Monument to pope highlights multi-ethnicity of BiH

06/05/2014

A monument to Pope John Paul II in Sarajevo sends the message that the city is one of peace, tolerance and multi-ethnicity.

By Ana Lovaković for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 06/05/14

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BiH Cardinal Vinko Puljic (centre) prepares to bless the new statue of Pope John Paul II, who was canonised last month. [Ana Lovakovic/SETimes]

A monument to Pope John Paul II that was recently unveiled in Sarajevo illustrates the multi-ethnic nature of the city, as citizens recall his urging for reconciliation and tolerance.

The statue was formally unveiled on April 30th, three days after Pope John Paul II was canonised. Sarajevo joins many cities in the world in expressing gratitude and appreciation for this humanitarian worker, one of the world's most influential people of the 20th century.

The pope started the delivery of humanitarian assistance during the 1992-1995 conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) by drawing the attention of the international community to crimes that were occurring in the small Balkan country. He repeatedly called for an end to the conflict, advocating peace and tolerance.

After the conflict ended, John Paul visited BiH twice, once in 1997 and once in 2003, bringing messages of hope through his avocation to promote the post-war recovery, tolerance and peaceful co-existence.

"The pope will remain an unforgettable character for all the people of Sarajevo and citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, not just for Catholics. His appearance, his words, and the echo that they had in the world, were a ray of light in the darkness of war and post-war," Fuad Osmanagić, a Sarajevo resident, told SETimes.

Franjo Topic, the president of the Croatian Cultural Society Napredak, said the monument is dedicated not only to Catholics, but to all citizens of BiH.

Bakir Izetbegovic, chairman of the BiH presidency, agreed.

"We have to recall his messages all the time. When returning to Rome in 1997, the pope said, 'Never again a war.' His words were like balm," Izetbegovic said.

The monument was unveiled by the delegation from the Archdiocesan Pastoral Care Centre for Youth, led by BiH Cardinal Vinko Puljic and Topic.

Nearly 3 metres high, the statue made of siluminium is the work of sculptor Hrvoje Urumovic, who was born in Sarajevo and now lives and works in Zagreb. It is in front of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in the centre of the town, showing the pope in meditative prayer.

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"I am very proud that I got this opportunity, which is also a great artistic challenge. I hope that this monument resonates in the hearts of all the people of Sarajevo and visitors as a beautiful memory of this great man and his work," Urumovic told SETimes.

Citizens said the monument in Sarajevo once again sent the message that the city remains multi-ethnic, and strives for tolerance and unity.

"This is above all a symbol of peace and unity. This town is multi-ethnic and should remain that way," Branka Dabić, a visitor from Županja, Croatia, told SETimes.

What do you remember about Pope John Paul's visits to BiH? Share your experience below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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