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Pope Francis Celebrates Mass at Kosevo Stadium in Sarajevo


Tens of thousands of Catholics have attended a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at a stadium in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Pope Francis’ visit to Sarajevo is aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation across Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The pontiff is also meeting members of the Muslim, Orthodox Christian and Jewish communities during his one-day trip.

Bosnia remains divided along religious and ethnic lines, 20 years after its civil war which depleted the Catholic population.

“War never again!” Pope Francis urged in his homily before 65,000 worshippers at Sarajevo’s Kosevo stadium.Pope Francis Sarajevo Stadium 2015

He added: “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,” Pope Francis added in reference to the 1992-19995 Bosnian conflict, which left some 100,000 dead and two million displaced.

Pope Francis also warned that the world faced “a kind of third world war being fought piecemeal and, in the context of global communications, we sense an atmosphere of war”.

The war between Christian Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Bosniaks in the early ‘90s resulted in deep ethnic divisions. There was also a Bosniak-Croat conflict within the wider war.

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Catholics, from the Bosnian Croatian community, are estimated to number 10-15% of the population.

Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said a central aspect of the visit would be boosting the morale of Catholics, many of whom left the country after the conflict.

“In December the 20th anniversary of the war will be remembered but the traces and the wounds of war are still there,” Pietro Parolin told AFP news agency.

Pope Francis was welcomed in Sarajevo by children wearing traditional costume representing Bosnia-Herzegovina’s three main faiths.

The pontiff also spoke to the three-member presidency and called on Bosnia-Herzegovina to reject division and continue working for peace to create “a melody of sublime nobility and beauty, instead of the fanatical cries of hatred”.

Speaking to reporters on his flight to Sarajevo, Pope Francis described Bosnia-Herzegovina’s capital as the “Jerusalem of the West”.