Forgive but don’t forget, Pope tells war survivors

The Christians of Bosnia-Herzegovina have a duty to forgive the cruelty of the Yugoslav Civil War, but not to forget it, according to Pope Francis.

Speaking to a gathering of priests, religious, and seminarians at Sarajevo’s cathedral as part of a one-day visit to the Bosnian capital, the Pontiff laid aside his prepared text after listening to the stories of two priests and a nun who had lived through the horrors of Yugoslavia’s collapse.

“Dear sisters, dear brothers, you do not have the right to forget your own history,” he said, adding, “Not for the purpose of revenge, but rather to make peace.”

The three testimonies should be considered, according to the Holy Father, not “as something odd”, but as prisms through which ways of loving can be seen, “keeping memory alive so as to make piece”.

At the heart of the three stories, observed the Pope, was forgiveness. While some things can easily be forgiven, he said, “to forgive the one who slaps you in the face, who tortures you, who abuses you, who threatens to shoot you… this is difficult. And these three have done it, and they teach others to do it.”

Describing worldly priests, sisters, bishops, and seminarians as “a caricature” and “of no use to the Church”, Pope Francis pointed to the absurdity of complaining about trivial matters like toothaches, poor food, or lack of televisions, when others have lived lives in which every minute of every hour was, quite literally “torture”.

“Think of how much these persons have suffered,” he said, continuing, “think of the six litres of blood that this priest had to receive – he, the first one who spoke – in order to survive. Conform your lives worthily to the Cross of Christ.”

At a Mass for 60,000 people in the city’s Kosevo stadium, the Pope said the many wars across today’s world represent a scattered ‘Third World War’, and recalling the horrors of war, said: “Today, dear brothers and sisters, the cry of God’s people goes up once again from this city, the cry of all men and women of good will: War never again!”