Pope Francis on Saturday bemoaned the “atmosphere of war” haunting the world as he urged the people of war-scarred Sarajevo to provide an example of how different cultures and religions can co-exist peacefully.
The 78-year-old was given a rapturous reception by a 65,000-strong crowd at the city’s Olympic stadium and tens of thousands more took to the streets to greet him.
Many conflicts across the planet amount to “a kind of third world war being fought piecemeal and, in the context of global communications, we sense an atmosphere of war,” the pontiff said in a mass at the stadium during a one-day visit to the Bosnian capital.
“Some wish to incite and foment this atmosphere deliberately,” he added, attacking those who want to foster division for political ends or profit from war through arms dealing.
“But war means children, women and the elderly in refugee camps, it means forced displacement, destroyed houses, streets and factories: above all countless shattered lives.
“You know this well having experienced it here.”
The pontiff had earlier referred to Sarajevo, with its synagogues, churches and mosques, as a “European Jerusalem”, a crossroads of cultures, nations and religions which required “the building of new bridges while maintaining and restoring older ones.”
In a reference to the legacy of the war, which left Sarajevo in ruins and Bosnia permanently divided along ethnic lines, he urged the country’s Muslim, Serb and Croat communities to reach out to each other at every level.
“In so doing, even the deep wounds of the recent past will be set aside,” Francis said in a meeting with officials of the rotating presidency.
Later, at a meeting with Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and Orthodox religious figures, he said Sarajevo could reclaim its former status as a beacon of multiculturalism.
“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 common humanity.”