewish Community in BiH Jakob Finci.

Puljić said that the dialogue in BiH is in the focus and that it unites its people.
“The dialogue has no alternative,” he stressed.

Kavazović welcomed the Pope on behalf of the Islamic community and the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He emphasized that the visit of Pope is seen as an expression of support and good intentions.

Bishop Grigorije rated the Pope’s visit as a sign of encouragement and comfort.

“We feel the joy that you bring. We follow each of your endeavors gladly,” he said.

Finci said that the arrival of the Pope is encouraging and brings joy, and handed him a reprint the Sarajevo Haggadah.

He said that the Jewish community has existed here for hundreds of years, and this is the country that they love and fight for.

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SARAJEVO, June 6 (FENA) – Address by the Holy Father, Pope Francis during the ecumenical and inter-religious at the Franciscan International Student Center in Sarajevo:

Your Eminence,

Distinguished Religious Authorities,

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to take part in this meeting, which brings together representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s religious confessions. I offer cordial greetings to each one of you and to your communities, and I thank each of those who offered the kind words and we have just heard.

Today’s meeting is a sign of our shared desire for fraternity and peace; it is a testimony to the friendship and cooperation that has been developing over the years and which you already experience daily. To be present here today is already a “message” of that dialogue which everyone seeks and strives for.

I wish especially to recall one of the fruits of this desire for encounter and reconciliation, namely, the establishment in 1997 of a local Council for Interreligious Dialogue, which brings together Muslims, Christians and Jews. I am pleased by the work which this Council does to promote dialogue, coordinate common initiatives and develop relations with State Authorities. Your work in this region is immensely important, particularly in Sarajevo, which stands as the crossroads of peoples and cultures. Here, on the one hand, diversity constitutes a great resource which has contributed to the social, cultural and spiritual development of this region, while, on the other, it has also been the cause of painful rifts and bloody wars.

It is not by chance that the birth of the Council for Interreligious Dialogue and other valuable initiatives in the area of interreligious and ecumenical work came about at the end of the war, in response to the need for reconciliation and rebuilding a society torn apart by conflict. Interreligious dialogue here, as in every part of the world, is an indispensible condition for peace, and for this reason is a duty for all believers (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 250).

Interreligious dialogue, before being a discussion of the main themes of faith, is a “conversation about human existence” (ibid.). This conversation shares the experiences of daily life in all its concreteness, with its joys and sufferings, its struggles and hopes; it takes on shared responsibilities; it plans a better future for all. We learn to live together, respecting each other’s differences freely; we know and accept one another’s identity. Through dialogue, a spirit of fraternity is recognized and developed, which unites and favors the promotion of moral values, justice, freedom and peace. Dialogue is a school of humanity and a builder of unity, which helps to build a society founded on tolerance and mutual respect.

For this reason, interreligious dialogue cannot be limited merely to the few, to leaders of religious communities, but must also extend as far as possible to all believers, engaging the different sectors of civil society. Particular attention must be paid to young men and women who are called to build the future of this country. It is always worth remembering, however, that for dialogue to be authentic and effective, it presupposes a solid identity: without an established identity, dialogue is of no use or even harmful. I say this with the young in mind, but it applies to everyone.

I sincerely appreciate all that you have managed to accomplish up to this point and I encourage each of you in your efforts for the cause of peace of which you, as religious leaders, are the first guardians here in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I assure you that the Catholic Church will continue to offer her full support and willingness to help.

We are all aware that there is a long way yet to go. Let us not be discouraged, however, by the difficulties, but rather continue with perseverance along the way of forgiveness and reconciliation. While we seek to recall the past with honesty, thereby learning the lessons of history, we must also avoid lamentation and recrimination, letting ourselves instead be purified by God who gives us the present and the future: he is our future, the ultimate source of peace.

This city, which in the recent past sadly became a symbol of war and destruction, today, with its variety of peoples, cultures and religions, can become again a sign of unity, a place in which diversity does not represent a threat but rather a resource, an opportunity to grow together. In a world unfortunately rent by conflicts, this land can become a message: attesting that it is possible to live together side by side, in diversity but rooted in a common humanity, building together a future of peace and brotherhood.

