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International peace conference marks 20th anniversary of Sarajevo siege

Catholic World News - September 10, 2012

"It is a source of joy and comfort to see that this pilgrimage for peace, which was begun at Assisi in October 1986 by Blessed John Paul II, continues to bear fruit,” Pope Benedict XVI said in a message to the 26th International Meeting for Peace.

Pope Benedict said that his predecessor had promoted the Assisi initiative because of his firm belief that “profound and sincere dialogue can lead, for the former, to commitment to an ever-necessary purification of the religion they profess and, for the latter, to openness to the great questions facing humankind and the Mystery which surrounds the life of man.”

The Community of Sant’Egidio, known for its peace initiatives, cosponsored the peace conference in Sarajevo to mark the 20th anniversary of the Bosnian Serb siege of the city. Cardinal Vinko Puljic offered a Mass of reconciliation in Sarajevo’s cathedral, with the Serbian Orthodox patriarch in attendance.

“It was the longest siege of the 20th century, from April 1992 to February 1996,” Cardinal Puljic said in a letter announcing the meeting. “Four years of violence, suffering, of daily bombings…a particular noise to which my ears became accustomed, so much so that today I am forced to wear an ear device in order to restore my hearing lost in those days.”

“As bishop of the city, I wanted to stay,” he added. “I was the pastor of all the inhabitants of Sarajevo. I did not flee. I stayed with my people for all four years of the siege, sharing day after day the suffering and the fragile hope for the future … I wanted to be the bishop of everyone, Catholics, Orthodox, Jews and Muslims, even of nonbelievers. I realized deep down that during the violence of war it is all the more urgent and perhaps clearer, that perhaps all the time, yes, all the time, a bishop is called upon to be everyone’s bishop.”

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