A Muslim sculptor is carving the wooden chair Pope Francis will use on his visit to Bosnia in June in a gesture that bridges faiths in the multi-ethnic Balkan country. Edin Hajderovac was chosen by the Catholic Church to do the carvings on the walnut chair the pope will sit on during the mass he will celebrate in the capital Sarajevo.



"It's an enormous pleasure for me to have been chosen from among all the candidates, including some more well-known sculptors," Hajderovac told AFP at his workshop in Zavidovici, a small town in northern Bosnia.

The minutely-detailed work began this week, but the Church has asked the 33-year-old sculptor not to show any of his work-in-progress to the press.

A specialist in religious objects and ornaments, Hajderovac said as soon as he heard about Francis' visit on June 6, he went with his father Salem, who is also a sculptor, and asked him to talk to the the local priest, Miro Beslic, about making the wooden armchair.

The priest saw right away the inter-faith potential in a country that was torn apart by a bloody conflict between Muslims, Croats and Serbs during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

"This chair will do some good in Zavidovici because it brings together Muslims and (Croat) Catholics," Beslic said. "Even though we are not really divided (now), there are still some tensions" between the two communities.

When the pope announced in February he would visit Bosnia, he said he hoped it would "contribute to consolidating fraternity and peace" in the former Yugoslav republic.

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