Rome makes bid for peace
by Timothy Elphiek
THE Vatican this week unleashed a diplomatic offensive aimed at dousing the flames of civil war in the former Yugoslavian republic of Bosnia-Herzogovina.
Speaking at a general audience in the Vatican. Pope John Paul II announced that papal aides were already engaged in high-level discussions with international agencies to bring about an immediate and lasting cease-fire in the ethnically-mixed republic.
No one could remain indifferent in the face of the suffering of communities living in Bosnia-Herzogovina, the Pope said.
"We want to express to those who are suffering the horrors of a cruel war our fraternal compassion." he said.
As many as 300,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and 1,300 have died since Yugoslavia's bloody civil war spread to Bosnia earlier this
spring. The republic's independence from Belgrade was recognised by the European Community last month.
Pope John Paul's remarks came as fighting intensified in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. and Yugoslav army paratroopers and tanks launched a new offensive against the ancient city of Mostar.
Mostar is the nearest sizeable town to the mountain Marian shrine of Medjugorje, which itself has been in the firing line of sporadic fighting in recent weeks.
As the Holy See's peace initiative got under way, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, sent a telegram to the United Nations Secretary Genera, Boutros Boutros Ghali, imploring him to use "every possible means" to end hostilities in the republic on behalf of the international community.
The UN had an obligation to "bring the agitators of the present troubles back to the land of reason", Cardinal Sodano said.
And in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, the Vatican representative to the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Mgr Alain Lebeaupin, urged the conference to condemn the violation of human rights and international agreements in Bosnia-Herzogovina.
The republic had witnessed "inhuman cruelties inflicted on defenceless populations", Mgr Lebeaupin said.
The Vatican believed it was of paramount importance that "the authors of these serious and repeated violations" be "denounced before the world", he said. Courageous and concrete actions were needed to prevent the situation worsening still further, he said.
• A two-day consultation on the "Yugoslav Crisis and the Role of the Churches" met in London this week. sponsored by the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland.
The conference, which was attended by the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitan Jovan of Belgrade and representatives of the Catholic Church, offered "a sign of solidarity and concern for the suffering peoples of the republic and their churches, and to encourage their pursuit of peace".