Pope Francis celebrates mass in Bosnian capital

Pope Francis celebrates mass in Bosnian capital

PanARMENIAN.Net - Pope Francis has celebrated Mass in front of tens of thousands of Catholics at a stadium in Bosnia-Herzegovina, BBC News reports.

The pontiff's visit to the capital, Sarajevo, is aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation across the country. The Pope is also meeting members of the Muslim, Orthodox Christian and Jewish communities during his one-day trip.

Bosnia remains divided along religious and ethnic lines, 20 years after its civil war which depleted the Catholic population.

"War never again!" Pope Francis urged in his homily before 65,000 worshippers at Sarajevo's Kosevo stadium.

"War means children, women and the elderly in refugee camps; it means forced displacement, destroyed houses, streets and factories. Above all countless shattered lives," he said.

"You know this well having experienced it here," he added in reference to the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict, which left some 100,000 dead and two million displaced.

The Pontiff also warned that the world faced "a kind of third world war being fought piecemeal and, in the context of global communications, we sense an atmosphere of war".

The war between Christian Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Bosniaks in the early 90s resulted in deep ethnic divisions. There was also a Bosniak-Croat conflict within the wider war.

Bosnia-Herzegovina's Catholics, from the Bosnian Croatian community, are estimated to number 10-15% of the population.

Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said a central aspect of the visit would be boosting the morale of Catholics, many of whom left the country after the conflict.

"In December the 20th anniversary of the war will be remembered but the traces and the wounds of war are still there," he told AFP.

The Pope was welcomed in Sarajevo by children wearing traditional costume representing Bosnia-Herzegovina's three main faiths.

He also spoke to the three-member presidency and called on the country to reject division and continue working for peace to create "a melody of sublime nobility and beauty, instead of the fanatical cries of hatred".

Speaking to reporters on his flight to Sarajevo, he described Sarajevo as the "Jerusalem of the West".

"It is a city of very different ethnic and religious cultures. It is even a city that has suffered much during its history. Now it is on a beautiful path of peace. I am making this trip to talk about this, as a sign of peace and a prayer for peace."

At least 5,000 police are on duty and authorities have published a helpline number if members of the public spot any suspicious activity during the visit.

On Friday local media reported jihadists claiming to be from Islamic State had issued a video, calling for action in the Balkans. However, it is not thought to be linked to the papal visit.

It is 18 years since Pope John Paul II travelled to Sarajevo during a severe snowstorm in 1997. A monument was erected in his honor in 2014.

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