Pope Francis has called for lasting reconciliation in a video message to the people of Bosnia ahead of his one-day visit to Sarajevo tomorrow.
In his message Francis asked Catholics “to stand side by side with your fellow citizens as witnesses of the faith and love of God and to work for a society that walks towards peace in friendship and reciprocal collaboration”.
He also emphasised the theme for his visit: “Peace be with you.”
Ivo Markovic, a Franciscan friar and theology professor in Bosnia, told Reuters that the Pope’s words would fall on deaf ears.
“Our politicians are hopelessly unable to hear and understand Pope Francis,” he said. “They can only instrumentalise faith and God in the manner they have done so since the beginning.”
Bosnia is still ethnically and religiously divided 20 years after a civil war killed 100,000 people.
Coinciding with the Pope’s visit is Bosnia agreeing a landmark deal with the European Union, hailed as a possible first step towards membership. The EU will give the country funds in exchange for political and economic reforms.
Fikret Novalic, prime minister of the Bosniak-Croat Federation, which represents one half of the country, said that, with the papal visit and the EU deal, “Bosnia is again in the spotlight … and we realise this is a chance for us to join the modern world.”
Bosnian Catholics, most of whom are Croats, account for 15 per cent of the country’s 3.8 million people.