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Bosnia Herzegovina

 

 ACN Project of the Week – Bosnia-Herzegovina – Construction

05.06.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Bosnia Herzegovina, Eastern Europe, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN

 ACN Project of the Week – Bosnia-Herzegovina – Construction

By ACN International
Published on-line, June 5, 2019

Bosnia-Herzegovina

The St John Paul II Youth Pastoral Center: a tremendous success!

In 2015, the Pope John Paul II Youth Pastoral Centre was first established in Sarajevo, the capital of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is open to all young people, without distinction as to faith or ethnic origin. It was formally blessed by Pope Saint John Paul II, for whom young people were especially important and who introduced many lasting initiatives for the young, most notably of course, the World Youth Days.


The centre has been a great success. Every year around 10,000 young people aged 10 and over have taken part in the pastoral meetings, training sessions and leisure activities held there. The slogan of the centre is “Encounter and Reconciliation – Shaping Peace and a Future Together.” The centre has 20 full-time staff, working together with around 300 volunteers on the many pastoral activities offered. The foundation of the centre was supported by ACN with a contribution of 750,000 dollars.

A fragile Church

The young people who become involved with the Saint John Paul II centre are often also very active in their own home parishes, further proof that it is possible to live together peaceably in this country, to find work, establish a family and build up a happy life. Part of the goal is also to promote interaction and cooperation among all the different ethnic groups and religions in the country, thereby building bridges for a peaceful future. Such youth work is especially important, not only for a better future but also for the survival of the Church herself.

For as a result of the war in Bosnia (from 1992 to 1995) around half of all the 500,000 Catholic Croats living there were either expelled or voluntarily emigrated. Even today, around 10,000 people are leaving the country each year, among them many Catholics, because they find themselves discriminated against in the workplace, the schools and social life generally and can therefore see little future for themselves. But those young people who are deeply involved in their parish life tend to stay on and have faith in the future.

Now, however, the capacity of the centre in Sarajevo is not enough to cope with the high demand, and so a new centre has been opened in northern Bosnia, as a sort of branch centre. It can offer overnight accommodation to up to 10 people and likewise offers a wide range of activities, including such things as seminars for youth group leaders, interfaith and ecumenical initiatives and many more things besides. The grounds of the centre also have a farm, with animals and an orchard where the young people can work. The centre is already up and running, but there are still a number of finishing touches remaining to be done, especially in the bathrooms and toilet blocks.

Additionally, there is a plan to set up a sort of outdoor stage, with seating for open-air performances and the like. ACN is proposing to help with a contribution of $30,000, so that the work on the centre can be quickly completed.

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN’s Interview – Sever discrimination in the heart of Europe

26.04.2018 in ACN International, ACN Interview, Bosnia Herzegovina, by Tobias Lehner, Discrimination, EU, Europe, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Violence against Christians

Bosnia and Herzegovina

“Open war against the Catholic Church”

 

The guns have been silent in Bosnia and Herzegovina for 23 years. However, according to Bishop Franjo Komarica, the country is like a powder keg. Head of the diocese of Banja Luka in the northern part of the country, the 72-year-old does not believe in beating about the bush, particularly when the discussion turns to the Catholic Croat minority. He believes that Catholic Croats are still being kept from returning and that they are disadvantaged economically, socially and religiously. He is making serious charges against the governments of Europe: they are turning a blind eye to the religious discrimination.

 

In an interview with Tobias Lehner during a visit to the headquarters of the pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Germany, Bishop Komarica discusses why a growing number of Catholics are leaving the country, but how, in spite of everything, the church is living reconciliation.

Bishop Franjo Komarica, bishop of the diocese of Banja Luka (Bosnia and Herzegovina), in visit the Headquarter of Aid to the Church in Need, Germany. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tobias Lehner: Bishop Komarica, the Bosnian War officially came to an end in 1995 with the signing of the Dayton Accords. But how are things really?

