(AA) – Pope Francis called for the “building of new bridges” as he visited the Bosnian capital on Saturday.
Twenty years after the end of the wars that saw around 100,000 people killed, the 78-year-old pontiff was greeted by crowds of thousands of well-wishers in Sarajevo.
“Sarajevo has been called the Jerusalem of Europe,” he said in address to Bosnia’s three-member presidency that represents the Muslim, Croat and Serb communities. “Indeed it represents a crossroads of cultures, nations and religions, a status which requires the building of new bridges, while maintaining and restoring older ones, thus ensuring avenues of communication that are efficient, sure and fraternal.”
Arriving in Sarajevo 18 years after his predecessor Pope John Paul II, Francis said his welcome at the city’s airport by Muslim, Orthodox, Catholic and Jewish children showed that “even the deepest wounds can be healed by purifying memories and firmly anchoring hopes in the future.”
The pope’s one-day visit will see him give a public address and hold Mass at Asim Ferhatovic Hase stadium, where thousands of people are expected to attend.
Later on the pontiff will meet clergy at the city’s Sacred Heart cathedral before visiting a youth center.
Francis is the third pope to visit Bosnia since the break-up of Yugoslavia and the Bosnian wars between 1992 and 1995.