Pope calls for reconciliation, tolerance in Sarajevo address Healing mission had been delayed by war

he also met with presidents

April 14, 1997|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Pope John Paul II, completing a promised healing mission delayed by war, challenged the survivors of Sarajevo yesterday to turn their bomb-shattered city into a multiethnic model of tolerance and reconciliation.

"The hope of all people of good will," he told 40,000 worshipers at an outdoor Roman Catholic Mass amid snow flurries, "is that what Sarajevo symbolizes will remain confined to the 20th century, and that its tragedies will not be repeated in the millennium about to begin."

The pope's homily was the centerpiece of his 25-hour visit to a city that has become an abiding preoccupation for him since it fell hostage to ethnic slaughter five years ago. In seven speeches over two days, he lamented the fate of a city racked by three armed conflicts since the incident that precipitated World War I -- a place that remains, he said, "scarred by a violent and crazed logic of death and division" 16 months after the latest conflict ended.

The papal mission, originally planned for September 1994 and canceled on two days' notice amid Bosnian Serb shelling of a besieged Sarajevo, marked the pope's return to pastoral travel and diplomacy six months after an appendectomy.

He spoke steadily and stepped firmly but looked weary as he headed back to Rome yesterday evening.

Arriving in Sarajevo to help shore up a shaky peace, the pope met collectively and individually with Bosnia-Herzegovina's three-member presidency, which represents the country's former antagonists: Muslims, Roman Catholic Croats and Orthodox Christian Serbs.

Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the presidency, refused to attend the welcoming ceremony Saturday. But he wished the pope good health yesterday and said he hoped the visit would bring lasting peace.

The pontiff told the three presidents that they must talk to each other.

"The effort required by face-to-face encounter will be richly rewarded," he said. "It will slowly become possible for the wounds inflicted by the recent terrible war to heal, and real hope for a more worthy future for all the people who together live in this territory will become possible."

The meeting was held yesterday morning at the scarred National Museum, which sits on what used to be the front line. It has become a compromise venue for presidential sessions because Krajisnik has balked at recognizing the official presidency building, which is occupied by Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the presidency.

The pope's visit was widely viewed as a test of the 1995 peace accords' requirement of freedom of movement throughout Bosnia, and for one day, at least, there was compliance.

To reach yesterday's Mass in largely Muslim Sarajevo, busloads of Catholics crossed Serbian- and Muslim-held territories without apparent difficulty.

But that freedom was heavily enforced by NATO-led peace-keeping troops temporarily overseeing the peace accords.

Their armored personnel carriers rode escort for the pilgrims' bus caravans, some of which traveled all night to make it to Mass on time, and two NATO helicopters hovered nearby throughout the 2 1/2 -hour service.

Many Catholics, fearful of violence, stayed home, and the crowd did not fill Sarajevo's 50,000-seat Kosevo Stadium.

Explosions have damaged several Catholic churches and mosques in recent weeks, and security agents found a potentially lethal cache of explosives Saturday under a bridge over which the pope was due to pass on his way into the city.

Yesterday, Spanish NATO troops discovered and removed six more land mines that had been planted along the road that pilgrims would take on their way out of Sarajevo, United Nations officials said.

Pub Date: 4/14/97

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