Vatican City (www.kath.net/ Zenit
Benedict XVI. welcomed the bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina to Rome for their five-yearly visit by encouraging them to be peacemakers.
The prelates’ visit comes some ten years after the signing of the Dayton agreements, which sanctioned the integrity and sovereignty of the republic, and put an end to the armed conflict with the former Yugoslavia.
Vinko Cardinal Puljic, archbishop of Sarajevo, addressed a greeting on behalf of all the bishops to the Pope.
The Pope responded: „After the sad years of the recent war, as agents of peace, you are called today to reinforce communion and spread mercy, understanding and forgiveness in the name of Christ, both within the Christian communities as well as in the complex social fabric of Bosnia and Herzegovina.“
„To be fecund at the spiritual level,“ he said, „love does not have to follow simply earthly laws, but allow itself to be illuminated by the truth that is God and translate itself in that higher measure of justice that is mercy.“
The Bishop of Rome said that if the bishops „work with this spirit, you will be able to carry out with success the mission entrusted to you, contributing to heal the still open wounds and resolve conflicts and divisions, heritage of bygone years.“
Among the „urgent problems“ the bishops are facing, the Pontiff mentioned „the situation of those in exile“ and advocated their return thanks to „appropriate agreements that ensure respect for the rights of all.“
Benedict XVI. appealed for the „necessary equality among citizens of different religions“ and „measures that address the lack of work for young people,“ as well as „attenuating the threatening tensions between ethnic groups.“
„You can count on the praying, concrete and affectionate solidarity of the Holy See and the whole Catholic Church,“ he said.
The Pope also encouraged the prelates to undertake this endeavor of unity within the ecclesial community, because the bishop „is ‚pontiff,’ namely, ‚bridge builder’ among the different needs of the ecclesial community.“
„And this constitutes a particularly important aspect of the episcopal ministry in the present historical moment, in which Bosnia and Herzegovina undertake again the path of collaboration to build their own future of social development and peace,“ he said.
The Catholic Church paid a very high price during the war, Vatican Radio reported on Thursday. In Sarajevo alone, Catholics decreased from 500.000 to 125.000.
In the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina, nine priests and a nun were killed, 99 churches were destroyed and 127 damaged, not counting the dozens of attacks on monasteries and ecclesial centers.
It is estimated that some 450.000 Catholics were obliged to abandon their homes.
Foto: © Christoph Hurnaus
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