A statue of the late Pope John Paul II is to be erected in Sarajevo on April 30 as a way of paying tribute to a man that many Sarajevans remember as a peacemaker.
A statue of the late Pontiff John Paul II, who was Pope from 1978 to 2005, is to be erected soon in Sarajevo beside the Catholic Sacred Heart Cathedral in the city centre.
The statue of the former Pope is to be unveiled on April 30, after a ceremonial council of the priests of the Archdiocese of Vrhbosna, as the Sarajevo diocese is known.
Bosnia’s Cardinal Archbishop, Vinko Puljic, recently said it would be another symbol of Sarajevo and represented a tribute to the memory of a widely respected man.
‘The man who fought for Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the peace and good of all people who live in it, must not be forgotten,’ Puljic said.
The statue will be around three meters high and is the work of sculptor Hrvoje Urumovic and will be made in Zagreb. It is said to have cost around 250,000 euro.
Pope John Paul II came to Bosnia in April 1997, briging new hope to a country that was fresh out of the 1992-5 war. He had wanted to come during the war in 1994, but no one could then guarantee his safety.
Around 50,000 people filled Sarajevo’s Kosevo Stadium to hear the Pope call for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.
He urged peace in Bosnia many times in speeches during the war in Bosnia, for which he is remembered as a peacemaker and is respected among many Bosnians regardless of their religion.
Franjo Topic, Theology Professor and President of the Croatian Cultural Society Napredak, said he hoped John Paul II would soon be pronounced a saint.
‘Only few popes in history carried the attribute ‘great’ as did Pope John Paul II,’ Topic said. ‘The plaza in front of the Cathedral was picked for the statue because that was the place from where, during his 1997 visit, the Pope saluted and blessed the citizens,’ he remarked.
John Paul II visited Bosnia again in 2003 but this time went to Banja Luka.
The Bosnian Bishops Conference sent the new Pope, Francis, an invitation last year to visit the country, as did the three-member state Presidency.
Bosnian media speculated that the Argentinian Pontiff would stage a one-day visit in June to Sarajevo, from where he would send a message of peace marking the centenary of the outbreak of the World War I, which was triggered by the assassination in Sarajevo of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary.
However, Archbishop Puljic has confirmed this will not now be happening, though the Pope might come to Bosnia in 2015, adding that the planned visit was moved because of the recent wave of street protests.
Catholics are by far the smallest of Bosnia’s three main faith groups – Muslims, Orthodox Christians and Catholics.
Almost all Catholics are ethnic Croats. However, Bosnia is home to one of Europe’s biggest Catholic shrines, at Medjugorje, in the southwest, near Mostar.