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History background

Although Catholics are minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina today, history of Catholic Church in these places is endless and extends even to the Apostolic time. St. Paul the apostle mentions that his pupil Tit takes departure in Dalmatia (2 Tim 4,10). Namely the border among Roman provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia has been dividing Bosnia and Herzegovina in the direction of the east-west in two parts, by what is something smaller, north part, belonged to Pannonia. At the time there were already more dioceses, as: Baloie, Bistue, Sarsiteron, Delminium, etc., which belonged to metropolitan's residences in Salona (Solin) while parts of this area belonged to the other surrounding diocese, as Siscia (Sisak) and metropolitan's residences in Sirmiju (Srijemska Mitrovica). By downfall of West Roman empire and by advancement and moving in of Avar and Slavic tribes, this Church organization was completely destroyed.

Croats have settled the area of today's Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in seventh century, and have been christened till ninth century. We should mention that the medieval Bosnia included a much smaller region than today's one and extended only on the narrower area of today's central Bosnia. The oldest diocese, on the region of the present Bosnia and Herzegovina, is that in Trebinje, established before the year1022. The Bosnian diocese, which had certainly existed already in 1067, with residence in the place where is the present Sarajevo, had residence from thirteenth century in Đakovo in Slavonia, outside of Bosnia. During the Turkish power, bishops from Đakova had no courage to come to Bosnia at all. Great parts of the present Bosnia and Herzegovina belonged to the neighboring dioceses in Croatia: Split, Knin, Krbava, Zagreb... From religious communities it is important to emphasize Dominicans and especially Franciscans, which came to the region very soon after their establishing and gained great credits for survival of Catholic faith in those places. They built up large number of monasteries on the whole Bosnia and surrounding countries, that were at the time a part of the province “Bosna Srebrena”, named so toward the famous convent in Srebrenica, badly injured town in the latest time.


The oldest crucifix

By fall of Bosnia under the Ottoman power (1463.) and Herzegovina (1482.) it has started the badly sufferings of Catholic Church, islamization and disappearance of numerous parishes and convents, expansion of the Islam and orthodoxy, and thereby the fundamental change of religious and ethnic images. Because of the impossibility of bishops to visit their dioceses or even the parts of the dioceses, which had come under the Turkish power, the Holy See established in 1735 Apostolic Vicariate for the Catholics in Bosnia and neighboring provinces under the Turkish power.

It was divided in 1846 on Bosnian and Herzegovinian Apostolic Vicariate and so remained until 1881, when in Bosnia and Herzegovina was re-established customary hierarchies. In the same year Banja Luka and Mostar dioceses were established, as well as the archdiocese and metropolitan's residence in Sarajevo, in which structure entered diocese of Trebinje. Mostar’s bishop as its Apostolic administrator constantly administrate it.

The Catholic Church (as well as all others that existed there) haggled, throughout the history, natural catastrophes, the frequent illness, wars and other sufferings, so the number of faithful was constantly changing. Tragic sufferings in the last decade of 20th century and exodus of Catholics that had been never recorded in the whole history before, threatened by the general destruction of the dioceses in total, which have been more than dimidiated, what special relate on the Banja Luka diocese, where almost completely disappeared the larger number of parishes, and the number believers have been reduced at the one third of pre-war population.

Currently situation of the Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Independent state of Bosnia and Herzegovina was from the ninetieth years of last century as a result of breakdown of the former state of Yugoslavia. The Church also followed the new political reality:  Bishops’ conference of the new state Bosnia and Herzegovina was established in 1994. It is assembled of four bishops of (arch) dioceses within this area.