Bishop Franjo Komarica: The guns may be silent, but the war continues in other arenas. “Controlled chaos” reigns in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is my impression that neither the government nor the international community is interested in building up a constitutional state that guarantees equal rights to all ethnic groups and human rights also for minorities. Bosnia and Herzegovina are effectively still a semi-protectorate of the United Nations. A part of the state authority is exercised by a “High Commissioner” (since 2009, Austrian native Valentin Inzko; editor’s note). But he claims that his hands are tied in terms of the political developments in the country. The country remains divided into three ethnic groups: Croats, Serbs and Bosnians. The smallest of the ethnic groups, the vast majority of Croats are Catholic. They lean more towards Europe. The Serbs, most of them Orthodox, are very much under the influence of Russia. And the Muslim Bosnians are turning more and more towards Turkey and the Islamic world. This gives rise to dangerous centrifugal forces. And that is not only damaging to the country, but also to Europe!

 

What do you mean by this?

The hostilities between the Serbian and Bosnian people are purposefully being kept alive by forces outside of the country. The country continues to be a powder keg! And the Croats are caught in between. Hundreds of thousands of them were displaced during the war, and today, more than twenty years after the fact, they still cannot return, even though the Dayton Accords guarantee them the right to return. The opposite has happened: many are still leaving for other countries. The Conference of Bishops has repeatedly asked for the Dayton Accords to be amended to give the Croat minority more security. They have yet to be accorded equality.

 

Why is the Catholic minority receiving unequal treatment?

The Croats are not being treated as a constitutive ethnic group in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many foreign governments also recognize only two ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina: the Serbs and the Bosnians. This has grave consequences, as is shown by the example of the Republika Srbska (the Republika Srbska was established by the Dayton Accords as the “second entity” of the federal state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and is made up of extensive areas of land in the northern and eastern parts of the country; editor’s note). Only about five per cent of the Catholics who once lived in the 69 parishes that existed in this region before the war have returned. In other parts of the country, Catholics are still leaving. The Croats receive neither political, nor legal, nor financial support. It is almost impossible for them to rebuild their homes or find work. They are the subjects of systemic discrimination. This is badly damaging the entire country. The other religions agree, by the way. I recently talked with the Grand Mufti of Bosnia. He also says: “It is imperative that the Croats remain here!”

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Financial support for pastoral activities of the archiepiscopal youth ministry Ivan Pavao II in Sarajevo.

 

The highest-ranking Muslim in the country thus recognizes the problem. Do his brothers and sisters in faith do so as well? It is currently being reported that the Muslims are becoming radicalized in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well…

Yes, this development does exist. But the threat to our very existence is even worse than the religious discrimination. To be explicit: we can maintain our faith even during persecution – and we have done so. But when the Catholics have no right to their homeland and to their property, this is even more destructive. One example: the mayor of one town in my diocese said to me, “You may not build a church here.” Even though a Catholic parish had been located there before the war! He did not have the right to do so, because religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. And so I lodged a protest. But it was turned down by the next highest authority as well. Finally, I went to the representative of OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, responsible for coordinating the reconstruction process; editor’s note). He said to me, “Bishop, I forbid you to build a church!” I showed him pictures of the old parish church as well as a picture of its priest who was murdered during the war. He neither apologized, nor approved the church-building project. This is an open war against the Catholic Church. I was repeatedly told, “You Catholics need to get out of this country!”

 

Outside of the country, little is known about the dire circumstances of the Catholics in Bosnia and Herzegovina. What are they asking the international community to do?

Politicians need to finally acknowledge what is happening and condemn the severe discrimination that is taking place right in the middle of Europe. This is particularly true for the Christians. I expect anyone who is serious about their faith to support the disenfranchised people of my homeland – in word and deed. Our appeals have not been heard up until this point. And there have been so many of them! Quo vadis, Europe? Quo vadis, Christianity in Europe? If we just look the other way and tolerate this kind of development on our own doorstep, how do we want to help other people understand our Christian values?

 

So much hate and discord has been sown in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In spite of all of this, what can the Catholic Church do to reunite the society?

