Bishop Ratko Peric
Administrator of Trebinje and Mrkan,
1. The Catholic Church has been present in Bosnia-Herzegovina for more than a millennium. In 1991, the population of 4,250,000 include 830,000 Catholics (four Dioceses, 272 parishes) with 360 diocesan and about 630 Franciscan priests, members of the two Provinces. Many priests do pastoral work abroad. There are four Provinces of women’s religious congregations, with 690 sisters, many of whom are abroad. The spiritual and pastoral work carried out by religious in this Church has been invaluable, both in the past and today. During the present war, the Church has suffered the cruelest blows: more than 400,000 Catholics have been evicted; 150 parishes have no normal access; more than 200 ecclesistical buildings have been destroyed or damaged. It is a sad fact that this war seems endless. We express our particular gratitude to the Holy Father for his interventions to promote peace.
2. There are also some intra-ecclesial problems. The ordinary ecclesiastical hierarchy wth the resident bishops and diocesan clergy was restored in 1881. Having heard the opinion of the Bishops and religious superiors, the Holy See assigned a certain number of parishes ad liberam collationem Episcopi which had been administered until that time by the well-deserving Friars Minor. However, when the time came to make over the parishes in question to the Diocese of Mostar, the obedience professed was put to a hard trial. The religious community, once rewarded by the Holy See with many privileges for its apostolate, today has to receive warnings for its rigidity.
3. In addition to this is the phenomenon of Medjugorje, a parish administered by the religious mentioned. The official position of the Episcopal Conference, 10 April 1991, distinguishes the pastoral work of the Bishop and the priests concerned from the content of the alleged “apparitions”. The episcopal declaration states: “On the basis of investigations to date, it is impossible to confirm that we are dealing with apparitions and supernatural revelations.” The alleged ‘apparitions’ create great confusion and division, and not only in the local Church. We are therefore waiting for the Holy See to exert its powers to restore and strengthen the unity of this particular Church.