Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Part of South-Eastern Europe - Greece for some time, Bulgaria and Romania quite recently – now belongs to the European Union. Other countries in the region are still in a difficult or unstable situation. Wounds from the recent conflicts can still be felt. All of the countries in the region were represented at the young adult European meeting in Zagreb. It was a beautiful sign of how Christians are called to “live in communion beyond national borders” (Letter from Kolkata). Following the meeting in Zagreb, a brother set off on a small pilgrimage of trust, starting with Kosovo.

“In Kosovo, there were several outstanding moments. A visit to the new Catholic Bishop of Prizren provided the opportunity for exchanging on the situation of a Church that is dynamic, with many young people, but where the question comes up of how to arrive at a more personal commitment in faith and in prayer.

Then, a luminous afternoon spent at the monastery of Visoki Decani revealed once again the sense of beauty that is so present in the Orthodox tradition. It is the visible beauty of the place, the church, of the frescos, but also the interior beauty of peace of heart and continuous prayer. In spite of the difficult circumstances - because of the insecurity, the monastery is guarded day and night by Italian soldiers - the monks do not let themselves be diverted from what they are there for: a life of prayer and fraternal communion, witnessing to the Resurrection.

Another afternoon, in the town of Ferizaj, was devoted to a prayer with songs from Taizé and a time of meeting with a group of young adults. They had made the journey to Zagreb, and this was an opportunity to share their impressions and to think about continuity.

In Serbia, the most touching thing of all was to listen to the accounts of the young people who had been to Zagreb. They all were enthusiastic about the welcome the Croatian families had given them. Some had gone with a certain apprehension, sometimes they had had to overcome the reticence of their parents. After all that had happened these last years, they were not sure they would be welcome. But in fact each time they had the beautiful surprise of a true meeting of people with people, beyond stereotypes and prejudices. The Serbian young people were so happy to be taken into the families’ homes, with so much consideration. On the first day, some of the Croatian hosts even telephoned the parents of their young Serb guests to reassure them; and then they continued each day, through friendship, just for the pleasure of exchanging a few words…

In Bosnia-Herzégovina, I was able to take part in prayers with songs from Taizé in the towns of Mostar and Sarajevo. For more than fifteen years, regular visits have made it possible to express our solidarity with this country in its distress, and these times of prayer and meeting have become something very simple and natural. At the same time, as the chaplain to the young Catholics in Sarajevo observed, praying together with songs and silence enables us to enter into the freshness of a reality beyond ourselves, in the mystery of the presence of Christ.

There were also opportunities for meeting with the Orthodox Church, which numerically is the most important church in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the mainly Moslem environment of the town of Zenica, young Orthodox Christians meet together regularly. With the Catholic chaplain for young adults, who is also professor at the Catholic seminary, I was able to visit the Orthodox seminary at Foca, 80 km to the East of Sarajevo. In our conversations it was very clear that all the Christians together are called to be witnesses of the peace of Christ, and to show the same respect for all the victims of injustice and violence, whatever their ethnic or religious groups they may belong to.”

Last updated: 6 April 2007