Tens of thousands of Catholics have attended a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at a stadium in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Pope Francis’ visit to Sarajevo is aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation across Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The pontiff is also meeting members of the Muslim, Orthodox Christian and Jewish communities during his one-day trip.
Bosnia remains divided along religious and ethnic lines, 20 years after its civil war which depleted the Catholic population.
“War never again!” Pope Francis urged in his homily before 65,000 worshippers at Sarajevo’s Kosevo stadium.
He added: “War means children, women and the elderly in refugee camps; it means forced displacement, destroyed houses, streets and factories. Above all countless shattered lives.”
“You know this well having experienced it here,” Pope Francis added in reference to the 1992-19995 Bosnian conflict, which left some 100,000 dead and two million displaced.
Pope Francis also warned that the world faced “a kind of third world war being fought piecemeal and, in the context of global communications, we sense an atmosphere of war”.
The war between Christian Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Bosniaks in the early ‘90s resulted in deep ethnic divisions. There was also a Bosniak-Croat conflict within the wider war.
Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Catholics, from the Bosnian Croatian community, are estimated to number 10-15% of the population.
Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said a central aspect of the visit would be boosting the morale of Catholics, many of whom left the country after the conflict.
“In December the 20th anniversary of the war will be remembered but the traces and the wounds of war are still there,” Pietro Parolin told AFP news agency.
Pope Francis was welcomed in Sarajevo by children wearing traditional costume representing Bosnia-Herzegovina’s three main faiths.
The pontiff also spoke to the three-member presidency and called on Bosnia-Herzegovina to reject division and continue working for peace to create “a melody of sublime nobility and beauty, instead of the fanatical cries of hatred”.
Speaking to reporters on his flight to Sarajevo, Pope Francis described Bosnia-Herzegovina’s capital as the “Jerusalem of the West”.
Pope Francis is visiting Bosnia-Herzgovina, where about 100,000 people are expected to greet him.
The Pope’s visit to the capital Sarajevo is aimed at prompting peace and reconciliation across Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The pontiff, who arrived today in the country, will hold a Mass at a Sarajevo stadium and also meet members of the Muslim, Orthodox Christian and Jewish communities.
Bosnia remains divided along religious and ethnic lines, 20 years after its civil war.
Cardinal Vinko Puljic urged people of all faiths to “keep their ears and hearts open for the pope’s message”.
“We have put a lot of love into the preparations for the visit,” he said.
“The city is radiating joy.”
The war between Christian Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Bosniaks in the early 90s resulted in deep ethnic divisions.
Pope Francis will attempt to bolster reconciliation, by encouraging communities to come together.
In a message to the residents of Sarajevo earlier this week, Pope Francis wrote: “I come amongst you… to express my support for ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, and above all to encourage peaceful cohabitation in your country.”
At least 5,000 police will be on duty and authorities have published a helpline number if members of the public spot any suspicious activity during the visit.
On June 5, local media reported jihadists claiming to be from Islamic State had issued a video, calling for action in the Balkans. However, it is not thought to be linked to the papal visit.
Eighteen years ago, Pope John Paul II travelled to Sarajevo during a severe snowstorm in 1997. A monument was erected in the late pontiff’s honor in 2014.