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Msgr. Dr. Petar Palić Has Assumed the Offices of the Bishop of Mostar-Duvno and the Apostolic Administrator of Trebinje-Mrkan

Mostar (IKA)

On Monday, September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Msgr. Dr. Petar Palić assumed the offices of the Bishop of Mostar-Duvno and Apostolic Administrator of Trebinje-Mrkan.

The formal assumption of these offices took place in Mostar during a Mass in front of the Cathedral of Mary, Mother of the Church, in concelebration with bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Croatian Conference of Bishops, the Apostolic Nuncio in Bosnia and Herzegovina, numerous priests, men and women religious, representatives of other religious communities and senior government officials from the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Mass was concelebrated by the Apostolic Nuncio in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto; members of the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina: the President of the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cardinal Vinko Puljić; The Coadjutor Archbishop of Sarajevo and Apostolic Administrator of the Military Ordinariate in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Msgr. Tomo Vukšić; Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka, Auxiliary Bishop Marko Semren of Banja Luka; the Apostolic Visitor with a special role in the Parish of Međugorje, Archbishop Henryk Hoser; members of the Croatian Conference of Bishops: the President of the CCB and Archbishop of Zadar, Msgr. Želimir Puljić; Archbishop Marin Barišić of Split-Makarska; the Coadjutor Archbishop of Split-Makarska and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Poreč and Pula, Msgr. Dražen Kutleš; Bishop Ivica Petanjak of Krk, Bishop Zdenko Križić of Gospić-Senj, Bishop Bože Radoš of Varaždin, Bishop Mate Uzinić of Dubrovnik, Bishop Tomislav Rogić of Šibenik, Bishop Emeritus Ante Ivas of Šibenik, Auxiliary Bishop Ivan Ćurić of Đakovo-Osijek, as well as members of the International Bishops’ Conference of Saints Cyril and Methodius, led by Archbishop Stanislav Hočevar of Belgrade and the Rev. Mirko Stefković as an envoy from the Diocese of Subotica.

At the Mass of the Installation of Msgr. Petar Palić as the Bishop of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno, the concelebrants included the Provincial of the Franciscan of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province in Herzegovina, Fr. Dr. Miljenko Šteko; the National Director of Pastoral Ministry to Croats Abroad, Fr. Dr. Tomislav Markić; as well as numerous diocesan and religious priests. Participants in the Mass also included the Provincial of the School Sisters of Saint Francis of Christ the King in Herzegovina, Mother Zdenka Kozina, numerous women religious, as well as theologians and seminarians from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Croatia.

The Mass in Mostar was also attended by Bishop Dimitrije of Zahumlje, Herzegovina and the Littoral; a large number of government officials from the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Croatia, including Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, President Marinko Čavara of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the leader of the Croatian Democratic Party in Bosnia Herzegovina, Dragan Čović.

The pealing of bells accompanied the entrance procession to the cathedral, which, as the mother church in the diocese, was consecrated to Mary, Mother of the Church, forty years ago on this date. The entrance hymn, You are God’s Tent (Šator si Božji) is the hymn of the cathedral, which is architecturally similar to a tent, like the one in the Old Testament where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.

The celebration of the Mass was begun by Msgr. Ratko Perić (76), heretofore the Ordinary of the Dioceses of Herzegovina (1992‒2020). His welcoming remarks were full of praises to God: “May all our diocesan, priestly, religious and lay activities be for you, Father, for your everlasting glory, for the exaltation of the holy cross of your Son, Jesus Christ, whose feast we celebrate today, and for the salvation of all our souls.” He expressed gratitude to Christ, who had endowed him twenty-eight years ago, on September 14, 1992, with the sacrament of episcopal ordination, in Neum. The principal consecrator had been Cardinal Franjo Kuharić, with the co-consecrators Josip Uhač and Bishop Pavao Žanić. “Since then, 10,225 days have passed. It was wartime, with uncertainty on every side. The Episcopal Ordinariate was burned down, the cathedral was wounded with a thousand grenade fragments. It was a time of demolition and uprooting, a time of warfare and ruthless destruction. However great were the sins of war and destruction, God’s mercy was greater still.” Msgr. Perić briefly shared his observations and thanked the Holy Spirit for all the encouragement he received in his episcopal ministry, “for every grace, whether in the form of joy or the misfortune by which you tested us. Thank you for the cross, with which you tested our fidelity to you salvific work. We give thanks for fidelity, and pray for the forgiveness of infidelity.”

