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Change violence into acceptance

February 2, 1993

Holy Father urges solidarity towards violated women and their children 

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 peace.

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, heartfelt prayer.

From the Vatican, 2 February 1993


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