We Catholics are the oldest community of faith in the country. We feel it is our duty to help our homeland restore a just and permanent peace! Most of our reconciliation work is carried out through our social services and education, particularly our Catholic schools. And that despite being punished politically for our commitment! That is why I am so grateful to Catholic charities such as Aid to the Church in Need, because they draw attention to our circumstances and support us. I will continue to give voice to the truth, even though I have already been physically assaulted because of it. Our opponents will win if we remain silent!

Bosnia and Herzegovina: diocese of Banja Luka. ACN supported this activity for young people in the diocese.

 

The worldwide pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need has been helping Catholics in Bosnia and Herzegovina for more than three decades. Most of the aid it has provided has been used to rebuild churches, convents and monasteries that were destroyed during the war and renovate a seminary. ACN also provides funding for the acquisition of vehicles for pastoral care, the development of pastoral centres, the training of priests and religious and for subsistence aid for contemplative orders. Church youth and press work are also among the projects it supports.

 

 

 


 

Bosnia – Two professions in the life of the Croat religious sister Marija Bešker

23.03.2018 in ACN International, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Bosnia Herzegovina, Catholic Religious Sisters, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Josip Vajdner, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Karla Sponar, SUBSISTENCE

Bosnia

The more people give, the greater their contentment

 

“She is stronger than Tito,” a doctor at the Trauma Surgery Unit of the Clinical Centre of the University of Sarajevo says. She is quick to retort, “Of course! President Tito is long dead and I – thank the Lord – am very much alive.” Marija Bešker grew up in a family of 14. She spent most of her life at the hospital after she had already chosen her first profession. That came about suddenly. “My aunt was already a religious sister. When I was small, my uncle used to say to me that I could be her Mother Superior one day. I definitely did not want that. But once when I was visiting my aunt in Bijelo Polje, I saw beautiful flowers everywhere. I was so taken by the gardens. On that day, I had to admit to myself that there was a definite possibility that I would one day become a religious sister.”

 

She took her decision at the age of 14 and joined the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King in the Croatian province near Mostar, in the Herzegovina region. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has supported this religious order on a number of occasions. Although the principal duty of this religious congregation was the care of orphans, the sisters were not allowed to run a kindergarten or orphanage, much less work in a school, during the reign of the Communist regime in Yugoslavia. This meant that she was forced to choose a different profession, and so she became a nurse.

The Croatian sister Marija Bešker from Bosnia. She took her decision at the age of 14 and joined the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King in the Croatian province near Mostar in the Herzegovina region. Today she is matron in charge of the fourth ward of the Trauma Surgery Unit of the Clinical Centre of the University of Sarajevo. “The more people dedicate themselves to others, the greater their contentment and happiness.”

 

Holding out in Sarajevo, even during the war

 

“You can neither buy nor learn true standing. It has something to do with an honest attitude towards life, a professional attitude towards work and more than anything else: a love for humanity,” the 61-year-old is convinced. She professed her vows in 1980. Three years before the Iron Curtain fell, Sister Marija moved to Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia-Herzegovina. She had been offered a place in the picturesque city of Dubrovnik, a city of fine arts and poets on the Croatian coast. However, she remained in Bosnia, even when war broke out in the region shortly thereafter. She recalls that it became necessary to bear the “reality of evil”. “However, I came away from the war years with something positive. Even during the worst battles, our medical staff never made a difference between saving a Croat, Serb or Muslim.”

 

A way to make proper use of time

 

When asked about her work, she emphasizes, “It is not enough to have completed medical training. You need to have the proper attitude: you need to understand that it is a calling.” This attitude has helped her to advance – today she is matron in charge of the fourth ward of the Trauma Surgery Unit. She has never encountered any problems at work due to the fact that she belongs to a Catholic order. “All of my colleagues treat me with utmost respect.” However, that alone is not enough. “When I have to go to a doctor to ask him for something, I pray inwardly, ‘Think of me, merciful Madonna, so that he is in a good mood and will do me this favour’.” After her work is done for the day, Sister Marija visits patients who are going through difficult times in a society that is still processing the trauma of war – socially, economically and psychologically.

