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Pope Francis hears testimony from two priests and a nun who were tortured

2015-06-06

People lined the streets and sang for Pope Francis as he made his way to the Cathedral of Sarajevo on the Popemobile.

As the Pope entered the Cathedral alongside the cardinal from Sarajevo, priests and nuns snapped photographs and waved to him. The smiling Pope stopped to talk, shake hands, and even hug. 

Cardinal Vinko Puljic received this chalice from Pope Francis. In return, he gave the Pope this painting.

Afterward, the Pope heard testimony about the persecution of Catholics during the war. The conflict ended 20 years ago and some 250,000 people died.

This nun worked as a nurse in a civilian hospital, but foreign troops arrested her, a priest, and several lay people.

Nun
"The militants forced the pastor, Father Vinko, to put my rosary under his shoes. He refused to do so. One of the militiamen, unsheathing his sword, threatened to hit me if he did not trample and desecrate the rosary. Then I said to the pastor: "Father Vinko, let them kill me, but, for the love of God, do not trample our sacred object!”

This priest was arrested and beaten badly. He had to receive six blood transfusions.

Priest
"I forgive with all of my heart those that do evil and I pray for them and for a merciful God to forgive them and that they convert to the path of good.”

In 1992, this Franciscan friar was taken to a concentration camp with many of his parishioners.

Priest
"We lived without basic hygiene. We were not able to wash, shave, or cut our hair. We were physically abused every day, beaten, tortured for fun. They used different tools, their hands, and their feet. God sent me his help, in the form of food from a Muslim woman, Fatima, and her family, who now live in America.

Visibly moved, Pope Francis set aside his prepared remarks and spoke about what he had just heard. 

POPE FRANCIS
"You have no right to forget your history. Not for revenge, but to make peace. Not to look at them as something strange, but to love as they have loved.”

The Pope said that the three religious who spoke are martyrs. He was impressed that the word "forgiveness” had been repeated so many times.

POPE FRANCIS
"There is a word that has been in my heart. It's... 'sorry.' A man who is dedicated to serving the Lord but does not forgive, he does not serve.”

He also expressed appreciation for the Muslim woman's gesture. He said that she looked beyond their differences and did good by feeding the priest. 

Before leaving, he gave the audience an assignment: to pray for the families who have many children and to pray that many of them turn their lives over to God.


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