It was an opportunity of a lifetime for me. A chance to meet the people of a sliver of the world that I would have never dreamed I could.
When the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) invited me, as a sports journalist, to preview the Olympic Winter Games in November 1983, it gave me a way to explore the people and nation of Yugoslavia, particularly host city Sarajevo. (The Game were held in February 1984.)
Now, our Holy Father Pope Francis gets this same opportunity as he journeys to Sarajevo, now the Capital city of Bosnia & Herzegovina, for a pilgrimage beginning this weekend.
Junno Arocho Esteves of ZENIT.org reports of the pope’s plans.
“I am preparing myself to come among you as a fraternal messenger of peace, to express to everyone – to everyone! – my respect and friendship.”
Pope Francis proclaimed these words in a video message addressed to the people of Sarajevo and Bosnia & Herzegovina. In his remarks, the Pope said that he was visiting in order to “confirm the Catholic faithful in the faith, to support ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and above all to encourage peaceful coexistence in your country.”
Addressing the people of Bosnia & Herzegovina, the 78-year-old Pontiff encouraged the faithful to stand side by side with their fellow citizens as “witnesses of faith and the love of God.”
I clearly recall the excitement of the Sarajevo populace as they welcomed our United States press contingent. Also, ABC Sports personnel Jim McKay, Al Michaels, Peggy Fleming, Frank Gifford, Mike Eruzione, Bob Beatty and others made the trip.
The terrific vitality, hospitality, accommodations and transportation were compliments to the dedication and hard work of the Sarajevo Olympic Organizing Committee and the entire community. I know that Pope Francis is going to be blessed with the same outpouring of love and blessings as we were in November 1983.
On a personal note, it broke my heart to see the war and devastation that took the lives of so many innocent men, women and children, and how war destroyed the wonderful Olympic facilities that the Sarajevo residents took pride in showing to us on our press trip.
Buildings can always be rebuilt yet the lives of the innocents of this great city and in other parts of their country will forever be altered by that tragic war. My prayers of gratitude, hope and reconciliation are with Pope Francis as he makes his papal visit to this dear city that I love and respect.