Pope urges Bosnians to put fratricidal past behind them
Pope Francis witnessed the horrors of Bosnia's fratricidal war of the 1990s and its slow process of healing yesterday during a one-day visit to Sarajevo, where he urged Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics to put the "barbarity" of the past behind them and work together for a peaceful future.
Francis received a joyous welcome from thousands of cheering Bosnians who lined his motorcade route through the mostly Muslim city of 300,000. Another 65,000 people, most of them Catholics, packed the same Sarajevo stadium, where St. John Paul II presided over an emotional post-war Mass of Reconciliation in 1997.
The most poignant moment of the day came when two priests and a nun recounted their experiences during the war, of having been kidnapped, tortured and starved by Muslim or Serb Orthodox Christian troops and threatened with death. In a remarkable sign of deference, Francis bowed down to one of them and asked for his blessing.
Speaking off-the-cuff, Francis told a gathering of priests and nuns in Sarajevo's cathedral that they must never forget the "cruelty" inflicted on their fellow Catholics not to seek vengeance, but to show the power of forgiveness and the healing nature of God's love.
Sarajevo was once known as "Europe's Jerusalem" for the peaceful coexistence of its Christians, Muslims and Jews. It became synonymous with religious enmity during the 1992-95 conflict that left 100,000 dead and displaced half the population.