 

Her wish to have a beautiful garden like the one she saw on the day she visited her aunt has come true. “When the flowers in the garden are blooming, all tiredness just falls away,” Sister Marija describes. For her, prayer is the most important part of religious life, both shared as well as private. “From older fellow sisters I learned that the day would come when we would be held responsible for lost time.” Sister Marija smiles almost mischievously. She radiates that of which she speaks. “The more people dedicate themselves to others, the greater their contentment and happiness.”

Sister Marija Bešker in front of the hospital where she work. 

 

In 2017, Aid to the Church in Need donated approximately $120,800 to a number of communities of religious sisters in Bosnia-Herzegovina for subsistence aid, pastoral work and transportation.

 

 

 

 


 

Catholics in Eastern Europe : their presence is essential

02.02.2018 in ACN International, Bosnia Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Eastern Europe, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Karla Sponar

Catholics in Eastern Europe:

in great demand, when state and society offer few prospects

 

Who is still  paying attention to the Catholic Church in Eastern Europe. However, in many countries its situation continues to be difficult, at times oppressive and its commitment is often decisive in enabling coexistence. This came to the fore once more during the 23rd meeting of Catholic aid organizations for Eastern Europe that took place at the main office of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) near Frankfurt am Main. The meeting primarily focused on reports from south-east Europe, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, as well as the Czech Republic.

The contested eastern parts of the Ukraine continue to be the area that is in greatest need, with fatalities still being reported every single day. Remarkably enough, this has strengthened the solidarity of Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox in the troubled regions, as the director of the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Tetiana Stawnychy, described during an informal talk.

A child in a church in Albania

The churches in Albania and Kosovo are among the poorest local Catholic churches in Eastern Europe. Catholics in Bosnia and Serbia are, moreover, in a difficult situation: the reality of life as a minority shapes the everyday life of believers. Pastoral offers are especially important for younger parish members, also because few have even begun to process the events that occurred during the Balkan Wars in the 1990s. Next to the economic problems, these are additional reasons why thousands continue to emigrate from these areas year after year.

 

Ray of hope in a beleaguered atmosphere

 

Initiatives of the churches are even more desperately needed in those areas where there is little public or state support for the work of reconciliation. At times, they are the only ray of hope in a beleaguered atmosphere. “We must therefore continue to strengthen local missionary work, which includes interfaith dialogue, reconciliation among the peoples and sociocultural education – also to ensure that radical Islam does not spread,” emphasized the spiritual assistant of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need, Father Martin Barta, in reference to the ex-Soviet countries in Central Asia.

Securing the material needs of priests and religious in old age is an important topic, particularly in the Balkans, where the Catholic Church is in the minority. Representatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania discussed solutions as part of the initiative “Piccolo Gregge” started by bishops from these regions, in order to be able to guarantee priests and religious at least basic health insurance and a minimal pension.

In addition to the above-mentioned aid organizations, the meeting was also attended by participants from the Conference of Catholic Bishops from Italy, Poland and the United States as well as the Porticus Foundation. All hope that a possible visit from the pope to the Baltic states will create additional impetus for the churches in eastern Europe.

Kosovo, March 2013
All the baptised after the ceremony in the cathedral of mother Teresa in Pristina.

Feature Story – Bosnia: The impact of the Sister’s love in an orphanage

29.08.2016 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Bosnia Herzegovina, By Rolf Bauerdick, Feature Story, FORMATION, Religious formation, Sisters

Bosnia

“We are here for the children that need us.”

When Katarina leafs through the photo albums from the last two decades with Sisters Admirata and Manda, her joy is tinged by melancholy. The photographs keep memories of Katarina’s happy childhood days alive.

However, the realization that the sheltered days of her youth will soon be over is ever present. Katarina is the oldest child at the “Egipat House” orphanage  belonging to the Sisters Servants of the Child Jesus.

