Pope Francis sent his greetings to the people of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in a video message that emphasized the motto of his upcoming visit: “Peace be with you.” “They are the words with which the risen Jesus greeted his disciples when he appeared among them in the Upper Room, on the evening of Easter,” the Pope explained in a short video message on June 2. “It is he, the Lord, our strength and our hope, who gives us his peace, that we might welcome it into our hearts and spread it with joy and with love.” “With the help of God I come among you to confirm the faith of Catholics, to support ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and especially to encourage peaceful coexistence in your country.” The Pope’s June 6 visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital city will last about 11 hours, Vatican Radio reports. Pope Francis said he is preparing to come “as a fellow messenger of peace” and to express to everyone his respect and friendship. “I would like to express to every person, every family, and every community the mercy, tenderness and love of God,” he said. He assured those of Bosnia and Herzegovina his affection and “strong spiritual closeness.” “I encourage Catholics to be witnesses to their fellow citizens of the faith and love of God, working for a society that makes ways towards peace in brotherhood and in mutual cooperation.” He prayed that Sarajevo and all Bosnia-Herzegovina will receive God’s blessings and the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary. During the visit, the Pope will meet with President Bakir Izetbegovic and say Mass at Sarajevo’s Kosevo Stadium. He will attend an interreligious and ecumenical gathering and meet with bishops, priests, and seminarians, as well as with youth. The papal visit comes 20 years after the end of the Bosnian War, which lasted from 1992 to 1995. In the early 1990s, the breakup of Yugoslavia worsened tensions over territory and the future of minority ethnic groups. The situation erupted into wars primarily split along ethnic lines involving Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs, and Muslim Bosniaks. The war drew international involvement, including NATO bombings. The war killed almost 100,000 soldiers and civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands more. Pope Francis met with the bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina on March 17, urging them to foster reconciliation and peaceful coexistence: “The society in which you live has a multicultural and multi-ethnic dimension. And you have been entrusted the task of being fathers to all, in spite of material limits and the crisis within which you work.”
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