I am grateful to you all for your presence and for the prayers which you will, of your goodness, offer for my ministry. For my part, I assure you that I will pray for you - May the Lord bless us all.


SARAJEVO, June 6 (FENA) – During the ecumenical and inter-religious meeting at the Franciscan International Student Center in Sarajevo, president of the Jewish Community in BiH Jakob Finci extended a greeting to the Holy Father, Pope Francis that FENA conveys in its entirety:

Dear and honorable Holy Father,

It is my great honor and pleasure to welcome you in Sarajevo, the town where the Jewish community exists in peace and harmony with other religious communities and churches for the past 450 years with the intention to stay here for next at least 450 years, because a second homeland neither we seek nor we have.

It was not easy to survive 450 years in the Balkans as a gunpowder barrel, as many call it, but with understanding, good will and the help of God, everything is possible.

Incidentally, like when your great predecessor St. Pope John Paul II visited us, again I hold the position of Chairman of our Inter-Religious Council, a ItemDesc in which four of our country's traditional religious communities and churches work closely and are promoting the ideas of religious tolerance, coexistence and joint action wherever possible. Of course, it is clear to us that the most important thing is to respect each other, love your own, but respect and understand other peoples’ views, and in this aspect I think I can say that we have succeeded, but still can and must do better and more successfully.

Your arrival encourages us all and makes us happy. We know that a friend of ours came, someone who wishes us well, who wishes to help and teach us how to be better believers, and thus better people.

We will not lie to you, because we are not politicians and say that this is all milk and honey here, and that there are no problems. There are problems, but we are trying to solve them together, aware that it is possible to survive in this beautiful part of the globe that God has given us to use only if we work together. This is not the time or place to mention the problems we face, but we assure you that these are the problems that we ourselves have created, and we have to overcome them on our own. Of course, your wise words and fatherly advice can only help us in that, and that is why we carefully followed everything you said since you came into our soil, and we fully support the words that you have said to all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

One of the small problems is that our National Museum is closed for a long time, so we are not able to show you our great preciousness, the Sarajevo Haggadah.

I know that Passover and Seder, when we read the Haggada, are still far along, but allow me on behalf all of us to give you the reprint of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a book like no other in the long Jewish history, to remind you of your visit and of the small Jewish community, whose 450th anniversary you magnified by your visit.

In conclusion, what to say but have a safe trip home and come again!


SARAJEVO, June 6 (FENA) – During the ecumenical and inter-religious meeting at the Franciscan International Student Center in Sarajevo, Bishop of Zahumlje-Herzegovina and the Littoral Grigorije extended a greeting to the Holy Father, Pope Francis that FENA conveys in its entirety:

Your Holiness,

Allow me, as the Bishop of the Orthodox Church, to welcome you with the Evangelical greeting - "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" You came to Bosnia and Herzegovina and its capital city of Sarajevo because you wish to give your support to a suffering and tortured country which would like to straighten up again and find its human face. Sarajevo where you are today and Mostar in which we expect you are the cities that remind of Jerusalem as they are places of suffering, and any real suffering is the announcement of the Resurrection. Therefore, your visit is an encouragement and comfort above all to the Catholics of Bosnia and Herzegovina to whom you arrive as the shepherd. We the Orthodox Christians at this encounter with you do not feel less joy while you as the Head of our sister Church and Bishop of Rome are visiting our country. Bring us the blessing of the Roman Chair which is one of the most ancient and famous Churches. Bring us the blessing of the holy Roman martyrs who died in the Coliseum and across the ancient Rome, whose blood became the seed from which have sprouted many Christians.

Christians of this country, together with Christians all over the world, receive with joy the authentic witnesses of the Gospel, and we had many opportunities to get convinced that you are one of them. You testify that contemporary man, while under burden of temptations of our time, longs for freedom and love that are deeply stored in the treasury of the Church of Christ. It is our responsibility to provide the world with this treasure or stand hard on the church door not letting anyone approach it, and in this way to deprive also ourselves of its grace. The Church needs prophets – convinced persons full of the Holy Spirit, who will boldly point out imperfections and lead to the truth. Therefore, with joy and approval we follow your every undertaking in which you act as a prophet in relation toward the world and even more so in relation to the Church itself.

