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A sign of peace and reconciliation

Leaving the Nunciature, the Pope’s motorcade drove to the Cathedral of Sarajevo. Along way they passed one of the symbolic places from the recent war, the market where one of the worst attacks occurred during the four year siege. On 5 February 1994, several bombs killed 68 people and injuring more than 200. Cardinal-Archbishop Vinko Puljić pointed it out to the Holy Father. The site has been rebuilt but some signs still remain, as is true in various parts of the city. The bullet holes on the walls of the city's buildings are a testament to the suffering inflicted on the Bosnia and Herzegovina during the first half of the 1990s. The wounds and ethnic division are still partially unresolved. Nevertheless, through with hard work, the country is rebuilding its peaceful future.

It is for this reason that Pope Francis came to Sarajevo on Saturday. The visit also focused the world’s attention to this part of Europe. And the Pope underlined this reasoning to journalists on the return flight: “It is a sign. I wish the first countries that I visit in Europe, be the smallest countries, and the Balkans are martyred countries, they have suffered so much! They have suffered much. And thus my preference lies here”.

The Pope came to Sarajevo to discuss peace and encourage the path to reconciliation. He said it at every encounter in different shapes and forms. Both morning and afternoon were full of significant moments and events. On arriving at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, the Pope was greeted by the faith in the churchyard, where Francis also stopped to admire a statue of John Paul II which commemorated the Polish Pope’s meeting with the clergy in 1997. An event which Francis repeated there with priests, men and women religious and seminarians.

After leaving the Cathedral, Francis boarded the popemobile which then travelled to the Franciscan International Study Centre for an ecumenical and interreligious meeting. It was a particular moment for the city often called the “Jerusalem of Europe” which was for years a symbol of peaceful coexistence among faiths but today, after the war, is still facing difficulties link to religious and ethnic differences.

After greeting various representatives of various faiths, Pope Francis returned to the popemobile, travelling to the Youth Diocesan Centre where he was greeted by several children and by the Rector Fr Šimo Maršić, who — after unveiling a plaque officially dedicating the building to St John Paul ii — then accompanied the Holy Father to the gym.

Also here, as in the Cathedral, Francis consigned his prepared address and instead responded to four questions. Above all, he underlined one thing: “There is some particular about you”, he said, “you are, I think, the first post-war generation. You are the first flowers of spring, as Msgr Semren said: flowers of a springtime who want to go forwards and never go back to destruction, to those things that make us enemies of each another”.

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