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Pope John Paul II’s Last Visit to Bosnia-Hercegovina

Pope John Paul II’s Last Visit to Bosnia-Hercegovina

On June 22, 2003, two weeks after the Holy Father’s visit to Croatia, he traveled to Banja Luka, the Serbian Capital of Bosnia-Hercegovina for a day. Just as Pope John Paul II had made it known that he desired to visit Medjugorje back in 1997 before his visit to Sarajevo, he again stated his desire before his visit to Banja Luka. Along with Medjugorje, the Holy Father had also wanted to visit Mostar, the largest city nearest to Medjugorje where also the seat of the Catholic Church for this region rested. However, Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar, never gave the invitation, and the Pope would not come without it. During his address, John Paul asked for mutual forgiveness among the ethnic, religious and cultural divides in Bosnia. He said:

“It is necessary to rebuild man from within, healing wounds and achieving genuine purification of memory through mutual forgiveness…The root of every good—and sadly, every evil—is in the depths of the heart. It is there that change must occur.“

The message of love and forgiveness is within the fabric of Our Lady’s messages. She said On September 25, 1997:

“…little children, I call you all to love, not with a human love, but with God’s love… Little children, so that you may comprehend my words which I give out of love, pray, pray, pray and you will be able to accept others with love and to forgive all who have done evil to you…”

On January 25, 2005, Our Lady said:

“…Pray, little children, for unity of Christians, that all may be one heart. Unity will really be among you inasmuch as you will pray and forgive. Do not forget: love will conquer only if you pray, and your heart will open…”

On June 25, 1997, Our Lady told Ivanka:

“…pray with the heart to know how to forgive and to be forgiven…”

One cannot forgive without prayer. Prayer opens the heart to forgiveness. It is not an easy path, but it is the only path to peace and freedom. Gathered before John Paul II this day were members of the Muslim, Orthodox Christians and Jewish faiths and he said to them:

“I know the long ordeal which you have endured, the burden of suffering that is a daily part of your lives…Do not give up. Certainly, starting afresh is not easy. It requires sacrifice and steadfastness if society is to take on a truly human face and everyone is to look to the future with confidence.”

As the Holy Father’s health was beginning to fail, at the time he visited Banja Luka, it was his last visit to Bosnia-Hercegovina.

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