As you know, thank God, just twenty years ago we came out of the last war (and no previous has passed us by, leaving deep and unhealed wounds), but we still talk about it as if it ended only yesterday. This is understandable, because war brings disaster, murders, cruelties, always to smallest and most innocent people, while there are murderers and victims at all sides. However, we as children of God's Church should particularly be concerned and ashamed of the fact that in our country, Christians killed Christians and non-Christians, and therefore this country since the World War II is full of graves, pits, destroyed churches and monasteries.

Our great writer and Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andrić, at the beginning of the last century, expressed the terrible characteristic of this country: "Bosnia is a land of hatred and fear." He explains it in following way: "The fact is that in Bosnia and Herzegovina there are more people who are willing to kill or be killed, in the acts of unconscious hatred, for various reasons and under various excuses, than in other Slavic or non-Slavic countries, much bigger by population or by surface”.

On the other hand, it is also true that when the clash of arms and the war cry is silenced, we continue to live in peace, respecting each other. In this unexplainable reality Bosnia and Herzegovina can be amazingly beautiful and almost indescribable country. Indeed, much of beautiful and original of Bosnia and Herzegovina was created exactly in the intertwining of different cultures, religions and peoples who live here. However, we have not yet fully achieved the mutual co-existence in peace and respect after the last war, and in that we expect your help. We would like you to affirm us in our conviction that people's worthy relations between different nations and religions must be based on mutual respect and sincere sympathy. We need to invest new efforts in developing feelings of trust, sympathy and affection. And finally, that coexistence can exist only in the Truth.

Wishing you a warm welcome I would like all of us to make together an effort with love, to see this tortured country not only the way it currently looks, but as it could be tomorrow with the blessing of God, Your and our help.

SARAJEVO, June 6 (FENA) – During the ecumenical and inter-religious meeting at the Franciscan International Student Center in Sarajevo, Raisu-l-ulama Husein effendi Kavazović extended a greeting to the Holy Father, Pope Francis that FENA conveys in its entirety:

Honorable Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, the Head of Roman Catholic Church,

I welcome you in the name of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina; I welcome you on behalf of Muslims living in this country and on my own behalf.

Your visit is to us an expression of your kindness and good will to cheer up all of us who live here. We are pleased that you chose our country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, for your first visit to this part of the world.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a place of meeting and of mutual permeation of the greatest religious traditions and cultures. At the same time, this is also a region of great suffering of ordinary people. Here perhaps you can see most clearly the indicators of a deep crisis through which the modern world is passing.

In our world, all universal values are relativized, what is mostly visible in the global advocacy of anti-human ideas and in disturbing de-sacralisation of the world. Faith in the living God, as his messengers have spoken about him, seems to be burning out. Its place is being usurped by ideologies and moral stumbling, and finally by idols made by human hands.

I am deeply convinced that the basic call of all of us leaders of religious communities is a purposeful struggle against moral relativism. Our efforts should be directed to spreading the spirit of optimism, repentance and hope. We need a return to the traditional values and a caring attitude toward all people.

Your visit to this country, with the message "Peace be with you", we experience as a support to affirmation of religious and cultural traditions of Bosnia and Herzegovina in a unique and fertile heritage of Europe. All shortcomings and controversies in understanding the contemporary European identity most directly affect the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The genocide, which was committed on Bosnian Muslims, obliges us to re-examine our faith and our mission.

Obedience to the One and Only God involves serving all people. The reconciliation with the Almighty God, who himself is the "Reconciler" (es-Salaam), includes reconciliation with others and with oneself. This is the purpose of human existence in this world. In our relationships as humans there should be no place for pride and egoism, because the measure of human success is humility and gratitude to God.

However, life is becoming ever crueler. We live in an age that requires tremendous spiritual effort from all of us, the followers of religions of Messengers. Consoling, awakening hope and repentance for committed sins can become the strength for humanity. Dominant theological and philosophical models today are more focused on achieving global political goals rather than helping people to come closer to God's grace. It looks like the people of faith give more importance to support political, military and economic blocks than to testify to truth and grant love and comfort to powerless.

