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Religion and Society

Bosnia: a Country on Europe’s Periphery that has Something to Teach us. With the Help of the Pope.

With the announcement of his visit to Sarajevo, Pope Francis has confirmed that he pays attention to places marked by the coexistence of different cultures, faiths and confessions. Oasis spoke about this with Msgr. Mato Zovkić, who for many years was responsible for ecumenical and inter-religious relations for the Archdiocese of Sarajevo.

Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

What will Pope Francis find in Sarajevo during his journey which is planned for 6 June?

 

 

Pope Francis will find a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country which after the war has still not achieved political stability. This is precisely our problem: we do not manage to find agreement internally and for this reason we need support, help from the outside. In this sense, certainly, Pope Francis can be of help to Bosnia Herzegovina.

 

 

What do you expert from his visit?

 

 

We hope that the Pope can meet very many communities, first of all the Catholics, as head of the Church, but also representatives of the political world and the presidency. We hope that he will meet the Muslim community which makes up a majority of the country and the delegates of the Serbian Orthodox Church. In addition, I believe that there is a need for a Mass by which he can meet all of the people. The visit is now at an organisational stage: a state committee and a Catholic committee are cooperating and we hope that they will do everything possible to plan the stay of the Pope in the best way possible. Bosnia is not a Catholic country and this visit should be balanced so that he can reach everyone.

 

 

How have the Muslim and Orthodox communities reacted?

 

 

The day after the announcement of the visit, a communication from the Muslim community appeared in the local newspaper Oslobođenje which hailed the visit of the Pope and hoped that it could contribute to the formation of a stable State. Hitherto reactions of the Serbian-Orthodox community have not been recorded, probably because the Metropolitan Nikolai is at the moment away from Sarajevo and has not delegated anyone to speak in his name.

 

 

Pope Francis has said that he hopes that his visit will be an encouragement to inter-religious dialogue, friendship and pace between the communities of Bosnia. In what ways do you think his visit can have an impact?

 

 

On 4 February the reis-ul-ulema Husein Kavazović, the head of the Bosnian Muslim community, visited Cardinal Vinko Pulić, the Archbishop of Sarajevo, to propose to him a joint meeting of the Pope and the religious leaders of the city. This meeting will probably be the heart of the visit of Francis. The wish of the non-Catholic religious leaders to meet Francis together and not separately in their own communities, as happened during the visit of John Paul II, is certainly an excellent premiss. This demonstrates a new intention to engage in dialogue and cooperation.

 

 

After Albania and Strasburg, the third European destination of the Pope is Sarajevo. Why start specifically from the Balkans?

 

 

A characteristic of this pontificate has been paying attention to the outlying regions, far from the centres of decision-making. Bosnia is small but the Pope sees it as a great opportunity for coexistence and dialogue. His visit wants to appreciate this possibility.

 

 

Do you think that the attention the Pope pays to marginal and difficult social situations can really have a positive impact and improve conditions in the outlying areas?

 

 

Bosnia is certainly a country on the outskirts of Europe but the First World War began here. It is a territory where different cultures and religions meet. Despite that fact that our situation is marginal, we have elements that can contribute to the growth of the community, of a multi-ethnic and plural society.

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