Only 'Assisi Spirit' Can Wipe Out Symbolic Starting Point of this Century's Tragedies

Author: Pope John Paul II


Pope John Paul II

Angelus, July 23, 1995

And now, how can we fail to turn our attention once again to the tormented peoples in Bosnia? How can we not listen to their agonizing cry for help? May each make his own contribution to re-establishing in the Balkans the minimum conditions for peaceful coexistence.

I repeat to those who are directly affected by this dreadful tragedy: do not lose hope! We are close to you with our solidarity and above all with our prayer, which is the great means we have available for obtaining all that seems humanly difficult to bring about.

Above all, I ask those of you who are present here to pray.

(Editor of L’Osservatore Romano)

All who turn to the Lord of peace know that it is established in hearts rather than in the halls of diplomacy.

They know that prayer is a powerful weapon, while not ignoring the fact that Bosnia-Hercegovina has a "right to self-defense", as the Pope recalled on Saturday, in an interview with journalists in the Val d'Aosta. Military intervention must "always be the last resort". And even in this case, the Pope stressed, "defensive warfare is terrible". What a weight this adjective has!

"Defensive warfare is terrible, but if someone attacks or tramples upon the right to life, the right to existence, there is the right to self-defense" the Pope said. "We feel particularly close", he continued, "to all those who are suffering, on whatever side they are".

When the "right to defense" cannot be exercised by the peoples concerned, the international community has a definite obligation—here we can speak of "humanitarian intervention"—to seek to restore these peoples' hope of life. Such an intervention, as the Holy Father's numerous appeals demonstrate, does not mean immediate military action. War will never be a real solution to the problems of peoples! Negotiation is the most respectful way for man.

The concern of every upright conscience for the fate of the unfortunate Bosnian peoples is expressed, for the ecclesial community, in a keener awareness of the importance, in these tragic hours, of living, witnessing and asking the leaders of governments and international organizations for that "Assisi spirit" to which Pope John Paul II called Christians and the faithful of other religions on that "night of light", 9 January 1993. This is certainly a demanding policy, but it is the only noble and truly victorious one, the one that sees all people of goodwill committed to prayer, repentance and sharing. The Holy Father recalled this yesterday at the Angelus, when he repeated to all those directly affected by the tragedy: "Do not lose hope!

We are close to you with our solidarity and above all with our prayer which is the great means we have available for obtaining all that seems humanly difficult to bring about" (L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 26 July 1995, p. 1).

The ecclesial communities which, this summer, the fourth of the war for the sorely-tried Bosnian people, reject the lack of restraint that in opulent societies goes hand in hand with neglect of the suffering, know this. They are spending this holiday period meditating with deeper awareness and more actively mobilizing solidarity. The young Europeans who are preparing in this spirit for the meeting in Loreto next September know it.

We must look with this intimate certainly to Sarajevo. The "Assisi spirit" is the only one that can "wipe out the symbolic starting point of this century's European tragedies", as the Pope recalled once again on Saturday, appealing to Europe and to the world not to abandon this people.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
26 July 1995, p. 1.

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