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Monday, June 23, 2003


VATICAN CITY, JUN 22, 2003 (VIS) - When Pope John Paul landed this morning at Banja Luka International Airport in Bosnia-Herzegovina, he began his 101st international pastoral trip and his second visit to this Balkan country, having travelled to Sarajevo, the capital, on April 12 and 13, 1997.

Formerly part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Bosnia declared its independence on January 9, 1992. Shortly afterwards, war broke out among the three ethnic groups - Croatian, Bosnian-Muslim and Serb - and ended only with the intervention of United Nations and NATO forces.

On November 21, 1995 the Dayton Accords approved the integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, even though it was divided into two entities, each having its own parliament and government: the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (Croatian-Muslim: 50 percent of the territory) and the Serbian Republic or Srpska (49 percent).

The Federation is led by a president and vice-president, alternatively Croatian and Muslim. Legislative power is in the hands of Parliament, which has a Chamber of Deputies (140 members) and a Peoples' Chamber (74 members). From an administrative standpoint the Federation is divided into 10 totally autonomous cantons. The Serbian Republic is also led by a president and vice-president and its National Assembly has 140 members.

Brcko is a special administrative unit that does not belong to either of the above governments but rather is under the jurisdiction of the central government of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Collegial Presidency of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina is composed of three members elected for four-year terms who represent the three ethnic groups: 1 Croat, 1 Muslim, 1 Serb. Each of the three members presides on a rotating basis of 8 months. The central parliament is formed of two chambers: the Chamber of Deputies (42 directly elected deputies: two-thirds Croat-Muslim, one-third Serb) with its central offices in Sarajevo, and the Peoples' Chamber (5 delegates elected for each ethnic group), which meets in Lukavica. The central executive branch is composed of a Council of Ministers, named by the presidency, which is comprised of six members, each of whom occupies the position of prime minister for eight months on a rotating basis.

The capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina is Sarajevo whose population is approximately 360,000 people. Banja Luka is the second largest city with a population of 143,079. The national language is Serbian-Croatian. Bosnians are 43.7 percent of the populace, Serbs 31.4, Croats 17.3 and the remaining 7.6 percent are other ethnic groups. Sunni Muslims comprise 43 percent of the population, Orthodox 30, Catholics 11.3 and others are 15 percent.

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 22, 2003 (VIS) - After meeting with three members of the Collegial Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the airport at Banja Luka, the Pope went by popemobile to the convent of the Most Holy Trinity on Petricevac Hill, where he celebrated the Eucharist and beatified Servant of God Ivan Merz in the presence of 50,000 people.

Among those present at the Mass were three members of the Collegial Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the president of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia, political and civil authorities, Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Vrhbosna, Sarajevo and the bishops of Bosnia.

The Gospel was sung in Ukrainian as a large group of Catholics of the Byzantine rite, born in the Ukraine, live in the region of Banja Luka.

In the homily, the Pope sent a "fraternal greeting" to His Beatitude Patriarch Pavle and to members of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church. He also greeted the faithful of the Jewish and Islamic communities as well as pilgrims from different parts of the world and neighboring nations.

"From this city," said the Pope, "marked in the course of history by so much suffering and bloodshed, I ask Almighty God to have mercy for the sins committed, also by the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church, against humanity, human dignity and freedom, and to foster in all the desire for mutual forgiveness. Only in a climate of true reconciliation will the memory of so many innocent victims and their sacrifice not be in vain, but will encourage everyone to build new relationships of fraternity and understanding."

Speaking about Blessed Ivan Merz, a layman who was born in Banja Luka in 1896 and died in 1928, John Paul II affirmed: "A gifted young man, he made a good return on his rich natural talents and obtained great human success." The reason why he is part of "the choir of the Blesseds," he added, "is his success in God's eyes. The great aspiration of his whole life was 'never to forget God, to desire always to be one with him'."

After emphasizing that Blessed Merz was "one of the principal promotors of the liturgical renewal in his country," the Pope indicated that by participating in the Holy Mass "he drew the inspiration to become an apostle of young people. It was not by chance that he chose as his motto 'Sacrifice, Eucharist, Apostolate'."

"The name Ivan Merz has meant in the past a program of life and of activity for an entire generation of young Catholics. Today too it must do the same! Your country and your Church, dear young people, have experienced difficult times and now there is a need to work together so that life on all levels will fully return to normal." The Holy Father then invited them "not to yield to the temptation to become discouraged, but rather to multiply initiatives which will make Bosnia-Herzegovina once more a land of reconciliation, encounters and peace."

"The future of this land depends also on you!" exclaimed John Paul II. "Do not seek a more comfortable life elsewhere, do not flee from your responsibilities and expect others to resolve problems, but resolutely counter evil with the power of good. Like Blessed Ivan, strive for a personal encounter with Christ which sheds new light on life. May the Gospel be the great ideal guiding your approaches and your decisions!"