Archdiocese of Vrhbosna has it headquarters in Sarajevo that Holy Father Johan Paul the Second visited in 1997. The Patron of the cathedral and Archdiocese is Sacred Hearth of Jesus. Sarajevo is not only the headquarters of Archdiocese and metropolitan but also the headquarters for many religious communities, male as well as female: the Franciscan province of Bosna Srebrena, Sisters of Infant Jesus, the only autochthony female community in Bosnia and Herzegovina that was established by the first Vrhbosnian Archbishop Josip Stadler, Sisters of charity of St. Vincent de Paul and Franciscan sisters. There are two theological colleges: one for diocesan Vrhbosna and higher Franciscan Theological school. In the region of Archdiocese there is seminary for boys who are preparing for priesthood in Travnik as well as Franciscan seminary in Visoko. In the pastoral work in Archdiocese beside the diocesan priests, there are several religious communities: the most numerous are Franciscans of Bosna Srebrena, and few parishes assisting Jesuits, Salezians and Dominicans. Except the above-mentioned communities in Vrhbosna Archdiocese there are monasteries of Sisters of St. Clare and Carmelite. This is definitely multireligious (confessional) and multiethnic city, as well as many other cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo has the privilege that in the city there is Embassy of the Holy See. In the Archdiocese today exists less than one half of pre-war number of faithful - around 215.000. Church institutions publish one religious paper which is coming out every week, one every month and several other papers.

Catholic Church in the region of the Vrhbosna Archdiocese, as well as in the other dioceses in Bosnia and Herzegovina has given during its history many Martyrs, priests and lay people, but there names are not known and they are forgotten.

There were some exemplary faithful, and for some of them there is process in making them saints. These are: servant of God, seminarist Petar Barbarić, five religious sisters from Daughters of God’s Love, known as Martyrs women of Drina (murdered in 1941), and first Vrhbosna’s Archbishop Dr. Josip Stadler whose cause is just opened.

Archbishop of Sarajevo is Vinko Cardinal Puljic and he is administrator of Archdiocese since 1991. Three years later he was named Cardinal. Auxiliary bishop is dr. Pero Sudar. There is also Cathedral staff with four monsignors. Archdiocese also has five school centers ( Sarajevo, Travnik, Zenica, Tuzla, Žepče), there are pupils from all faiths present.

Diocese of Banja Luka (frequently written as Banjaluka) was established 5 of July 1881 with bull from pope Leon XIII Ex hac Augusta. Cathedral is dedicated to saint Bonaventure. There are 45? perishes in six regions, where working diocesan priests and Franciscans. One of the parishes is lead by Trapist monks from monastery of Marija Zvijezda. Number of the Catholics is drastically down because of the persecution in the ninetieth years of the last century. There are only 42.000 faithful on the territory of the Diocese. Severe crimes were happening here, so that Diocese lost about 800 faithful, most of them were lay people that were killed. Among them were seven priests and one religious sister.

We already mentioned male religious communities in Diocese of Banja Luka. Trapists are located in their monastery of Marija Zvijezda, which was established in 1869, and Franciscans are located in three different places: Petricevac, Jajce, and Livno. Female religious Communities that are working in the diocese are: Adorers of the Blood of Christ, Sisters Of Charity of St Vincent De Paul, Sisters of St Francis, Daughters of God’s Love, Benedictines, and Sisters of Sacred Heart of Mary.

The Bishop of Banja Luka Diocese is Dr. Franjo Komarica: he was consecrated for bishop in 1986, and was for three years auxiliary to the late bishop Alfred Pichler, and started governing of Diocese in 1989.

In World War II and after, as well as in the recent war, the Banja Luka Diocese gave many martyrs and lost most of priests, more then all the dioceses and archdioceses on this territory together. Until now nobody from them was declared saint. We are preparing for the beatification of one of the members of this Diocese - Venerable servant of God Dr. Ivan Merz.  

Diocese Mostar-Duvno was established at the same time as Diocese of Banja Luka in 1881, and in its name is keeping remembrance on Diocese of Duvno. Together with Diocese of Trebinje that succeeded to survive Turkish occupation, and is covering Herzegovina, the south part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bishop of Mostar is permanent administrator of Diocese of Trebinje since 1890. Diocesan priests and Franciscans carry out pastoral duty in Diocese of Mostar, and in Diocese of Trebinje there are no Franciscan priest. In Diocese of Mostar there are at present 195.000 of faithful people. In Diocese at present there are two papers that are published every month.

About the Diocese of Trebinje all is said above. This is the oldest and smallest diocese in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was established in 1022. There are 15 to 20 thousands of faithful. Diocesan priests carry out pastoral duty. Complete name is Trebinjsko-mrkanska, because the headquarters were for some time on island of Mrkan close to Dubrovnik during the Turkish occupation.


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