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Press Conference on the Joint Session of the Croatian Conference of Bishops and the Bishops' Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo (IKA/KTA )

Commenting on the issue of the ratification of the Istanbul Convention in Croatia, Archbishop Puljić noted that the bishops do not accept some of the views expressed in the Convention but "wholeheartedly" support other parts relating to the protection of the vulnerable, the prevention of manipulation and exploitation, particularly women and children, but also every person.

Sarajevo, (IKA/KTA) – On Wednesday, March 14, at the Priests’ Residence of the Archdiocese of Vrbosna in Sarajevo, a press conference was held on the Twentieth Regular Joint Session of the members of the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Croatian Conference of Bishops, which was held that day at the Archdiocesan Residence in the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The speakers were the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Metropolitan Archbishop Cardinal Vinko Puljić of Vrhbosna; and the President of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar.
Addressing the assembled journalists, Cardinal Puljić explained that the joint session of the two bishops’ conferences is held once a year, alternately in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He said that topics of common interest were traditionally discussed at these gatherings, such as the Croatia congregations in other countries or the shared responsibilities concerning the Pontifical Croatian College of Saint Jerome in Rome. He said that one of the topics discussed was the recently concluded Week of Solidarity and Unity with the Church and People in Bosnia and Herzegovina, during which the Church in Croatia provided support to the Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He mentioned that one of the topics they discussed together was martyrology, i.e., the compilation of a list of the martyrs killed during the Second World War or the postwar period due to hatred of the faith. Among the other topics at the session, he mentioned a discussion on the basic document for the formation of future priests, Ratio fundamentalis, and that the two bishops’ conferences are connected by the same linguistic territory in the liturgy.
Archbishop Želimir Puljić told the journalists that this joint gathering is also of a spiritual nature “because we, as the pastors of individual local Churches, are speaking openly about our current plans, difficulties and activities, and when you share your troubles and problems with your brother, it’s much easier for you.” Referring to the remarks by Cardinal Puljić about the topics of this year’s gathering, he added that the members of the two bishops’ conferences like to come to Sarajevo, to visit “our brothers with whom we share our common concerns.” He greeted the representatives of the media and expressed his pleasure at being able to inform them about this session so that they can inform others.
When asked to comment on the issue of the ratification of the Istanbul Convention in Croatia, Archbishop Puljić said that on two occasions the bishops had already spoken about the subject of gender ideology, which, as he said, is in the background of the Istanbul Convention, and noted that the bishops had issued a letter, Male and Female, He Created Them, which he said contained the clearly critical position of the Church concerning this ideology. He mentioned that the bishops had recently also issued a letter that refers to this, and in which it is clearly stated that the bishops do not accept some of the views expressed in the Convention but “wholeheartedly” support other parts of the Convention that refer to the protection of the vulnerable, and the prevention of the manipulation and exploitation of women, children and every person.
When asked whether he was disappointed because there had not been significant response from the domestic and international political representations to the statement in the media by the President of the Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, regarding Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka, Cardinal Puljić answered that politics “was too occupied with itself, too little concerned with the person,” and expressed sorrow that such public statements create an “unhealthy climate.” He said that it cannot be denied that 90% of the Catholics who formerly lived in the Republika Srpska are no longer there.
When requested to speak about the problem of emigration, which affects both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, Archbishop Puljić je said that this is a also a problem in other countries, particularly the ones that were previously under the communist system. In this connection, he said that according to some sources, the number of those who migrated from the East to the West since the fall of communism could be 23 million, and expressed the opinion that such migrations are not always of an economic nature. He agreed that people need help and said that he congratulated the bishops of the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who constantly encourage the people to remain. He expressed the opinion that the media should likewise instill confidence, hope and optimism.
Speaking on the same topic, Cardinal Puljić added that many are not leaving due to unemployment but that persons who have jobs are leaving because they are “tired of the tense situation of injustice and inequality in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” He also said that Europe prefers having a source of cheap labor from these territories rather than creating conditions through investment so that that the people would not feel compelled to leave. He expressed concern that the exodus of people could planned, thereby completing “what the war did not accomplish.” He added that the meeting between the two bishops’ conferences provides the local bishops with encouragement not to give up.

When asked how important it was for the Church in Croatia to support the Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Archbishop Želimir Puljić responded that genuine cooperation exists, which is not merely formal, and that the Croatian bishops gladly attend these meetings and do not intend to stop providing support.
In reference to the announced scientific-professional meeting that will be held these days in Neum under the sponsorship of a member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dragan Čović, Cardinal Puljić was asked to comment whether the “solution of the Croatian question” will be concluded without Croats from Posavina, Sarajevo and other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina where Croats are not a majority. He answered that since this meeting is of a scientific nature, all the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be represented. Speaking further about the search for a solution, he said that it is necessary to be correct here. “And those who designed such a Bosnia and Herzegovina according to Dayton, and those who received privileges, should be honest and want the same things for the other nations that they want for their own,” said Cardinal Puljić.

Asked whether it is possible to speak about concern for the safety of Bishop Komarica, since this was not the first public attack against him, Cardinal Puljić said that it is clear that “politics is capable of terrible things” but that he is convinced that nothing will happen because Bishop Komarica is a world recognized figure who means a lot to everyone.
One of the questions referred to Croatian martyrology, especially the difficulties encountered in collecting data, which are of an ideological nature. Cardinal Puljić said that there were two problems: the lack of witnesses, since many have already died by now, as well as with the data collected. He emphasized that whether the murders were committed out of hatred of the faith is being investigated but is not a matter of ideology, and added that it is too early to speak about the number of victims.