The Pope closed by affirming: "May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, keep your heart and your spirit in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! This is the prayer and the wish which, through the intercession of Blessed Ivan Merz, the Pope today offers for you and for all the peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina."

At the end of the Mass, before praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the faithful present in German, Hungarian, Italian, Serbian and Croatian and asked Our Lady to obtain from her Son "the grace of preserving the integrity of your faith, the firmness of your hope, and at all times the fervor of your charity."

After the beatification, the Pope went to the bishop's residence in Banja Luka where he ate lunch with the bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina and cardinals and bishops from his entourage.



VATICAN CITY, JUN 22, 2003 (VIS) - After a trip of almost 90 minutes, Pope John Paul's plane landed this morning at 9:40 a.m. at Banja Luka International Airport, where he was welcomed by civil and religious officials at the start of his one-day trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina. He greeted the authorities present, the Catholic lay faithful and "our brothers and sisters of the Serbian Orthodox Church, of the other ecclesial communities, and the followers of Islam and Judaism."

"Knowing that I am entering your homes through radio and television," said the Holy Father, "I greet and embrace all of you, dear people living in the different parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina. I know the long ordeal you have endured, the burden of suffering which is daily a part of your lives, the temptations to discouragement and resignation which you experience. I stand beside you in asking the international community, which has already done so much, to continue to be close to you and to help you reach quickly a situation of full security in justice and harmony."

"You yourselves must be the primary builders of your future!" the Pope told them, adding that he knew that "starting afresh is not easy ... but it is nevertheless possible."

John Paul II remarked that "if society is to take on a truly human face and everyone is to look to the future with confidence, it is necessary to rebuild man from within, healing wounds and achieving a genuine purification of memory through mutual forgiveness. The root of every good and, sadly, of every evil is in the depths of the heart. It is there that change must occur, making it possible to renew the fabric of society and to establish human relationships, which favor cooperation between the vital forces of the country."

Of elected officials who "democratically govern the nation," he said: "May they not renounce this indispensable task because of present difficulties, nor should they let themselves be pressured by partisan interests." He added that the Catholic Church would do its part "through her various initiatives in the areas of education, aid and human development, in the free exercise of her specific mission."

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 21, 2003 - The Holy Father received in separate audiences today:

- Six prelates from the Catholics Bishops' Conference of India on their "ad limina" visit:

- Archbishop Telesphore Placidus Toppo of Ranchi.

- Bishop Benedict John Osta, S.J., of Patna.

- Bishop John Baptist Thakur, S.J., of Muzaffarpur.

- Bishop Thomas Kozhimala of Bhagalpur.

- Bishop Victor Henry Thakur of Bettiah.

- Bishop Vincent Barwa of Purnea.

- Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

On Friday afternoon, June 20, the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 21, 2003 (VIS) - Cardinal Edward I. Cassidy, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, will take possession of his titular church of Santa Maria in Via Lata, Via del Corso 36, Rome on Wednesday June 25 at 7:30 p.m.

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 22, 2003 (VIS) - At 5:30 this afternoon, in the bishop's residence of Banja Luka, the Holy Father met privately with both President Dragan Cavic of the Serb Republic and President Niko Lozancic of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Following these talks the Pope met with the Inter-religious Council of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a council composed of the Orthodox metropolitan of Sarajevo, the Catholic archbishop of Sarajevo, the leader of the Muslim community in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the president of the Hebrew community of Bosnia-Herzegovina. On a rotating basis, one of the four members assumes the council presidency for a year. The Jewish leader is president for 2003.

At 6:30 p.m. Pope John Paul paid a private visit to Banja Luka's cathedral, located within the gardens of the bishop's residence. Named for St. Bonaventure, patron of Banja Luka, the old cathedral was totally destroyed by an earthquake in 1969 and the new church was built four years later. The Pope was greeted by about 60 people, including the College of Consultors, the Presbyteral Council, representatives of religious communities, seminarians and a number of young people.

Following this visit, the Holy Father went to the airport where he took leave of the people and the civil and religious leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina. His return flight landed in Rome's Ciampino Airport shortly after 9 p.m.



VATICAN CITY, JUN 21, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Appointed Bishop John Ha Tiong Hock, auxiliary of the archdiocese of Kuching, Malaysia as metropolitan archbishop of the same archdiocese (area 19,173, population 1,000,000, Catholics 133,129, priests 18, religious 69). He accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese presented by Bishop Peter Chaung Hoan Ting upon having reached the age limit.

- Appointed Fr. Eduardo Horacio Garcia, spiritual director of the Major Seminary of the archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina as auxiliary of the same archdiocese (area 203, population 2,729,610, Catholics 2,500,000, priests 837, permanent deacons 6, religious 2,363). The bishop-elect was born in Buenos Aires in 1956 and was ordained a priest in 1983.

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