The Pope in Sarajevo

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Pope Francis is in Sarajevo today. He was greeted by, among others, His Grace Bishop Grigorije of Zahum-Hercegovina. His Grace greeted the Pope with the following words (translation courtesy here):

Your Holiness,

Allow me, as the Bishop of the Orthodox Church, to welcome you with the Evangelical greeting – “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” You came to Bosnia and Herzegovina and its capital city of Sarajevo because you wish to give your support to a suffering and tortured country which would like to straighten up again and find its human face. Sarajevo where you are today and Mostar in which we expect you are the cities that remind of Jerusalem as they are places of suffering, and any real suffering is the announcement of the Resurrection. Therefore, your visit is an encouragement and comfort above all to the Catholics of Bosnia and Herzegovina to whom you arrive as the hierarch-shepherd. We the Orthodox Christians at this encounter with you do not feel less joy while you as the Head of our sister Church and Bishop of Rome are visiting our country. Bring us the blessing of the Roman Chair which is one of the most ancient and famous Churches. Bring us the blessing of the holy Roman martyrs who died in the Coliseum and across the ancient Rome, whose blood became the seed from which have sprouted many Christians.

Christians of this country, together with Christians all over the world, receive with joy the authentic witnesses of the Gospel, and we had many opportunities to get convinced that you are one of them. You testify that contemporary man,while under burden of temptations of our time, longs for freedom and love that are deeply stored in the treasury of the Church of Christ. It is our responsibility to provide the world with this treasure or stand hard on the church door not letting anyone approach it, and in this way to deprive also ourselvesof its graces. The Church needs prophets – convinced persons full of the Holy Spirit, who will boldly point out imperfections and lead to the truth. Therefore, with joy and approval we follow your every undertaking in which you act as a prophet in relation toward the world and even more so in relation to the Church itself.

As you know, thank God, just twenty years ago we came out of the last war (and no previous has passed us by, leaving deep and unhealed wounds), but we still talk about it as if it ended only yesterday. This is understandable, because war brings disaster, murders, cruelties, always to smallest and most innocent people, while there are murderers and victims at all sides. However,we as children of God’s Church should particularly be concerned and ashamed of the fact that in our country, Christians killed Christians and non-Christians, and therefore this country since the World War II is full of graves, pits, destroyed churches and monasteries.

Our great writer and Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andrić, at the beginning of the last century,expressed the terrible characteristic of this country: “Bosnia is a land of hatred and fear.” He explains it in following way: “The fact is that in Bosnia and Herzegovina there are more people who are willing to kill or be killed,in the acts of unconscious hatred, for various reasons and under various excuses, than in other Slavic or non-Slavic countries, much bigger by population or by surface”.

On the other hand, it is also true that when the clash of arms and the war cries are silenced, we continue to live in peace, respecting each other. In this unexplainable reality Bosnia and Herzegovina can be amazingly beautiful and almost indescribable country. Indeed, much of beautiful and original of Bosnia and Herzegovina was created exactly in the intertwining of different cultures, religions and peoples who live here. However, we have not yet fully achieved the mutual co-existence in peace and respect after the last war, and in that we expect your help. We would like you to affirm us in our conviction that people’s worthy relations between different nations and religions must be based on mutual respect and sincere sympathy. That we need to invest new efforts in developing feelings of trust, sympathy and affection. And finally, that coexistence can exist only in the Truth.

Wishing you a warm welcome I would like all of us to make together an effort with love,to see this tortured country not only the way it currently looks, but as it could be tomorrow with the blessing of God, Your and our help.

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