Concluding his active episcopal ministry on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Msgr. Perić noted that his successor, Msgr. Petar Palić, was also beginning his mission on the same feast day: “You have always been accompanied by the great grace of God, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, from wisdom to the fear of God, and cast your nets at the word of Christ.”

The Rite of Installation followed, with the presentation of the Papal Bull in Latin and the reading of its contents. The original text was read by Msgr. Amaury Medina Blanco, Counsellor at the Apostolic Nunciature in Sarajevo. The Croatian version was read by Master of Ceremonies Ivan Štironja, the pastor in Studenci. According to the Bull, Pope Francis appointed the heretofore Bishop of Hvar, Petar Palić (48), as the Bishop of Mostar-Duvno and the Apostolic Administrator of Trebinje-Mrkan. It was signed on July 11 of this year. Thus, Msgr. Palić became the successor of Bishop Ratko Perić. The Pope explained the choice of Palić: “It seemed appropriate to us to entrust the people of the Mostar-Duvno and Trebinje-Mrkan flock to you, venerable brother, because in everything you have invested so far in the Diocese of Hvar, you have shown yourself to be a steadfast embodiment of human and priestly virtues, which are essential for suitably leading this community pastorally.” In the Bull, by which Msgr. Palić was assigned to this local Church as “a leader on the path of eternal salvation,” the Holy Father addressed him with encouraging words: “As for you, venerable brother, who have already obeyed the Lord who commanded you to go out to the open sea and cast your nets, strive from now on to watch carefully over the souls entrusted to you, while we pray to Christ, who “is our peace” (Eph 2:14), through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, that you will perform the ministry of a promoter of peace and a steward of sincere love, and thus Christ’s faithful will recognize you as a zealous servant of grace.”

After the reading of the Bull, Msgr. Perić handed over the episcopal staff to his successor, Msgr. Palić, and accompanied him to the episcopal cathedra. From that moment, the new bishop began presiding over the Eucharist, and the Rite of Installation concluded with the hymn “At Your Word, Lord, I Shall Cast the Net,” a musical arrangement of the episcopal motto of Msgr. Petar Palić.

The newly ordained bishop of the dioceses of Herzegovina, Msgr. Petar Palić, introduced himself to the faithful in a sermon based on the Word of God in the liturgy of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. He also spoke about the recent history of the cathedral in Mostar. Namely, on September 14, 1980, the bishop at the time, Petar Čule, consecrated it and handed over the administration of the diocese to Bishop Pavao Žanić, and the cathedral to the priests and people. However, the war years followed, due to which Msgr. Ratko Perić was not ordained a bishop in this cathedral: “Today we are in reality and in a city of bridges. Many times, unfortunately, in this country, these bridges did not connect but separated. Twenty-eight years ago on this date, it was not possible to celebrate the ordination of the new bishop of the dioceses of Herzegovina, Ratko Perić, in this Mostar cathedral, due to warfare, dangers and destruction. Nevertheless, despite these shadows of evil and the destruction of churches, despite internal wounds and divisions, the courageous Church, assembled around its pastor, even under such conditions, continued on its path in the building of Christ’s Kingdom.”

The Church lives in the faithful, who are connected to its foundation, Jesus Christ. They are the Temple of God: “However important building this cathedral was, we Christians are called to understand that we are the building and that all together we are building upon our lives, upon the house of community, gathered in one Church to the end of times. We Christians are also a growing field and no one knows what fruits it will yield. Everything will be evident one day. We can only believe that the building will be stable and habitable. We can only hope that the fruits that grow from our spiritual seeds will be edible. It is important, Paul says, for the foundation to be sound, and the foundation is Jesus Christ. Whosoever builds upon him is building upon a sound foundation, without fear of the future, despite many misfortunes.”

In the continuation of his sermon, Msgr. Palić spoke about his episcopal motto, “At Your Word,” casting a net like the fisherman Peter. “In this celebration of ours today, all of us, brothers and sisters, are renewed by the call to take to the open sea and cast nets, to entrust ourselves radically to the power of Christ’s love, to follow him more attentively in the service of God and man. Jesus entrusts this humble but also very great ministry to his church, and within the church in a special and unique way, to the apostle and bishop. Today, following the episcopal ministry of Bishop Ratko Perić, this mission is entrusted to my frail person. I am aware of the fact that there is and will be no dearth of difficulties and temptations on my and your paths, and perhaps—God forbid!—moments of fatigue and betrayal because we are weak. Our hands and knees often tremble before the requirements of charity, fidelity and generous love. Many persons throughout the history of salvation, all the way back to Jesus’ disciples, have demonstrated this with their lives.”

