The Holy Father made this appeal Thursday when he received Darko Tanaskovic, Belgrade´s new ambassador to the Vatican. Tanaskovic is an eminent philologist and, since 2001, a member of the Yugoslavian Commission for Truth and Reconciliation. He was born in Zagreb in 1948.
In his address, the Pope referred to the "material and moral damages" experienced by the people during the Balkans War of the 1990s, and insisted on the "need for reconciliation within Yugoslavia itself."
John Paul II stressed that "all should be able to work together, respecting their own differences, to reconstruct society and the common good."
"Your own country has known better than most through its history that violence begets more violence, and that dialogue alone can break that death-dealing spiral," the Pope stressed.
Hence, "there is a need to put aside ethnic and nationalistic introversion, and to further build a nation whose democratic institutions, while sustaining unity, ensure that all its peoples, especially the minorities, are active and equal participants in the political and economic life of their communities," the Holy Father continued.
In "the past, cultural differences have often been a source of misunderstanding between peoples and the cause of conflicts and wars," but "dialogue between cultures is a privileged means for building the civilization of love," John Paul II explained.
"This dialogue is based upon the recognition that there are values which are common to all cultures because they are rooted in the nature of the person," the Pope said.
"The Catholic Church, faithful to the spiritual and ethical principles of her universal mission, seeks to promote not some narrow ideological or national interest but the full development of all peoples, with particular attention to and solidarity with those most in need," the Holy Father stressed.
"It is important for all to recognize that in a situation such as the one you face, religion is not the root of the problem, but an essential part of its solution," the Pope added.
"That is why I am pleased that religious education has been reintroduced in Serbian schools, for it provides a special opportunity to teach the young those universal values which are rooted in the nature of the person and ultimately in God," the Holy Father concluded.