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Gems from a Day Trip: Pope Francis in Bosnia-Herzegovina – June 6, 2015

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

June 7, 2015
Francis arrival Sarajevo
In many cases, Pope Francis' unscripted remarks during his brief visit to Sarajevo yestreday captured remarkably the purpose of Pope Francis’ brief, powerful, prophetic visit to this small country in Europe: to bring a message of hope to peoples who had known so much violence, bloodshed, war and enmity for so long. Yesterday’s pastoral visit to a small European country evoked in many ways Francis’ previous visit to Albania in September 2014.
From the city of Sarajevo, which had become a symbol of Europe’s fratricidal war, Pope Francis offered the world an icon of hope and peace. The scars of the war of the 1990’s are still open wounds, but Pope Francis told the political leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina how deeply moved he was at the thousands of children of various ethnicities and religions who cheered him on as he made his way through the streets of Sarajevo. He told the leaders: “Children are the hope we should be betting on.”
Yesterday we caught sight of visibly moved Bishop of Rome who had traveled to Bosnia-Herzegovina to listen, encourage, confirm and strengthen Christians in their faith, and invite politicians, Muslims and others of good will to become peacemakers and not simply proclaimers of peace.
“Do not forget the martyrs,” Francis told his audience yesterday. “You do not have the right to forget your history, not for seeking revenge, but for building peace.” He urged forgiveness and tenderness toward former enemies.
“War means children, women, and the elderly in refugee camps; it means forced displacement of peoples; it means destroyed houses, streets, and factories; it means, above all, countless shattered lives,” he said. “You know this well, having experienced it here: how much suffering, how much destruction, how much pain!”
Yesterday in Sarajevo, Francis took up once again the cry of Blessed Paul VI to the United Nations General Assembly in 1964: “Today, dear brothers and sisters, the cry of God’s people goes up once again from this city, the cry of all men and women of good will: War never again!” The significance and impact of those words emanating yesterday from Bosnia-Herzegovina was lost on no one.
So that you do not forget yesterday’s powerful visit, I have excerpted below some of the jewels of Pope Francis’ day trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Though such words and thoughts were spoken in a specific, geographical place in Europe, their import is for the entire world.
Francis Muslim Sarajevo
Meeting with Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps
Presidential Palace
“We need to communicate with each other, to discover the gifts of each person, to promote that which unites us, and to regard our differences as an opportunity to grow in mutual respect”.
“Patience and trust are called for in such dialogue, permitting individuals, families and communities to hand on the values of their own culture and welcome the good which comes from others’ experiences. In so doing, even the deep wounds of the recent past will be set aside, so that the future may be looked to with hope, facing the daily problems that all communities experience with hearts and minds free of fear and resentment.”
Homily of the Holy Father
Mass in Koševo Stadium
“Within this atmosphere of war, like a ray of sunshine piercing the clouds, resound the words of Jesus in the Gospel: 'Blessed are the peacemakers'. This appeal is always applicable, in every generation. He does not say: 'Blessed are the preachers of peace', since all are capable of proclaiming peace, even in a hypocritical, or indeed duplicitous, manner. No. He says: 'Blessed are the peacemakers', that is, those who make peace. Crafting peace is a skilled work: it requires passion, patience, experience and tenacity. Blessed are those who sow peace by their daily actions, their attitudes and acts of kindness, of fraternity, of dialogue, of mercy... These, indeed, 'shall be called children of God', for God sows peace, always, everywhere; in the fullness of time, he sowed in the world his Son, that we might have peace! Peacemaking is a work to be carried forward each day, step by step, without ever growing tired.
Ecumenical and Interreligious Meeting
Franciscan International Study Centre
“Through dialogue, a spirit of fraternity is recognized and developed, which unites and favours the promotion of moral values, justice, freedom and peace. Dialogue is a school of humanity and a builder of unity, which helps to build a society founded on tolerance and mutual respect.”
“Interreligious dialogue, before being a discussion of the main themes of faith, is a “conversation about human existence” (ibid.). This conversation shares the experiences of daily life in all its concreteness, with its joys and sufferings, its struggles and hopes; it takes on shared responsibilities; it plans a better future for all. We learn to live together, respecting each other’s differences freely; we know and accept one another’s identity. Through dialogue, a spirit of fraternity is recognized and developed, which unites and favours the promotion of moral values, justice, freedom and peace. Dialogue is a school of humanity and a builder of unity, which helps to build a society founded on tolerance and mutual respect.”
“This city, which in the recent past sadly became a symbol of war and destruction, today, with its variety of peoples, cultures and religions, can become again a sign of unity, a place in which diversity does not represent a threat but rather a resource, an opportunity to grow together. In a world unfortunately rent by conflicts, this land can become a message: attesting that it is possible to live together side by side, in diversity but rooted in a common humanity, building together a future of peace and brotherhood.”
“Let us not be discouraged, however, by the difficulties, but rather continue with perseverance along the way of forgiveness and reconciliation. While we seek to recall the past with honesty, thereby learning the lessons of history, we must also avoid lamentation and recrimination, letting ourselves instead be purified by God who gives us the present and the future: he is our future, he is the ultimate source of peace.”
Francis Religious Sarajevo
Meeting with Priests, Men and Women Religious and Seminarians Gathered in the Cathedral
“Dear sisters and brothers, you must not forget your history, not in order to hold grudges, but in order to create peace. Not to consider that history as something strange, but to love as they loved. In your blood, in your vocation, is the vocation and blood of these three martyrs. There is the blood and the vocation of many religious, priests and seminarians. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, tells us not to forget those who have gone before us, those who have transmitted the Faith to us. These people have transmitted the Faith to you, and taught you how to live the Faith. The Apostle Paul tells us not to forget Jesus Christ, the first martyr. These people have followed in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. We need to restore memory in order to make peace.”
