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Bosnia’s Catholics nearly all gone

SARAJEVO, Bosnia (Zenit.org): The Muslim population is growing in Bosnia to such an extent that Sarajevo is a “practically Muslim city”, Cardinal Franc Rodé said.

The prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life affirmed this when he spoke with Vatican Radio about his June 19-21 trip to the Balkans.

The prelate said Catholics were the main victims of the war there and many fled the country, heading to Croatia or far-away nations like Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

He said many had their houses burned and others fled for their lives.

Cardinal Rodé said many priests and religious were killed, and churches and monasteries destroyed.

“Numerically, they have diminished a lot,” he said after his visit at the invitation of Cardinal Vinko Puljic.

He said there were only 17,000 Catholics in Sarajevo, a city of 600,000.

“In the Diocese of Banja Luka, before the war between 1991 and 1995, there were 150,000 Catholics; now there are only 35,000.”

Nevertheless, Cardinal Rodé affirmed, the Catholics desire to remain there and offer ecclesial services, particularly social services and education and formation made available to everyone – Catholic, Orthodox or Muslim.

In Banja Luka, Bishop Franjo Komarica is planning a Catholic university to be distinguished by inter-religious dialogue.

“The Church I found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, though numerically reduced, is a living Church, full of hope,” the cardinal said.

“(It) is a very motivated Church, and priestly and religious vocations are not lacking.”

Meanwhile, more than 100 mosques have been built in recent years, the prelate said.

“There is, in fact, the will to Islamise the region of Sarajevo,” as well as the will “to make the Serbian Republic an Orthodox nation.”

In Serbia, Cardinal Rodé noted, the Government is constructing Orthodox churches. He observed how the leaders of that nation are today openly Orthodox.

In this context, the Vatican official expressed his hope that in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there will be “relationships of tolerance and, if it’s possible, of respect and a certain affinity and collaboration”.

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