Visit of Archbishop Gallagher to Bosnia and Herzegovina: “Let the religious leaders be the guardians of peace”


The Vatican Secretary for Relations with States visited Bosnia and Herzegovina from March 17-20, traveling from Sarajevo to Medjugorje, meeting with political leaders, local Church representatives and religious leaders.

By Vatican News

During his visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, expressed his solidarity with the nation’s youth, remembering in particular young Ukrainians, “our oppressed brothers and sisters by bombs and fear” and those “in so many other parts of the world who are working to realize dreams of peace.”

Bishop Gallagher’s visit from March 17-20 began in Sarajevo, where he was accompanied by Msgr. Janusz Błachowiak, nunciature adviser to the Secretariat of State.

Meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs

After his arrival and his welcome by a delegation which received him at the airport, Archbishop Gallagher met the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bisera Turković, who had invited him to visit the country last February. The talks were cordial and took place within the framework of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Holy See.

Appreciation was expressed in particular for the positive bilateral relations and for the contribution of the local Church to society. Discussions followed on the implementation of the agreements signed between the Holy See and Bosnia and Herzegovina and on the life of the Catholic community.

Archbishop Gallagher and Mr. Turković then focused on the internal situation of the country, reiterating the need to support the legal and social equality of all citizens belonging to each constituent people, as well as the importance of dialogue to find a way out. the current situation. institutional crisis by drawing lessons from the recent past.

Discussions also took place on a number of regional issues, including the situation in the Western Balkan countries, the enlargement of the European Union, the war in Ukraine, as well as the situation of migrants and refugees. Finally, the Holy See’s support for Bosnia and Herzegovina on the path to full unity within the family of European peoples was reaffirmed.

Mass for Peace in Sarajevo

Also on the first day, Bishop Gallagher met at the nunciature with the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, and Angelina Eichhorst, Director for Europe and Central Asia at the European External Action Service, accompanied by the Ambassador of the European Union in Sarajevo, Johann Sattler.

Afterwards, the Archbishop celebrated a Mass “for peace” at the Cathedral of Sarajevo, recalling in his homily how Bosnia and Herzegovina, a land where different cultures and traditions meet and have sometimes clashed, particularly needs the gift peace and peace builders.

The first day of his visit concluded with a dinner hosted by Minister Turković, in the presence of officials from his ministry and representatives of the local Church.

Tribute to young “bridge builders”

The second day of his visit, Friday 18 March, consisted of a series of bilateral meetings with members of the Collegiate Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Zoran Tegeltija, President of the Council of Ministers, and with representatives of the Assembly parliamentary.

Arrived in Banja Luka at the episcopal residence, Bishop Gallagher met the President of the Republic of Serbia, Željka Cvijanović, accompanied by her collaborators.

Then he celebrated a mass “for reconciliation” at the cathedral, addressing his thoughts to young people of all countries, especially Ukrainians. In his homily, he said, “Young people, who are the future of this country, of this Church, of the whole world, are builders of bridges of reconciliation. Accompanied by their civil and ecclesiastical authorities, they are invited not to be discouraged. and to multiply initiatives to foster a climate of reconciliation, encounter and peace.”

Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue

On Saturday, March 19, the Secretary for States Relations held a meeting at the nunciature with representatives of Christian churches and other religious denominations.

Quoting Pope Francis, Archbishop Gallagher recalled that religious leaders are the primary peacekeepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He expressed the hope that the dialogue between the religious communities of the country will help to rebuild and maintain the existing bridges, the only structures capable of keeping us alive, guaranteeing a future and not discouraging us from the difficulties that can sometimes occur.

In response, participants expressed interest in traveling to Rome to visit the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Afterwards, Bishop Gallagher visited the temporary reception center in Ušivak, meeting some of the refugees. On his way to Mostar in the afternoon, he met Mayor Mario Kordić at the episcopal residence and then the bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who presented the pastoral care of the local Church, the ecumenical and interreligious commitments, as well as the challenges they faced with the emigration of Catholics.

The bishops also expressed their strong support for the European integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Visit to Medjugorje

In the evening, mass was celebrated at the cathedral to mark the solemnity of Saint Joseph, patron of the diocese of Mostar-Duvno.

The cathedral was filled with worshippers, including local bishops and some bishops from neighboring Croatia and Montenegro, as well as many men and women religious.

During the celebration, Bishop Gallagher said, “Tonight we wish to ask Saint Joseph to give us the ability to dream, unwavering ‘in hope against all hope.’ When we dream big things, we come closer to God’s dream, that is, to the things that God dreams of us, so that divisions in society and also within the Church can end. ”

Finally, on Sunday March 20, Bishop Gallagher arrived in Medjugorje for a courtesy meeting with Bishop Aldo Cavalli, Apostolic Visitor for the parish of Medjugorje, accompanied by Fr. Miljenko Šteko, Provincial of the Friars Minor of Herzegovina, and the Community of Franciscan monks of the parish.

He visited the parish church, as well as some pastoral buildings. He then left for Split and, while waiting for his return flight to Rome, met Archbishop Marin Barišić of Split-Makarska, as well as Nuncio Archbishop Giorgio Lingua. He returned to the Vatican in the evening.

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