“A few words are lodged in my heart: one of these is “forgiveness”. A man and a woman who consecrate their lives to the Lord, but don’t know how to forgive, are worth nothing. Forgiving an enemy who says something bad to you, or a sister who is jealous, isn’t difficult. But forgiving someone who kicks you and hurts you, who threatens your life with a gun, that is hard to forgive. Yet they did this, and they tell us we should do the same. Something else that stays with me is the 120 days in the concentration camp. How many times the spirit of the world causes us to forget those who have preceded us with their suffering? Those days in the concentration camp were counted by the minute because every minute, every hour, was torture: living together, filthy, without food or water, in the heat and the cold, and for so long. And we who complain when our tooth hurts, or because we want a TV in our room, or more creature comforts, or we gossip about the superior because the food isn’t good enough. Don’t forget the testimonies of those who went before [us]. Think how much they suffered. Think about the six-litre blood transfusion the first priest received in order to keep him alive. Carry a cross that is worthy of Jesus Christ. Worldly sisters, priests and bishops are caricatures who are worth nothing because they do not remember the martyrs. They don’t remember Jesus Christ crucified who is our only glory.”
“I think of (the story we were told about) the militiaman who gave a pear to the sister, and the Muslim woman who lives in America now, and who fed the priest. We are all brothers and sisters, even that cruel man. I don’t know what he was thinking, but he felt the Holy Spirit. Maybe he remembered his mother when he gave that pear to the sister. And that Muslim woman who went beyond religious difference, she believed in God. Seek the God of all. We all have the possibility to seek the seeds of Good, because we are all Children of God. Blessed are you who have these witnesses so close to you. Please never forget them. May our lives grow though these memories. I think of the priest whose parents and sister died, he was left alone but he was the fruit of love, marital love. I think of the sister, she too was a daughter. I think of what the Cardinal Archbishop said: what happens to the Garden of Life? Why doesn’t it flourish? Pray for families so that they may flourish with many children and that there may be many vocations.”
“Finally, I would like to tell you that what we have heard is a story of cruelty. Today, in wars around the world, we see so much cruelty. Be the opposite of cruel: be tender, fraternal, forgiving. And carry the cross of Jesus Christ. That’s what Holy Mother Church wants of you: to be small martyrs, small witnesses of the Cross of Christ. May God bless you and please pray for me.”
Meeting with the Young People
"John Paul II" Diocesan Youth Centre
“Some young people may give in to the temptation to flee, or become self-absorbed, taking refuge in alcohol, drugs, or ideologies which preach hatred and violence. These are realities which I know well because they were “unfortunately also present in Buenos Aires, where I come from.”
“To overcome every trace of pessimism, you will need the courage to offer yourselves joyfully and with dedication to the building of a welcoming society, a society which is respectful of all differences and oriented towards a civilization of love.”
Francis Youth Sarajevo
From Prepared Remarks to Young People
“Dear young people, your joyful presence, your thirst for truth and high ideals are signs of hope! Being young does not mean being passive, but rather means being tenacious in your efforts to achieve important goals, even if this comes at a price. Being young does not mean closing your eyes to difficulties: instead, it requires a refusal to compromise or be mediocre. It does not mean escaping or fleeing, but engaging rather in solidarity with everyone, especially the weakest. The Church counts on you and will continue to count on you who are generous and capable of great energy and noble sacrifices. For this reason, together with your pastors I ask you: do not isolate yourselves, but rather be ever more united among yourselves so that you may enjoy the beauty of fraternity and be always more fruitful in your actions.”
“Everyone will see that you are Christians by how you, young Christians of Bosnia and Herzegovina, love one another and how committed you are to service. Be not afraid; do not flee from reality; be open to Christ and to your brothers and sisters. You are a vital part of that great people who make up the Church: a universal people, a people in whom all nations and cultures can receive God’s blessing and can discover the path to peace. With this people, each of you is called to follow Christ and to give your life to God and to your brothers and sisters, in the way that the Lord will reveal to you, or perhaps is revealing to you now! Will you respond? Do not be afraid. We are not alone. We are always in the presence of God our heavenly Father, with Jesus our Brother and Lord, in the Holy Spirit; and we have the Church and Mary our Mother. May she protect you and always give you the joy and courage to witness to the Gospel.”
To Journalists aboard the return flight to Rome Saturday evening
Cross war altar SarajevoQuestion to Pope Francis: “You spoke to young people about the need to exercise prudence when watching TV and using computers, you talked about “filth” and “bad fantasies.” What did you mean by this exactly?”
“There are two different elements here: method and content. Regarding the method or way of doing things, there is one that is bad for the soul and that is being too attached to the computer. This is bad for the soul and it robs you of your freedom, you become a slave of the computer. It’s interesting, so many mothers and fathers say to me: when we’re at table our children are on their phones and it’s like they are on another planet. Virtual language is a form of progress for humanity but when it drives us away from our family, from social life, from sport and from art and we are glued to it, it becomes a mental illness. Secondly, the content. Yes, there is a lot of filth that ranges from pornography to semi-pornographic content, to programmes that are empty, devoid of values; relativism and consumerism foment all this. Ad we know that consumerism is a cancer of society, relativism is a cancer of society and I will talk about this in my next encyclical. There are some very concerned parents who do not allow their children to have a computer in their rooms but in a common space in their home. These are little things that help.”