Meeting today with prelates from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the war-torn former Yugoslavia, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the need for them to “be peacemakers” and to be a bridge between the Church and the greater society.
"Following the sad years of the recent war,” the Pope told the prelates, “you as peacemakers are called to reinforce communion and to disseminate mercy, understanding and forgiveness in the name of Christ, both within the Christian communities and throughout the complex social fabric of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
He commended them, saying "I well know that yours is not an easy mission, but I also know that you maintain your gaze constantly fixed upon Christ, Who ... gave His disciples a fundamental task that sums up all the others, that of loving.”
“Love”, he stressed, “must not simply follow earthly laws ... but translate into that higher measure of justice which is mercy."
It is with this spirit, the Holy Father said, that the bishops "will easily be able to carry out the mission entrusted to you, contributing to healing still-open wounds and to resolving contrasts and divisions left over from past years."
Noting some of the many problems facing Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Pope mentioned "the position of exiles, for whom I hope appropriate agreements will be reached in respect of everyone's rights.” Likewise, he addressed "the indispensable equality between citizens of various religions ... the urgent need for measures to meet the growing lack of work for young people, and attenuating ominous tensions between ethnic groups."
Benedict also sought to reaffirm the Holy See's closeness to Bosnia and Herzegovina, a closeness which he said is confirmed by, among other things, "…the recent appointment of a resident nuncio, who will be able to maintain permanent contact with the country's various requirements."
Building the Kingdom of God in the Dioceses
Turning to the need for the bishops to build up their own respective dioceses, the Pope said that "it is important that every effort be made to increase the unity of the flock of Christ ... overcoming, if necessary, misunderstandings and difficulties associated with events of the past.”
“The Church everywhere”, he said, “pursues a single objective, that of building the Kingdom of God in all lands and in the hearts of all people.”
He likewise stressed that “the mission of preserving intact the heritage of the Lord”, is, at least in part, the responsibility of “the successors of the Apostles and to their collaborators in the pastoral ministry.”
Inasmuch, Benedict said that this heritage must adhere “faithfully to the doctrinal and spiritual patrimony of the Church in her entirety."
"Blessed are the peacemakers," the Pope reaffirmed. "As well as to the Church's mission in the outside world, these words are also applicable to internal relations among her members.”
He said that “The various ecclesiastical elements…are regulated by canonical norms that are an expression of a centuries-old experience. ... It is up to the bishop, father of the community entrusted to him by Christ, to discern what is appropriate to the building of the Church of Christ.”
“In this sense,” he told them, “the bishop is pontiff, a 'builder of bridges,' between the various elements of the ecclesial community."
The Pontiff concluded by saying that all of this "constitutes a particularly important aspect of episcopal ministry at this moment in history, as Bosnia and Herzegovina resume the path of collaboration to build a future of social development and peace."