Bosnia-Herzegovina, The Catholic Church in
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
Located in the Balkan Peninsula of southeastern Europe, Bosnia-Herzegovina is bordered on the west and north by Croatia, on the east by Serbia and on the southeast by Montenegro. The country is landlocked except for a few miles of coastline along the Adriatic Sea to its south. A heavily forested region, Bosnia-Herzegovina is also mountainous. Natural resources include coal, iron, copper and manganese, while agricultural crops consist of cereals, fruits, tobacco and citrus. The steel and mining industries make up much of the region's export.
Originally under Croatian control, the region was incorporated into the former Yugoslavia until the early 1990s, when it declared independence. The poorest of the Yugoslav republics, Bosnia-Herzegovina suffered from its feudal past, and many of its citizens, after losing their landholdings through the land reforms of the interwar period, either engaged in small-scale farming, became tradesmen, craftsmen or traveled outside the region to work. Bosnia's poor economy fueled ethnic unrest which was transformed into religious intolerance due to the close connection between ethnicity and religious background. In 1991 Bosnia-Herzegovina became the site of ethnic violence as Orthodox Bosnian Serbs, with support from Serbia to the east, fought Catholic Croats and Bosniaks (ethnic Muslims) in an effort to divide the region along ethnic lines. In 1995 an accord was reached in which the region was divided between the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Bosnian Serb Republika Srpska. NATO forces remained in the region through 2000, although no further violence was reported.
Early History. Using the Drina and Zeta rivers as lines of demarcation, Roman Emperor gratian divided the area then known as Illyricum into eastern and western regions in 379. Eastern Illyricum was ruled by the Eastern Roman Empire, where Greek Byzantine culture predominated. It belonged ecclesiastically to the Patriarchate of Rome until 732, when Emperor Leo III made it subject to the Patriarchate of constantinople. Western Illyricum was assigned to the Western Roman Empire in 395, and Latin culture predominated. The border between eastern and western Illyricum, passing almost through the center of what would become the kingdom of Yugoslavia, became the source of the historical unrest in the Balkan region.
Slavs entered the region in the 7th century, and by 1150 Bosnia was an independent principality under Hungarian rule. The medieval heresy of Bogomilism in the Balkans was persecuted, and the bogomils, banished from Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary, sought refuge in Bosnia where rulers received them. Bogomilism became the Bosnian national religion during the 13th and 14th centuries. Although the Holy See sent legates and organized crusades against these heretics, Bogomilism endured until the Turkish occupation of Bosnia in 1463. Under the Turks many Bogomils converted to Islam, and their descendants constituted the region's main Muslim population by the 20th century.
Orthodox Serbs settled in Bosnia-Herzegovina mostly after their country was defeated and occupied by the Turks in 1389. Priests accompanied them, and an Orthodox hierarchy was soon established. In the early 14th century, as Catholic bishops left the country due to the Bogomils, an autonomous church developed, neither Roman nor Orthodox. From 1684 to 1735, during the Turkish occupation, Bosnia had neither Catholic bishops nor diocesan clergy. Franciscans cared for those Catholics that remained, and through their active evangelizing won over many in the nobility as well as in the peasant classes. In 1735 Bosnia-Herzegovina became a vicariate apostolic, entrusted to the Franciscans. After the Turks were obliged to leave Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1878, Austria annexed the area, assuming full control in 1908. Leo XIII restored the hierarchy (July 5, 1881) in one ecclesiastical province, with the archdiocese of Sarajevo, or Vrhbosna, as the metropolitan see, and Banjaluka and Mostar as suffragan dioceses. The Orthodox were organized in 1880 as an autonomous metropolitan, with four dioceses.
Tensions between Serbia and the Austro-Hungarian empire escalated during the first decade of the 20th century, culminating in the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo in 1914. This murderous act by a Serbian terrorist sparked World War I, after which Bosnia was integrated into a united kingdom of Balkan nations.
Under Yugoslavian Control. Yugoslavia (South Slavia) came into being on Dec. 1, 1918, as the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Its 95,576 square miles included Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia, Dalmatia, Montenegro and Voivodina. Under its constitution, dated June 28, 1921, it was a constitutional monarchy, but an absolute monarchy was established in early 1929 as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. During World War II the
region was divided through invasions by Germany and Italy, whereupon Croatia proclaimed its independence and Serbia remained nominally independent while still under German control.
In the Kingdom of Yugoslavia Serbs dominated the political realm, extending their power into social, cultural and religious matters despite protests by Croat and Bosnian minorities. Although the constitution of 1921 guaranteed freedom and equality to all religions, the Orthodox Serbian Church received favoritism, thereby attracting new members, and between 1918 and 1938, the Roman Catholic population decreased markedly in Yugoslavia as a whole. Although the newly established government began negotiations with the Holy See for a concordat in 1922 that would have regularized the Catholic Church's organization so that diocesan and state borders would correspond, the Orthodox Church influenced the Yugoslavian parliament into refusing the ratification of the agreement in 1935. In retaliation, during World War II, nationalist Croat priests forced Orthodox Serbs living in western Bosnia to convert to Catholicism, a factor that would have serious repercussions by the end of the 20th century.
