Pope arrives in Sarajevo

2015-06-06 09:44
Pope Francis addresses the media shortly before his aircraft landed in Sarajevo. (Andrew Medichini, AP)

Pope Francis addresses the media shortly before his aircraft landed in Sarajevo. (Andrew Medichini, AP)

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Sarajevo -Pope Francis arrived in Sarajevo on Saturday for a visit aimed at bolstering reconciliation between Bosnia's Serb, Croat and Muslim communities.

The one-day trip comes 20 years after the end of a 1992-95 war that ripped the Balkan state apart and left it permanently divided along ethnic lines.

Security was expected to be tight throughout the ten-hour visit.

Although the Vatican has played down fears for the pontiff's safety, local media have made much of a video published this week by a group of Islamists claiming to be members of the Islamic State (ISIS) who have called for jihad in the Balkans.

More than a third of Bosnia's mostly Catholic Croats have left Bosnia since the war and the country of 3.8 million people is divided in two between a Bosnian Serb republic and a Croat-Muslim federation.

Sarajevo, once a beacon of multiculturalism, is also now largely split along ethnic lines.

Encourage cohabitation

Against that backdrop, Vatican officials believe the pope can have a positive impact by promoting the kind of inter-faith dialogue he holds dear.

The highlights of the day will be an open air mass for 65 000 people in the Olympic stadium and a meeting between the pontiff and representatives of the Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim communities, as well as the small Jewish community.

In a message to the residents of Sarajevo earlier this week, he wrote: "I come amongst you... to express my support for ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, and above all to encourage peaceful cohabitation in your country."

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