Her parents were refugees during the Bosnian war.  Uprooted, psychologically ill and no longer able to manage day-to-day life. They did not take care of Katarina and her older brother Stipo and left them with their grandmother. “The old lady was completely overwhelmed by the task of raising them,” Sister Admirata recalls, “and so we took the siblings in here.” Katarina was two years old when she came to live with the nuns. Now she is nineteen and getting ready to leave her familiar home. “I am a little nervous about how life will be outside of the home,” she says. Sister Admirata reassures her charge. She knows “Katarina is well-equipped for the grown-up world.”

 

A painting of Mgr. Josip Stadler (1843 – 1918). He's the founder of the orphanage and the Congregation. In addition, he was consider by many as « father of the poors » in his country.

A painting of Msgr. Josip Stadler (1843 -1918),  Considered by many in his country as ” Father of the poor.”

Admirata Lučić is the provincial superior of the religious order, which runs an orphanage and a kindergarten at its convent in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo. In the hall, hangs a life-sized painting commemorating Archbishop Josip Stadler (1843 – 1918), to whom the convent owes its existence and its spiritual foundation. Josip Stadler not only founded the religious order in 1890, but also made himself the advocate of neglected children in need by founding exemplary orphanages. At the time, the Sisters chose to give their convent the name “Egypt” to recall the flight of the Infant Jesus from the tyrant, Herod.

 

Today, the Sisters can look back on a history that was both rich in blessings, but also tempestuous, and one which, completely in contradiction to the benign spirit of Josip Stadler, was also quite often shaped by destruction and hatred. The order was expropriated in 1949 under the dictatorship of the Communist party in the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. The convent building was confiscated, the children taken away from the nuns and placed in state-run facilities. “Faith no longer played a role in their upbringing,” Sister Admirata says. “You were no longer allowed to speak to the children of and about God.”In 1992, at the beginning of the Bosnian War, the Serbian military bombed the building into the ground. But, it rose again from out of the ruins.

 

Finding solutions together

Admirata and her twelve sister nuns, who are assisted in their everyday lives by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), are happy to have founded the first post-war orphanage in Bosnia in 1999 where today, 55 boys and girls attend kindergarten, while 19 children live full-time at the orphanage. Children who have lost their parents, or whose father and mother are unable to exercise their parental responsibility, have found in this place a home. Sister Admirata says, “However, we do put great stock in the fact that our kindergarten children not only come from difficult social environments, but also from intact backgrounds. We also have children of diplomats as well as from of middle-class families here.”

 

Katarina’s brother Stipo has already left the orphanage. He trained to become an auto mechanic and is now working for a church agricultural project in the Čardak region. After nine years of schooling, Katarina has also completed training to become a sales assistant and window dresser. “I hope to find a good job.” Her chances of finding work are good. The nuns are currently helping the young woman find an affordable place to live in Sarajevo, which is no easy task. However, Admirata exudes confidence, “we will find a solution together.”

 

Melissa, seven years old, and her brother Omer, eight years old. They are Muslims. In their work, the Sisters are helping and welcoming anyone who needs help, whit no limits about the confessions, like their founder tought.

Seven-year-old Melissa, and her eight-year-old brother Omer are Muslims. The Sisters welcome anyone who needs help, setting no limits on religious confession or background: exactly as did their founder.

Two Muslim children are new arrivals at the orphanage: seven-year-old Melissa and her brother Omer, who is one year older. Their mother moved away, leaving the two alone. Their father took another wife. Their siblings remained behind with their grandfather. Overwhelmed by the task of raising them, the old man went to the Servants of the Infant Jesus for help. His request was not in vain for today Omer and Melissa are attending first grade at the Catholic primary school and are flourishing in terms of their development. By accepting Muslim as well as Orthodox children at “Egipat House”, the Sisters are acting in full accordance with the philosophy upon which their order was founded. Josip Stadler was esteemed as the “Father of the Poor” by people of all religions and denominations. The Servants of the Infant Jesus also do not divide up the children by religious affiliation. “We are here for the children that need us,” Sister Admirata says.