However, we always begin from the beginning when we dare to take the risk of faith “because, like Peter, we recognize that someone knows our emptiness and yet does not allow us to fall into the void but rather fills us like the nets of fishing boats.” In this context, he also mentioned the new circumstances due to safeguards against the spread of the coronavirus: “The empty seats in our churches, particularly during the coronavirus epidemic, and the empty coffers in our households are nothing more or less than the empty nets of the fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is coming and urges us to believe his word and be not afraid.”

Msgr. Palić, referring to Jacob’s dream from the Book of Exodus, admitted that at the beginning of his ministry, as the pastor of the dioceses of Herzegovina he wanted to dream: “May we or can we dare to dream that one day the circumstances of ‘chance’ and ‘phenomenon’ will be transformed into a responsible reality, a new possibility for living God’s love and a new ‘kairos’ of the building of Christ’s kingdom?”

He extended his dream to encompass all of Bosnia and Herzegovina: “Like Jacob, I want to dream of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a country that unites, not divides, within which this diocese of ours has a fraught but proud history. I want to dream of a country in which there is room for every human being to have a dignified life. I want to dream of this country as a country of peace, harmony and concordant progress, without any extortion, pressure or threats, where might makes right does not prevail but rather mutual respect and understanding.”

These words do not represent a flight from realities and challenges, “just as Christ did not close his eyes and flee from the reality of the cross.” This is an opportunity for the public affirmation of the belief “that salvation is only given to the human race through Christ’s cross, and that our celebration, resurrection and ultimate victory over sin and evil are in the cross.” At the end of his sermon, Msgr. Palić said: “Therefore, ‘hosanna’ does not exalt me today, nor do I tremble before calls to “crucify him” tomorrow, as long as I live for Christ, who died and has risen, and as long as I cast nets at his word and act in a way that confounds human wisdom. Yes! We are ready, Lord, to cast our nets, despite divisions, fatigue, helplessness and disappointment, only because you have command us to do so! We want, O Lord, to cast our nets, not in order to enslave the other or restrict his freedom, but rather in order to invite him into your fellowship, in which you allow us to be better people. And we are certain that the nets will not break because you are with us, in the Eucharist and the fellowship that we live yesterday, today and until the end of the world.”

The Eucharist was followed by speeches. Cardinal Vinko Puljić, Archbishop of Vrhbosna (Sarajevo) and President of the Episcopal Conference o Bosnia and Herzegovina, addressed Bishop Emeritus Perić and the newly ordained Bishop Palić. He reminisced about the year 1961, when he first met Ratko Perić at the Interdiocesan Seminary in Zagreb, at an event in which his firm, penetrating and convincing voice came to the fore. “As it was then, so it is to this day.” Cardinal Puljić thanked Bishop Perić for his “testimony as a believer, priest and bishop,” and for the “joyful spreading of the Kingdom of God in these regions” through sermons, spiritual exercises, persuasion and lectures. They had cooperated together in the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina, sometimes expressing different views, “but we loved the Church and this people.”

Wishing him continued God’s blessings, Cardinal Puljić said to Bishop Perić: “May God, who knows what you have lived through and survived, and all the courage and faith you have shown, be your reward. I am convinced that you will have a creative retirement and that you, as a man of erudition, will radiate knowledge and achieve new works.” Cardinal Puljić also welcomed Bishop Perić’s successor, Bishop Palić, to the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina: “It is necessary for us to stride together and proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ. I recommend that the Church you are taking over accepts and works with you for the good of our Croatian people.”

Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar, President of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, spoke about the two bishops and congratulated them: “The Church among the Croats is grateful to God that the dioceses of Herzegovina were led during the turbulent times of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries by Msgr. Ratko Perić, who was not afraid to speak out about what disturbed or confounded him, both inside and outside the Church. Sharply critical of any type of intimidation, he was courageous in encounters with the powerful of this world, and keenly aware of manipulations in politics and the media.”

Bishop Emeritus Perić was “tormented by the fact that writing off God had entered a ‘program of human reasoning’ and that sin, immorality and corruption had ‘become civil rights.’” Archbishop Puljić especially thanked Msgr. Perić for “tirelessly repeating to listeners and readers that we must ‘travel through many misfortunes, and that our only salvation is in the cross.’” He then thanked Msgr. Perić’s successor, Msgr. Petar Palić, for the work he had done within the Croatian Conference of Bishops, and described the ministry of a bishop, who is not a private believer but rather a public witness to the faith, who is called “not only to bear witness and nurture what he believes but to judge and appropriately define what should be believed.”

