Pope exhorts Bosnia for mutual forgiveness

( [email protected] ) Jun 26, 2003 01:23 PM EDT

Pope John Paul II urged Bosnia's religious communities to show more tolerence and forgive each other the cruelties of the 1992-95 war, AFP reported on 22.

As the pontiff arrived in Banja Luka for a one-day trip, he commented that it is necessary to heal wounds and by forgiveness, the nation should achieve a genuine purification of memory.

His visit to Banja Luka was opposed by the town's Serbian Orthodox majority which brought tight security measures around the place in case of violence.

Banja Luka is the administrative capital of the Serb-run half of the Bosnia, Republika Srpska. The majority of the population are Orthodox Serbs. Muslims and Catholics were expelled by the Serbs.

The pontiff also said he hoped Bosnia would join the European Union in prosperity, freedom and peace. Also he urged the international community to continue support the nation to achieve justice and harmony as soon as possible.

When the pontiff arrived at the airport, the three members of Serb, Muslim, Croat presidency greeted him saying his message would "contribute to the nation's unity and reconciliation.

The bishop of Banja Luka, Franjo Komarica criticised the Bosnian Serbs expelled 220,000 Croats from Serb-run territory but only 10,000 returned because the Serb authorities are not encouraging the return of Croat and Muslim refugees.

Zoran, an electrician told AFP that the pope's visit would encourage the return of Croats and Muslims.

But Ranko, a Bosnian Serb said only when the pontiff apologises for the cruelty of the Catholic Croats, he would be accepted in Banja Luka.

The Ustashi government in Croatia, a Catholic regime allied to the German Nazis during World War II, exterminated Serbs, Jews and Gypsies in concentration camps.