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Background to Balkans visit by Pope this weekend

Associated Press carries a report exploring some of the background as to why the Pope is going back to the former Yugoslavia two week's after his previous visit.

The news agency reports: Pope John Paul II flies into the thick of ethnic and religious divisions with his visit this Sunday to Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is his second trip to the former Yugoslavia in two weeks. The pope recently returned from a five-day visit to Croatia, a Roman Catholic bastion in the Balkans. This time it will be a day trip to Banja Luka, a predominantly Serbian Orthodox city where Catholics are a small minority.

Throughout his nearly 25-year papacy, John Paul has been in the forefront of efforts to combat violence and favor peaceful coexistence, including in areas where Catholics have been accused of helping to fan nationalist sentiments.

The Vatican has long grappled with the problem of finding a balance between the need to speak up for Catholics while discouraging violence, in lands as diverse as Northern Ireland and East Timor, a former Portuguese colony that was annexed by mainly Muslim Indonesia.


20 Jun 2003