The Church under Communism. In 1945 Bosnia-Herzegovina fell to communism with the rest of Yugoslavia when the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia was proclaimed under Josip Broz Tito. Although the constitution of Nov. 30, 1946 guaranteed religious liberty, the government promoted its anti-religious sentiment by open persecution. Bishop Peter [symbol omitted]ule of Mostar was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 1948, sharing the fate of many other Catholic, as well as Muslim, leaders. All Catholic schools, except for a few minor seminaries, were closed, and religious instruction in state schools was prohibited. Church-owned property was confiscated, the Catholic press was abolished and Catholic associations were suppressed. The number of professed atheists in Yugoslavia was estimated at two million by 1953.
Fortunately for the Church, by 1948 political differences between Tito and Soviet leaders had surfaced, forcing Yugoslavia to look to Western powers for support.
Persecution of religious groups consequently diminished and by 1956 the communists had inaugurated a policy of limited cooperation. The Holy See was allowed to appoint new bishops, charges against the clergy were dropped, some religious presses resumed operation and several minor seminaries opened. In 1962 Bosnian bishops received permission to attend Vatican Council II.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, perhaps more than in other regions of Yugoslavia, no single religion predominated: Muslims of Slav descent as well as Serbian Orthodox lived alongside Croatian Catholics. By 1961, with a population of 3,274,886—18 percent of the Yugoslav total— the region boasted one of the highest rate of sustained believers in Yugoslavia at 84 percent. While the Roman Catholic Church was able to create a stable relationship with the communist government, area Muslims, isolated from the Islamic world, had their special religious courts suppressed after 1946, and their difficulties with the communist government were exacerbated by confusion between religion and ethnicity. The communists also sought to promote Muslim solidarity as a way of preventing either Serbs or Croats from gaining supremacy, and the region's Muslim majority was denied first-class citizenship status until 1966.
Independent Once Again. With Tito's death in 1980 the government's policy toward religion became less doctrinaire, and regional governments developed policies which promoted peaceful relations within their own particular sphere of influence. By the late 1980s this liberalization allowed all faiths to be practiced openly, and a religious revival was underway by 1990, as Easter services were televised nationwide. While Yugoslavia crumbled in the early 1990s, the Muslim majority in Bosnia-Herzegovina agitated for a referendum to vote for independence.
In October of 1991 Bosnia and Herzegovina declared their independence from the former Yugoslavia. The Muslim-dominated government, established in April of 1992, was immediately confronted by violence as ethnic Serb and Croat minorities resisted the formation of a nation along non-ethnic lines. The desire of Serbs was to ignore the boundary formed by the Drina River and become annexed to Serbia to the east. During the next three years over 450,000 Catholics living in predominately Serbian areas were forced to flee, some to Croatia. Meanwhile, ethnic disputes between Bosniaks and Croats ended in 1994 with the formation of a joint Bosniak/Croat Federation and the agreement that this federation would be joined by Serbs. While Serbs agreed to the federation concept in theory, there was no consensus as to where boundary lines should be drawn, and fighting escalated to the point that by 1993 Serbs controlled most of the region. Thousands of civilians were massacred, many of them Muslims who were the target of ethnic cleansing by Bosnian Serbs. The homes of those fleeing Serbian-held areas in the north and east were destroyed to ensure that they did not return. After three years of violence UN and NATO bombing raids proved convincing and on Nov. 21, 1995, Serbs and Bosniaks met in Dayton, Ohio, to sign a peace accord creating two separate regions: a Bosniak-Croat federation in the west and a Serb-governed Republika Srpska in the north and east. The newly elected tripartite government immediately set about to privatize the economy, which had suffered during the civil war, although the trial of war criminals, the recovery of land mines, the return of church property confiscated by the Yugoslav government under communism and the relocation of refugees continued to be dealt with into the 21st century. In 1999, as fighting still raged in the republic of Kosovo, Bosnia provided refuge to many ethnic Albanians fleeing Serb violence. NATO forces, which had remained in Bosnia following the peace accord, were reduced to minimal levels by 2000.
By 2000 Bosnia-Herzegovina contained 281 parishes, tended by 210 secular and 340 religious priests, as well as 14 brothers and 540 sisters. In the Republika Srpska the Serbian Orthodox Church was considered the state church and was materially supported by the regional government, while in Bosnia-Herzegovina neither Islam nor Catholicism enjoyed special privilege. By 1999 the diocese of Banja Luka, located in the Republika Srpska, was closed, 98 percent of its churches destroyed and 412 of its parishioners killed during the violence preceding the 1995 peace. Classes in religion were offered in Bosnia's public schools, the religion taught based on the local demographics. Bosnian bishops, while taking responsibility for the retaliatory violence committed by some Croatian Catholics, called for the safe return of all Catholics to the region. Problems that erupted in 1999 after seven parishes in Mostar were given by the Vatican to Franciscans showed that ethnic tensions remained close to the surface into the 21st century. However, a return to the faith was exhibited by Croats, particularly young people, in the aftermath of the region's difficulties, and by 2000 political trends signaled a move toward multi-ethnic parties. In 2001 the Vatican backed the formation of an international tribunal to prosecute violators of human rights in the former Yugoslavia.
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