Associated Press

April 13, 1997

Pope Leaves Bosnia After Mass

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) -- In bone-chilling cold and with tight security protecting him from the hatreds that still poison Bosnia, Pope John Paul II preached forgiveness Sunday to Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox alike.

Tanks, sharpshooters and thousands of police were deployed to protect the pontiff, whose long-delayed visit to a city with a special spot in his heart was marred by the discovery Saturday of explosives along his route.

Organizers installed a heater and used a large, white umbrella to shield him from an icy wind driving snow flurries into his face during Mass at a soccer stadium near the former front line. The 76-year-old pope was chilled and visibly shivering at the end of the 2 1/2-hour service. An aide helped him from the altar.

John Paul left Sarajevo in the evening aboard his special Alitalia jet after a farewell ceremony ending his 25-hour visit.

The pope's message of peace drew wide praise from the people who suffered most in war, as well as the politicians who fomented it. However, Bosnia's dilemma remained: whether to find peace in unity or separation.

For the pope, there was no question that peace and unity go hand-in-hand.

If Bosnians can establish peace, he told the Muslim, Serb and Croat members of a joint presidency, their land ``can become at the end of this century an example of coexistence in diversity for many nations experiencing the same difficulty, in Europe and elsewhere in the world.''

John Paul said Sarajevo is a symbol of the horrors of the 20th century including the start of World War I, the bitter fighting of World War II and the conflict marking the end of the century.

He called for respect for human rights, efforts to ensure all Bosnians have work and the return of legions of refugees to their homes.

About 70 percent of the workforce is unemployed in Muslim-Croat territory, and probably more on the Serb side. The future of the refugees is one of the biggest political issues facing Bosnia.

Muslims and Croats are often at odds, but their men on the presidency promised to work for unity.

Bosnia's chief Muslim cleric, Mustafa Ceric, met the pope Sunday afternoon and said afterward he would use the opportunity of the pope's visit to seek ``substantial dialogue'' between Muslims and Catholics.

Serbs and many Croats are intent on breaking away from Bosnia rather than continuing in a diverse multiethnic land.

Still, spokesmen for the NATO-led peace force in Bosnia said that 425 buses arrived in Sarajevo without incident.

Maj. Tony White, a NATO spokesman, said a peacekeeper patrol discovered several anti-tank mines off a road northwest of Sarajevo on Sunday morning and alerted local police, who removed them. He did not know whether the mines were old or new.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims arrived at the soccer stadium hours before the Mass.

Tanks of Egyptian peacekeepers followed their buses through city streets. Italian soldiers patrolled the pope's route overnight. Italian paratroopers and sharpshooters, part of the international peace force for Bosnia, provided security at the stadium.

John Paul recalled his desire to visit Sarajevo while it was under siege, and his support for its suffering citizens.

He chided Europe for its attitude toward Bosnia during the war.

The crowd at the Mass was largely Croat, but Muslims said they could benefit from the pope's visit because it emphasized unity.

Ivan Kordic, a Croat, said his two sons had joined him at the Mass. ``We all came for the Holy Father because his arrival means reconciliation and a common life for us.''

Lidija Tahirovic, a Sarajevo housewife, said the pope's visit ``means everything -- peace, satisfaction, and for me, it is probably the only chance for me to ever see him ever.''