 

Epilogue

Two days after speaking with them, the children and the Sisters are all in attendance at the ordination celebration to the priesthood of eight young men at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Sarajevo. None can hide their joy, for they already knew some of these young men as seminarians.

 

June 2016: children are learning by playing and being love. This can happen because the Sisters receive a formation based on the Gospel. Thanks to you.

June 2016: children are learning through play and through the gift of love. This can only happen because the Sisters receive a formation based on the Gospel. And thanks to you!

 

Aid to the Church in Need supports the Sisters of the Servants of the Infant Jesus in the training of their novices. Last year, help was also given for the renovations of two convents that had suffered severe damage during  flooding in Bosnia.

 

By Rolf Bauerdick, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)
Adaptation by Amanda Bridget Griffin 

 


 

ACN Project of the Week – Sarajevo

18.05.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Bosnia Herzegovina, SEMINARIANS, Uncategorized

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Help for the training in Sarajevo

The Bosnian war raged from 1992 to 1995 and at that time approximately half the Catholic Croats in the country were forced to leave and seek refuge abroad. Today, there are only around 450,000 Catholics still living in the country.

 

While it is true that, at 15%, they make up the third-largest group, in this majority Muslim country they are discriminated against in many ways. This is preventing many of the families who fled during war-time from actually returning to their former true homes.

Catholic Church is playing an important role in spite of the difficult situation they are faced with. In fact, their presence is more important than it ever has been in Sarajevo to assist in the process of reconciliation and healing after the war, since there are still many open and painful wounds in society. The Church is very active and lively –the evidence of which can be found in the heartening number of vocations.

 

Des jeunes de l'archidiocèse de Sarajevo témoignes à leur foi en 2011

Youth from the diocese of Sarajevo testifying to their faith in 2011

In the seminary in the Archdiocese of Sarajevo there are 44 young men training for the priesthood. They have come from all three dioceses in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as from Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo. However this seminary is dependent on outside support in order to fund the training of these future priests for the running costs are high and the Church in this country, as in many others,  is still greatly dependent on outside support. Many churches and other Church properties were destroyed during the war and so there are many churches, presbyteries and religious houses that have had to be rebuilt at considerable cost.

 

 ACN-Bosnia

 

 

Although the seminary does everything it possibly can to cut down on costs and, for example, the seminarians themselves do many of the smaller renovations and repairs on the building, it is in urgent need of help.

 

donateACN is helping for the training of the 44 seminarians in the current academic year, with a contribution of $1,305 CAN per seminarian – or, with a grand total of $57,420 CAN.

 

 


 

 

 

Bosnia-Herzegovina Five young people’s expectations for the Pope’s visit 5th story

05.06.2015 in Bosnia Herzegovina, Pope Francis

Bosnia-Herzegovina 

Five young people’s expectations for the Pope’s visit

Twenty years after the end of the civil war here, Bosnia’s young people are looking forward to the Pope’s visit this coming Saturday, June 6.  Starting today and through to Friday, we would like to offer you five of their stories expressing their enthusiasm as they await the Holy Father’s visit to their homeland, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

5th story

Portrait of Suzana Katava, one of the young people who are activSuzana Katava,

An individual has to start with himself, change himself for the better and give this change as an example to others. Therefore, I am sure Pope Francis will be an inspiration for changes that are all very much needed, but also I hope he will bring beauty, radiance and peace, so we can drive away the sins that separate us always and all over again, and I hope this visit will help people to turn their thoughts and hearts towards God and towards prayer.

As a theologian and above all as a volunteer who follows the example and work of Mother Theresa, I am ready both spiritually and physically to welcome a great man who spoke these words about volunteers: Kindness can offer much more than money, who often disappoints all those who give their trust to power, fame and money. Kindness is, by default, a reward and this reward always leads us toward God.

Because of that, thank you for your words of encouragement and welcome to the Pope!

