Archbishop of Sarajevo demands equal treatment for Catholics
20 January, 2012
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Vinko Cardinal Puljic
Catholics in Bosnia-Herzegovina should be treated equally. This was the demand expressed by Vinko Cardinal Puljic, the Archbishop of Sarajevo, during a visit to the international headquarters of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

In the employment market, in schools and in other spheres of social life, Catholics are systematically disadvantaged, he reported. The aim is to persuade them to leave the country. Church lands and buildings that were confiscated during the period of Communism have not been returned, and building approvals for churches are subjected to years of delay. The government “has no interest in giving the Catholic Church back its property”. Muslim property has been returned, however.

The 66-year-old Cardinal observes the growing Islamisation in Bosnia-Herzegovina with concern. Muslim centres and mosques have been built in many places with petrodollars from Saudi Arabia. In recent years, at least 70 new mosques have been built in Sarajevo alone. There are already 3,000-5,000 Wahhabis (members of a radical Sunni religious movement which is the official religion in Saudi Arabia) in the country, seeking to gain influence within society. “Nobody in the government has the courage to do anything to prevent this development,” said Puljic.

The Catholic Church is the only force in society that strives for the different population groups and religions to live together in peace and equality, the Cardinal said. “We are a minority, but we are a constructive force that wishes to make a contribution to the success of society.”

40% of the population are followers of Islam, and some 31% belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church. The remainder belong to other religious communities. Catholics still account for some 10%. Of the 820,000 Catholics who lived in Bosnia-Herzegovina before the war between 1992 and 1995, only 460,000 remain. The Cardinal reported that the wave of emigration is continuing.