John Paul II Calls for Respect of Minorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Receives New Ambassador to the Holy See

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II says the challenge facing Bosnia and Herzegovina after the war-torn 1990s is to build a multiethnic and multireligious society that respects the rights of each citizen.



The Pope affirmed this today when receiving the credentials of the Balkan country's new ambassador to the Holy See, Miroslav Palameta, until now a professor at the University of Mostar.

"Surely, existing differences cannot be ignored," said the Holy Father. "It is necessary, on the contrary, to respect and take due account of them, so that they will not be transformed into pretexts for disputes or, worse still, of conflicts, but that they be considered as a mutual enrichment."

The Pope requested the country's authorities to be committed to the resolution of "the problems that affect the local populations with suitable solutions for all, placing at the center attention to the human being, his dignity and his legitimate needs."

"This is the challenge of a multiethnic, multireligious and multicultural society, as is, precisely, that of Bosnia and Herzegovina," the Pontiff said.

"The situations of injustice and marginalization must be addressed and resolved, guaranteeing all peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina their respective rights and duties, ensuring equality of opportunities in all realms of social life, through democratic structures capable of addressing the temptation of prevarication," he added.

"In this connection, it is opportune to create conditions for sincere forgiveness and genuine reconciliation, freeing the memory of rancor and hatred arising from the injustices suffered by artificially constructed prejudices," the Holy Father said.

In his address, the Pope called for a solution to the problem of refugees in the country, who have still not been able to return to their homes after the conflict with the regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

John Paul II supported the claims of Bosnia and Herzegovina to become part of the European Union one day.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was bloodied by a close to four-year war (from 1992 to 1995) of independence from former Yugoslavia, which left 200,000 dead and some 800,000 refugees and displaced people.

The present system of government, established by the Dayton Agreements, provides for a president who shares power with two co-presidents, elected by their respective communities -- Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian -- alternating in the leadership of this collegial body of government every eight months.