He placed this mission within the context of the current times: “The times in which we live are not at all easy. Apostasy has taken over a part of the secularized world. Individuals are dropping away and distancing themselves from the faith. Some only choose the truths they like, Under such circumstances, the role of a bishop is to be a prophet and proclaim the whole truth of our holy faith, responsibly and courageously. As long as a good shepherd wholeheartedly seeks what is lost, he will not hesitate to expose the false anthropologies and seductive ideologies that spread half-truths about man and the world. With the same clarity and courage, he warns of the process of secularism that is creeping into the ranks of the Church.”

Vicar General Željko Majić spoke on behalf of the Church of Mostar-Duvno and Trebinje-Mrkan. He recalled 1992, when war had broken out, the suffering of the dioceses of Herzegovina, the Ordinariate and Bishop Pavao Žanić’s entreaties to the Holy Father to appoint a new bishop for Herzegovina. In Neum, inside the partially constructed Church of Our Lady of Health, on this date in 1992, Ratko Perić was ordained a bishop and appointed coadjutor to Bishop Pavao. One year later, he assumed administration of the diocese. Fr. Majić mentioned Bishop Perić’s renewal of the dioceses, sermons, tens of thousands of kilometers traveled for proclamation and preaching, the establishment of parishes, and his great contributions that should be researched and assessed.

Fr. Majić then welcomed Msgr. Palić on behalf of all the priests, religious and lay faithful: “The Church in Herzegovina receives you with a joyful heart. Therefore, this day is not a time of sorrow or weeping but rather of true joy that you have been given to us as a successor to the apostle in this church of ours.” In the dioceses of Herzegovina, there are 180,000 Catholics in 81 parishes, with over 200 active diocesan and religious priests. There are also two men’s religious communities and six women’s. All the church institutions, diocesan and religious, place themselves at the disposal of the new bishop. The priests offer him their helping hands and the new bishop will be accompanied by the prayers of the faithful.

The Provincial of the Franciscan Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Herzegovina, Fr. Dr. Miljenko Šteko, speaking about Bishop Emeritus Perić, said that they had “grown up in the same field” and “written the contemporary history of Herzegovina together.” He also admitted the following: “Although, to be honest, we did not always agree and could not have written it in unison, I can nevertheless testify, in the spirit of the ancient writer, to unity in important matters, freedom in uncertain matters, and love in everything.” He welcomed Msgr. Palić to rugged Herzegovina, a land that will be “a book of salvation from which you will read God’s will for yourself and for us.” On behalf of the Franciscans, Fr. Šteko expressed their readiness to work together upon God’s field, “in shared Christian hope, guided by mutual Christian love.”

Borislava Šarić, a mother of four children, accompanied by her children and husband, addressed Bishops Perić and Palić on behalf of the lay faithful in Herzegovina. She described Bishop Perić in a manner that indicated his impact on their lives: theologically ennobled, morally courageous and ecclesiastically lucid. “Every day of your ministry was imbued with the motto ‘Through Our Many Afflictions,’ to which you remained steadfast to the end.” She particularly requested the newly ordained Bishop Palić to provide leadership to families and the young. “The people here expect much, and we lay faithful place ourselves completely at your disposal.”

At the end of the Mass, Msgr. Petar Palić expressed gratitude to all the participants in his episcopal path and today’s celebration: the Triune God, the Holy Father who appointed him to his new ministry, Bishop Ratko Perić as his predecessor in the episcopal ministry of Mostar, his fellow bishops in both bishops’ conferences, priests, religious, theologians, seminarians, all the faithful, family and friends. He also thanked the representatives of the secular authorities from the Republic of Croatia and the Republic Bosnia and Herzegovina for their participation in the Eucharist, particularly Prime Minister Andrej Plenković of Croatia, whom he thanked for everything he has done for the Croatian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressing confidence that “in the future as well, there will be no lack of support from the Government of the Republic of Croatia for the protection of the interests of the Croatian nation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Participants in the celebration also included representatives of other religious communities, academic and cultural life, as well as many viewers and listeners via television and radio.

After assuming the office of the Ordinary in Mostar, Msgr. Palić will remain the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Hvar, which he has led as the Ordinary since late April 2018. The decree given to him by Pope Francis via the Congregation for Bishops appoints Msgr. Petar Palić as the Apostolic Administrator sede vacante of the Diocese of Hvar, “from today’s date until the appointed bishop takes canonical possession of the diocese. According to this decree, signed by the Prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Mark Ouellet, Msgr. Palić has the rights, authorities and obligations of a diocesan bishop in the Diocese of Hvar.