Change violence into acceptance
February 2, 1993
Holy Father urges solidarity towards violated women and their
To call renewed attention to the situation in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the Holy
See recently released the text of a letter which the Holy Father sent to
Archbishop Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo. In his Italian letter the Pope encouraged
efforts at reconciliation, beginning in the family; he particularly encouraged
the Church to care for the victims of the reported widespread rape in the area
and the innocent children conceived.
To my Venerable Brother Archbishop Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo
Venerable Brother in the Episcopate, The prayer which we offered in Assisi on
9 and 10 January for peace in the Balkans compels me to hope that the violence
and tribulations in progress will soon cease and yield to reconciliation and
Through this letter I want to tell you that I am particularly close to the
suffering of the Pastors and people of Bosnia-Hercegovina, upon whom the
disastrous consequences of a prolonged material and spiritual devastation weigh
heavily. With trepidation I think of the conditions of extreme misery affecting
many families, especially children, on whose behalf I especially feel the duty
of appealing to the solidarity and generosity of the whole Church.
It is precisely within families, especially those stricken by the loss of
some members and the experience of particularly atrocious violence, that the
demanding process of peace must begin. Indeed, nowhere other than in the family,
the sanctuary of life and love, can the effort begin to bring peace to society,
an effort to which everyone must dedicate himself as soon as the arms cease to
resound with the roar of death. Therefore, it is the task of the Pastors to
begin planning appropriate initiatives in order to encourage families to make
gestures of reconciliation, generosity and Christian love.
It is particularly necessary that the Pastors and all the faithful
responsible for the family apostolate sense an urgency in looking after the
situation of the mothers, wives and young women who have been subjected to
violence because of an outburst of racial hatred or brutal lust. These women,
who have been the object of such a serious offence, must find the support of
understanding and solidarity in the community. Even in such a tragic situation
they must be helped to distinguish between the act of deplorable violence which
they have suffered from men who have lost all reason and conscience, and the
reality of these new human beings who have been given life. As the image of God,
these new creatures should be respected and loved no differently than any other
member of the human family.
In every case it should be emphasized most clearly that since the unborn
child is in no way responsible for the disgraceful acts accomplished, he or she
is innocent and therefore cannot be treated as the aggressor.
Therefore, the entire community should be close to these women who have been
so tragically offended and to their families, in order to help them transform
the act of violence into an act of love and acceptance. The Gospel reminds us
that violence should not be met with violence (cf. Mt 5:38-41). Barbarous acts
of hatred and racism must be answered with the strength of love and solidarity.
Did the Apostle Paul not recommend to the Christians of Rome, persecuted by a
hostile power: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is
noble in the sight of all.... Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with
good" (Rom 12:17, 21)?
I am certain that the other Churches, not only those of Europe but of every
part of the world, will find appropriate ways to come to the aid of the people
and families placed in such conditions of grave material, psychological and
spiritual distress. I offer my most cordial encouragement to such beneficial
initiatives, recalling the words of Christ: "Whoever receives one child such as
this in my name, receives me" (Mk 9:37).
In the case of orphans and abandoned children, I want to express a word of
appreciation to all those who are working to promote adoption procedures: when
little ones lack the support of those who have given them life, it is an act of
great human and Christian value to offer them the warmth of a new home.
In assuring all those who are suffering of the solicitous concern of this
Church of Rome which "presides in charity", I want to send to you, dear brother,
and the other Prelates of the region and the sorely tried population a special
Apostolic Blessing, which I accompany with the assurance of my assiduous,
From the Vatican, 2 February 1993
IOANNES PAULUS PP. II
Teachings of the
Magisterium on Abortion