In selfish love for ourselves we forget importance of the true love for God, and therefore for "our neighbor" (Mt 22, 34; Qur’an 17, 26). If we do not resist together to this deviation with an open and benevolent critical attitude and by discovering not only the consequences of evil but also its causes, we will betray the basic principle of our call - and that is taking care of each other.

Honorable Pope, together with the Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina we want to strengthen faith in the one God, religious morality and spirituality in contrast to alienation of material civilization and its products, the de-sacralisation of the world. We believe that marriage between a man and a woman, giving birth to children, growing up and upbringing in the family, is the mystery conceived by Ruhu-l-Emin (Holy Spirit) in accordance with God's plan.

Giving up of teaching and of accepting this mystery in life of humans would mean betrayal of one of the greatest mysteries of Abrahamic tradition.

Also, we are deeply touched by your concern for us, for all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Your sojourn among us we understand also as full support to this country, its sovereignty and its future in the European and world community of free countries. We hope that the most responsible persons in our country will find in your messages motivation to promote social peace, mutual respect of people and prudent, wise and constructive social and political integration of BiH society.

Therefore, while we are with you today in Sarajevo, with more confidence and hope we believe in the joint contribution to compassion and responsibility for spreading reconciliation in our restless and divided world. We welcome your calls to help programs of peace in the countries of terrible suffering and torturing Muslims and Christians and other people of the Middle East, and everywhere where human persons are exposed to suffering and injustice. Your coming among us is an encouraging act for all people of good will in this country of different limitations, opportunities and expectations.

Filled with great joy, I wish you a pleasant sojourn in our country where echoes of Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s), Musas’ (Moses’), Isa’s (Jesus’) and Muhammad's words and messages are heard for centuries among the mountains that surround us. Peace be with you.


SARAJEVO, June 6 (FENA) - In his speech at the BiH Presidency, Pope Francis pointed out that peace and harmony among Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks and incentives which recently aim to foster this, as well as the friendly and brotherly relations between Muslims, Jews and Christians, have a significance that goes far beyond the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

FENA Agency transfers the entire speech of the Holy Father:

Dear Ministers of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Dear Chairman of the Presidency, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish to thank the members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina for their kind welcome, and in a special way for the cordial welcome extended to me by His Excellency Mladen Ivanić Chairman of the Presidency, on behalf of everyone. 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.

Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have a special significance for Europe and for the whole world. For centuries in these lands, communities were present who professed different religions, who
belonged to distinct ethnic and cultural groups, each endowed with its own rich characteristics; each fostered its own traditions, without these differences having impeded for any length of time the establishment of mutually fraternal and cordial relationships.

The very architecture and layout of Sarajevo reveals visible and substantial characteristics of these different communities, each a short distance from the other – synagogues, churches and mosques – so much so that Sarajevo has been called “The Jerusalem of Europe”. Indeed it represents a crossroads of
cultures, nations and religions, a status which requires the building of new bridges, while maintaining and restoring older ones, thus ensuring avenues of communication that are efficient, sure and fraternal.

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 hand on the values of their own culture and welcome the good which comes from others’ experiences.

In so doing, 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. I am
happy to see the progress which has been made, for which we must thank the Lord and so many men and women of good will. However, 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 favour this path, the 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 is indeed an integral part of Europe, the successes and tragic experiences of the former are integrated fully into the latter’s history of successes and tragedies. They constitute, too, 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, take on an importance that goes beyond its boundaries. These initiatives 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.

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. In this way it will be possible to build, with concrete measures, a more peaceful and just society, working step-by-step together to solve the many problems which people experience daily.

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. Enjoying the same rights, they will be able to make their specific contribution to
the common good.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Catholic Church, by means of the prayer and the works of her faithful and her institutions, is taking an part in the process of material and moral reconstruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina, sharing the country’s joys and concerns. The Church is committed to offering her particular solicitude and closeness to the poor and to those most in need, inspired by the teaching and example of her Divine Master, Jesus.

The Holy See praises the work carried out in these recent years, and is determined to continue promoting cooperation, dialogue and solidarity, in the sure knowledge that peace and mutual listening in an ordered and civil society are indispensable conditions for authentic and lasting development. Through
the contribution of all, 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.

With these thoughts I implore the Almighty for peace and prosperity in Sarajevo and all of Bosnia and Herzegovina.