Bosnia and Herzegovina: Catholics in decline and with less rights. Mgr. Vuksic (Military Ordinary), “they want to silence the Church”

About 400,000 Catholics are living in Bosnia and Herzegovina today whereas before the war in the Balkans they were 740,726. Every year some 15,000 faithful disappear from the registry. This is what the Bishops of the country concluded at the end of their recent 70th Plenary Assembly. “This decline is mainly due to young people emigrating to find better job opportunities”, Mgr. Tomo Vuksic, Military Ordinary of Bosnia and Herzegovina, told SIR news agency. “But there is also the problem of refugees and those who were forced out of their homes, accounting for about 67% of Catholics”. According to Mgr. Vuksic, “authorities at all levels showed no willingness to facilitate the return of these people”. And there is, in addition, a difficult economic situation. “The average salary is 800 marks, which is about 450€, and poverty is most visible in big cities”, the Ordinary explained. “Many of those in need turn to Caritas for help, which unfortunately cannot assist all of them”. Mgr. Vuksic also raised another problem. Following the Dayton Agreement and the creation of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and of the Republika Srpska, Croatian Catholics, who account for 15% of the population, live in both parts, but in fact, according to the Catholic Church, they do not have the same rights as the other two major ethnic groups – the Orthodox Serbs and the Bosnian Muslims. Catholics, for instance, only receive 3 to 4% of the total aid given by the international community. “Clearly, this is an uncomfortable truth to some and they want to silence the Church”, he explained. “The starting point from a political and social point of view should be the constitutional principle of equal rights which must be applied to all levels of the organisation of the state”, Mgr. Vuksic remarked, so as to avoid “unfair inequalities”.