Cardinal, Archbishop of Vrhbosna-Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
At the beginning of this Holy Mass as master of the house I would like to express my joy and welcome all participants at this liturgy.
Firstly I would like to greet all the concelebrants at the Eucharist:
The great and unforgettable friend cardinal Roger Etchegaray, vice dean of the College of Cardinals, who visited us in the middle of Augustus 1992 as a special Papal delegate. But his behaviour has never been that of a delegate, but as someone who is close to us with his heart.
I also greet the other cardinals and welcome them. I especially greet Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Your presence particularly encourages this prayer and common commitment for peace.
I sincerely and wholeheartedly welcome our friend and dear guest Cardinal Paul Poupard, emeritus President of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Your visit to Sarajevo is unforgettable.
I greet Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, who as a Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has shown his closeness in different ways and especially by visiting us in Sarajevo.
I greet all archbishops, the bishops and priests who are present in this Eucharist. I particularly greet and thank the Community of Sant’Egidio, the organizer of this meeting.
With joy and particular respect I greet His Holiness the Serbian Patriarch Irinej and the representatives of the Orthodox Churches from all countries: welcome in Sarajevo so we can pray together for peace. Your presence is a great sign of your high esteem for the construction of peace and the path of dialogue.
I also greet the other Christians who arrived in Sarajevo: let us pray and act together in this “Symbolic City” so we may construct a message of peace that can be a sign for many.
I greet all the heads of state and politicians who support the religions and cultures on the path of dialogue through their presence.
A warm greeting to all the masters of the house and all the guests gathered for this Eucharistic celebration.
I greet all the participants from all the media, both press and on-line, they will make this event known to a broader audience.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear brother bishops,
brother concelebrants, dear brothers and sisters!
This evening we are united, as we celebrate together this Eucharist on the Vigil of Sunday, and we pray, particularly, for peace in this city, in this country, throughout the world. This is the principal reason for our meeting and our communion in prayer. I thank you for your presence, which bears a message of peace. In particular, I thank the Community of Sant'Egidio for having chosen this city as the setting for the International Meeting of Prayer for Peace. Thank you for your tenacious commitment to living together among peoples, profoundly rooted in faith, nourished by love for the Word of God and for the poor.
Your prayerful presence has the same value as the exhortation of the Prophet Isaiah: "Be strong, do not fear!". In this desert, made by war, our communion must flourish again in spite of our differences. Supported by our faith in God, we need to learn and accept, respect and appreciate every human being as a person and a bearer of fundamental rights.
While we commit ourselves to defending everyone's rights, we wish that the Word of God, as it is offered to us in the Letter of Saint James, may encourage us, as well as all those who are in despair, with the awareness that God shows no favouritism. Our commitment to truth and justice, in defence of everyone rights, is founded on the certainty that the Word of God is always true and just, and that to God every man, every woman, is important. If faith in God guides us, then we shall be capable of preserving the human beings who are beside us.
Saint Mark wrote a parable for us about the healing of a man deaf and mute. Let us too stand in front of the same Lord, wishing he may open up in us the eyes of faith, and give us a just word of peace and living together, granting us the capability to do good.
This Country and the people who live here are wounded by war, which has sown distrust and therefore makes life insecure. Great disaster has befallen the people of this Country. Today we pray the Lord to heal all wounds, to make trust return, trust in God and trust in man. So this may restore man's possibility to collaborate with God.
As a person who has lived and survived through this brutal war, I greet you with my most sincere feelings of welcome. I do not want to linger on the dark hours, but together with you, I wish to pray for a better future, which is not only important for this Country of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the peoples who live here, but for Europe and the world as a whole.
Prayer was our strength in bearing the horrors of war, but now, more and more, we see clouds of despair on our horizon. That is why it is important that a powerful message of peace may rise from this city, message of positive energy, that says: diversity is not a disadvantage, it is a resource. From diversity, indeed, stems the need to build a world where in living together and tolerance it is possible to hope for a better future.
Here I wish to quote the words of the Blessed Pope John Paul II, which he was supposed to say in Sarajevo in September 1994. Since he could not come in person, he sent them to us: "The Declaration of Human Rights is one of the first pillars to begin building peace. War is against man. If one wants to avoid war, it is necessary to assure the respect of the fundamental human rights, among which the first place is occupied by the right to life, which every human being has from conception to natural death.
There are also other rights, such as religious freedom, for instance, and freedom of conscience, which direct the principles of human coexistence to spiritual heights. The Second Vatican Council dedicated a special declaration to these rights in particular, the declaration of the Dignity of the person - Dignitatis humanae.
Living together, for individuals and people, must be founded first of all on the "rights of the peoples". Just as every human being, every people has the right to exist, the right to develop its cultural heritage. It is the source of inspiration for families, which by educating their children, convey to the future generations the cultural goods of their homeland.
Thus peace is born from respect of the rights of the person and rights of the peoples; thus peace is edified and defended.
We are aware that peace is a great task. We are aware that we are not masters to ourselves, but, by Divine right, we belong to one great family; starting with the family of our local Church of the Archdiocese of Vrhbosna, of the Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as in the universal Catholic Church, and in political terms, the family of European integration. That is why we need the world's solidarity in building peace and widening our horizons. Firstly we entrust ourselves to the One who is our peace - the Lord Christ, the Risen One who gives us his peace, not as the world gives it, where the law of the strongest seems to win, but peace whereby every human being is created by God, loved and redeemed by Christ, therefore building the community of the believers in the path of love and peace.
Therefore I am grateful for your presence, for taking part in this common prayer for peace, for equality, for the dignity of every human being. I thank you because in these days you are united with us Catholics and all the citizens of this Country. Thank you for every gesture of solidarity in building peace.
May God welcome our prayers, bless our communion and grant his peace to all hearts, to every family, to the peoples and countries of the world.