Neville's trip to Lebanon 2014

Bosnia-Herzegovina Five young people’s expectations for the Pope’s visit – 4th story

04.06.2015 in Bosnia Herzegovina, Peace, Pope Francis, Poverty, Uncategorized

Bosnia-Herzegovina 

Five young people’s expectations for the Pope’s visit

Twenty years after the end of the civil war here, Bosnia’s young people are looking forward to the Pope’s visit this coming Saturday, June 6.  Starting today and through to Friday, we would like to offer you five of their stories expressing their enthusiasm as they await the Holy Father’s visit to their homeland, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

4th story

Ana Uložnik,

Neville's trip to Lebanon 2014It is true. I am very far away – thousands of kilometers away from my beloved Sarajevo.  I will not be able to meet Pope Francis in person.  But I will be there in spirit and in prayer, and in the company of my sisters Liberija and Mirjam.

From a faraway Haiti, we are closely following the preparations and events leading up to the Pope’s visit to Sarajevo, fully supporting this visit through our humble prayers and sacrifices for all to unfold as it should.

I consider the Pope’s visit to be an example of a father’s attention for his children in a poor Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Through this visit, he wishes to bring encouragement and support to his children.  It is well known that Pope Francis devoted his life to the service of the poor, earlier as a cardinal and today as Pope.  I am happy because we can see and have the experience through this Pope of the veritable attention God gives to us and to our people.

My most precious memory is when I walked along the streets of my poor Sarajevo; I remember the Servants of God, Josip Stadler, the first archbishop of Vrhbosna and the founder of the “Servants of the Child Jesus.” This order was devoted to and worked for the poor and needy in Sarajevo in order to alleviate the suffering and allow these people to live their lives in dignity and I the hope of a better future.

Our Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina are not only surrounded by material poverty, but she also was affected by other forms of material and moral poverty: relationships between people, high rates of unemployment among the young, isolation and solitude especially among the elderly – a desperate loss of meaning, an ever-growing number of socially vulnerable children and abandoned children; broken families, a lack of sympathy and support.

Thanks to the upcoming papal visit to Sarajevo, we can see that the Pope has acknowledged all our forms of poverty and that is why he is coming to encourage us and finally to call for a stronger inter-religious cooperation so that everyone here, in our magnificent Bosnia-Herzegovina, might live a dignified life.

Bosnia-Herzegovina – Five young people’s expectations for the Pope’s visit

02.06.2015 in ACN Canada, Bosnia Herzegovina, Pope Francis, Uncategorized

Bosnia-Herzegovina 

Five young people’s expectations for the Pope’s visit

Twenty years after the end of the civil war here, Bosnia’s young people are looking forward to the Pope’s visit this coming Saturday, June 6.  Starting today and through to Friday, we would like to offer you five of their stories expressing their enthusiasm as they await the Holy Father’s visit to their homeland, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

 

Portrait of Antonio Topalovic, one of the young people who are aAntonio Topalovic

Antonio has great hopes for the papal visit to Sarajevo. He believes that “this meeting will bring back hope,” and adds: “Hope, as one of the foundations of human society, is slowly losing ground in our country. More and more young people are leaving the country in search of happiness, and they are leaving their families and friends behind because they believe that everything will be better then.”

The Pope has said, “Do not fear, life is before you. Do not let your hope be stolen from you.” To Antonio, this means that “our life is right here, with all its crosses and difficulties, with all the pain, but at the same time with a sense of inner happiness. Life is worth living, and we can achieve great things.”

He also sees the Pope’s visit as an opportunity to show the world, and at the same time to show themselves, that there are “great people living in Bosnia, people who believe.”

 

Portrait of Mandalena Trgovčević, one of the young peoMandalena Trgovčević

Mandalena, one of these young people, sees the pope’s visit as a message from the young people of Bosnia to the world and to the people in their own land. She says, “Let us show the world, and let us show Bosnia and Herzegovina how strong we are! Let us follow the footsteps of peace, with smiles on our faces and with love in our hearts. Let us welcome this man who believes in us, let us draw strength from this historic event – strength for the future, for new challenges and for the battle against hopelessness, and so that we can have a bright future in this country. Let us draw the strength to proclaim Christ, to love the Church and to respect other people.”

