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Thursday, December 4, 2003


VATICAN CITY, DEC 4, 2003 (VIS) - Today the Pope received members of the preparatory committees for his pastoral visit on June 22, 2003 to Bosnia Herzegovina, headed by Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka, president of the Episcopal Conference, who have come to Rome for thank him for his visit to their country.

After recalling that in Banja Luka he beatified Ivan Merz, the Pope urged that 'his bright example of holiness inspire lay Catholics to commit themselves to bear witness to the Gospel, the criterion and fundamental guide for Christians in all times.'

Referring to entries from Blessed Merz's diary in 1918, when Europe was at war and he was on the frontlines, the Holy Father recalled his words: ''Never forget God! Always seek to be one with Him!' These words have special meaning to your country which is working to overcome much suffering which is the consequence of an oppressive regime and a long war. You will be able to overcome this difficult situation thanks to the creation of democratic institutions at the political and administrative level. It is always necessary, however, to cultivate an authentic spiritual renewal which will lead to forgiveness, reconciliation and mutual respect for the cultural and religious identity by all.'

He concluded by saying: 'These are the ways that lead to the creation of a prosperous and peaceful society, one that is free and solid; this is the way that makes the long-anticipated return of refugees and exiles to their homeland possible, in an atmosphere of safety and total freedom.'


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