A journey for peace

The day of Bergoglio in Sarajevo, Saturday June 6 is rich with meetings. Tens of thousands of pilgrims arriving from throughout Bosnia and the Balkans

“A message of peace, coexistence, reconciliation and reconstruction for the common future of Bosnia”: Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See, presented the apostolic visit of Pope Francis to Sarajevo planned for next June 6 in Sarayevo. The visit envisages a busy schedule, rich with meetings and commitments. The Vatican spokesperson, underlined its “high significance, since Sarajevo, owing to its history, is a place to speak about war, peace and reconciliation, as well as about ecumenical and interreligious dialogue”. Also for this reason two cardinals are part of the papal delegation: Jean Louis Tauran and Kurt Koch, respectively presidents of the Pontifical Councils for Interreligious Dialogue and for Christian Unity. The flight of doves. Retracing all the steps of June 6, Father Lombardi said that during the welcome ceremony in the square before the presidential palace “several doves will be set free after the hymns and the rendering of military honours, as a call to the dove of peace in the site of the visit”. In fact, “May peace be with you” is the motto of the visit, whose logo depicts a dove with an olive-tree branch, symbol of peace, and a cross, a part of which is a triangle representing the borders of Bosnia. At least 60 thousand people are expected to attend the Mass at the Olympic Stadium in Sarajevo. “The Pope will greet the faithful from an open jeep, as the one he normally uses in St. Peter’s square”. The Mass will be co-celebrated by some 30 bishops from Bosnia and from Croatia, led by the cardinal archbishop of Zagreb, Josip Bozanić, from Macedonia and from Serbia. Over one thousand priests have registered so far. During Mass service there will be a chorus of some 1700 voices. Also transportation inside Sarajevo will take place with the popemobile vehicle. “This will enable us to see the many cemeteries and tombs located across the city, as during the siege the dead were buried also in public gardens”, Lombardi pointed out. The afternoon meeting in the cathedral with the clergy and the consecrated will be marked by “three powerful testimonies shared by a priest, a nun, and a religious”. There is high expectation for the interreligious meeting that will be attended by the archbishop of Sarajevo, cardinal Vinko Puljic, and by a member of the Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim communities respectively. The last event on the program of the Papal visit is a meeting with youths at the Saint John Paul II diocesan youth centre. Two young people, an orthodox and a Croatian Catholic, will share their personal witness. “The Pope will present a Statue of Saint John Paul II to the Centre”, said Father Lombardi. Strict security measures are envisaged, although for the spokesperson there are no serious concerns: “there have been no terrorist threats”. Following the footsteps of Wojtyla. Pope Francis’ visit will be the third by a Pontiff to Bosnia, after those of John Paul II in 1997 and in 20013, and the second in Sarajevo. “The country features a complex institutional structure – said the director of the Press Office – with a governing board chaired by three presidents, a Bosnian Muslim, a Serbian and a Croatia, reflecting an equally complex demographic, ethic and religious picture. Of the approximately 3.8 million inhabitants, 40% are Muslim, 31% Serbian Orthodox, 15% Croatian Catholic while the remaining belong to other ethic groups and religions, including Judaism. Bosnia has gone through tragic decades of war, now the focus is on peaceful and harmonious coexistence. However, the current situation isn’t easy. The Country has experienced tense events and is currently suffering a difficult economic situation, marked by strong social conflict”. For this reason, Pope Francis’ visit will bear “great importance and it will send a message of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction for the future of the Country”. Pilgrims from across the Balkans. The positive impact of the Pope’s visit is already felt on the touristic and economic planes. “Hotel reception in the area of Sarajevo – made known Sarajevo’s tourist office -numbers 8,800 beds, already sold out, but efforts are being put in place to increase reception for everyone”. Five hundred volunteers are tasked with welcoming the faithful. A main role is played by Croatian faithful. Adhesions are arriving also from Croatian Catholic missions abroad (Austria, Germany, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Egypt) and from the dioceses of Mostar-Duvno and Trebinje-Mrkan. Arrivals also from Slovenia and Italy. Groups of bikers are expected from Croatia and Herzegovina. In the meantime the video on the hymn of the papal visit “On the footsteps of peace” is circulating on You Tube.

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