I want to describe briefly to you the Catholic Church in Bosnia-Herzegovina: we have four dioceses and three diocesan bishops, because one diocese is managed by the Bishop of Mostar as its administrator. These dioceses are Banja Luka, Mostar, Sarajevo and Trebinje. In addition there is the military Ordinariate with the military Ordinary. With us four bishops there are also two auxiliary bishops.
Before the war there were about 820,000 Catholics in Bosnia. For the most part they identify with the Croats as an ethnic grouping. After the war there are now about 450,00 of us. The Archdiocese of Vrhbosnia-Sarajevo is the diocese which has suffered the most. There were about 520,00 Catholics but now there are less than 200,000. This is a consequence of the war. After recovering with some difficulty after the war, we have now suffered terrible flooding which has struck about forty parishes: about twenty parishes have been completely destroyed. Now, after twenty years, we have to begin all over again, once again.
We have one Bishops’ Conference. We have an inter-diocesan seminary and a Franciscan seminary (and a Redemptoris Mater seminar). We have the Faculty of Theology at Sarajevo. There are two minor seminaries, one is diocesan and one Franciscan.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina we have seven school centres which are schools for Europe and recognised by the state. I believe that through dialogue and encounter you will have a deeper knowledge of this country and the people who live here. Others will speak to you about the other communities. I can say that we are seeking the pathway of cooperation and dialogue. There are no alternatives to dialogue. The alternative is war. We have already had too many wars. Above all because during the last century we underwent three terrible and bloody wars. Now we care a great deal about peace. There can be no peace without equality of rights, without a process of forgiveness, of reconciliation and the reestablishment of trust. I see your visit amongst us here as support for our survival and our commitment to constructing this country as a land of diversity and equality with all those rights and freedoms that democracy must achieve. Once again I extend to you my welcome and I wish you a pleasant stay in this city and this country, as well as work rich in fruit.
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