April 15, 1997

In Bosnia, pope denounces 'inhuman logic of violence'

Roman Catholic leader on pilgrimage to Sarajevo

April 12, 1997

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Before throngs of priests and nuns who raised their arms to touch him, Pope John Paul II Saturday brought Bosnians the symbolic peace candle that had been kept alight at the Vatican as war devastated their country.

But even as the Roman Catholic spiritual leader talked about the light of peace, Bosnian authorities were trying to determine who had hidden a cache of explosives under a bridge along the route of John Paul's motorcade.

The explosives were found and disabled before they could present any danger to the pope.

Seated in front of shell-damaged stained-glass windows at Sarajevo's Sacred Heart Cathedral, John Paul denounced the "crazed logic of death, division and annihilation" that characterized the Bosnian civil war, while praising those who "strove to break down the dividing wall."

At an earlier ceremony at Sarajevo's airport, the pope emphatically stated, "Never again war."

Bosnian trip originally planned in 1994

John Paul is on a 25-hour pilgrimage to the Bosnian capital. He had originally planned the trip during amidst the civil war in 1994, but Serb forces besieging the city refused to guarantee his safety.

The highlight of John Paul's visit is expected to be an outdoor Mass Sunday morning before 40,000 people at Sarajevo's Kosevo Stadium.

Shortly before the pope arrived Saturday, police found mines, plastic explosives and detonators underneath a bridge over which John Paul's motorcade was to pass on its way from the airport into the city center. The Bosnian Interior Ministry said the explosives were apparently planted overnight.

After the discovery, NATO forces brought helicopters to the airport to fly the pope downtown so he would not have to drive into the city in his glass-topped "popemobile." But John Paul refused the offer.

There was no immediate indication of who planted the explosives. But in recent weeks, there have been a series of explosions at churches and mosques in Bosnia -- an apparent attempt to discourage the pope from coming to Sarajevo.

Pope hailed for speaking up during civil war

At the airport ceremony, Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim chairman of Bosnia's collective three-man presidency, thanked John Paul for his outspoken support during the nearly four-year siege of the Bosnian capital.

During his visit to Bosnia, the pope planned separate meetings with members of the presidency, who represent the country's Muslim, Serb and Croat factions.

Those three groups battled each other for hegemony in Bosnia after the country declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1992. Croats are predominately Roman Catholic; most Serbs are Orthodox Christians.

The Serb representative to the Bosnian presidency, Momcilo Krajisnik, declined to attend Saturday's welcoming ceremony for the pope, citing security concerns. But he was scheduled to meet with John Paul during the pope's Bosnian stay.

During the war, the pope was an outspoken supporter of Bosnian statehood, a position that angered leaders of the Serb faction.

Correspondent Christiane Amanpour and Reuters contributed to this report.

Related story:

* Pope's visit brings hope to Sarajevo - April 10, 1997