Bosnia – “Let us show the world how strong we are!”

13.05.2015 in ACN International, Bosnia Herzegovina, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Uncategorized

Bosnia

“Let us show the world how strong we are!”

 

Twenty years after the end of the civil war here, Bosnia’s young people are looking forward to the Pope’s visit

 

Neville's trip to Lebanon 2014“Bosnia? What was all that about, then?” Many people are surprised to hear that Pope Francis is due to pay the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo a brief 11-hour visit on 6 June this year.

 

It is has been 20 years now since the civil war which cost 243,000 human lives and forced over 2 million people from their homes. Two decades have not been enough to heal the deep wounds that the war has left behind. Yet, 20 years has been long enough for the people living there to have the feeling that they have been forgotten. When Pope Francis announced his visit, he said, “I ask you all for your prayers, that my visit may be an encouragement for the Catholics, a leaven for the good and a contribution towards greater fraternal harmony and peace. And also for interreligious dialogue and for friendship.”

 

“Encounter, Reconciliation – Shaping a Future in Peace together”

This encouragement is something that the Catholic citizens of the country most urgently need. The bishops of the country – above all Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo and Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka, who is also the chairman of the bishops’ conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina – have never ceased to raise their voices on their behalf. For the Catholics of the country, who belong overwhelmingly to the Croat minority, have no lobby to speak for them – neither in the government of this majority Muslim entity, nor in the international political community. So it is that Bishop Komarica is constantly protesting at the fact that the Catholic Croats scarcely see a cent of all the EU aid money that is designated for the returning war refugees. Similarly, in the world of work, people with Croatian names often find themselves discriminated against, with the result that even among those who stayed on in the country during the war there are many who can now see no other alternative than to try their luck abroad. According to information from the Catholic Church in the country, out of the 835,000 or so Catholics who once lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina prior to the war between 1992 and 1995, only around 440,000 are now still resident in the country.

BOSNIA HERZEGOVINA-/ Vhrbosna 13/1136 Financial support for the

And yet the Church is very much alive. The fact that many young people in particular are so involved is something that the Church in Bosnia-Herzegovina owes above all to the intensive youth work in the archdiocese of Sarajevo. It is here that a youth centre is being built that will be named after Pope Saint John Paul II. This centre – the construction of which ACN has supported with $675,000 – is open to all the ethnic groups in the country and will also be used for international gatherings. “Europe will come together here!” says Father Simo Marsic enthusiastically. He is the youth pastor for the archdiocese of Sarajevo and also the director of the centre.

 

“This centre will be an open window on other religions and denominations and on other ways of thinking and living. In this way we can learn and live the art of tolerant and peaceful coexistence,” he adds. In practical terms this will be achieved through pastoral meetings, training sessions and leisure activities in which individuals and groups from all over the country will be free to participate. The centre will also offer overnight accommodation, so that gatherings of several days can take place. Its motto is:  “Encounter, Reconciliation – Shaping a Future in Peace together.”

 

Father Marsic is particularly pleased that Pope Francis has chosen this new centre as the place to meet with the young people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. But the most excited of all are the young people themselves. Mandalena, one of these young people, sees the papal visit as a message from the young people of Bosnia to the world and to the people in their own land. She says, “Let us show the world, let us show Bosnia and Herzegovina how strong we are! Let us follow the footsteps of peace, with a smile on our faces and with love in our hearts. Let us welcome this man who believes in us, let us draw strength from this historic event – strength for the future, for new challenges and for the battle against hopelessness, and so that we can have a bright future in this country. Let us draw the strength to proclaim Christ, to love the Church and to respect other people.”

 

Portrait of ć, one of the young people who aValentina, one of the youth group leaders, says of the forthcoming papal visit, “This event will mark the month of June, will mark this year, this decade and our own hearts, thoughts and feelings. It is an opportunity for us all to make our contribution to this community and to this Church.” It is, she adds, “a chance for us to listen to what this gentle and modest man, the Peter of our times, has to say to us”. It is also a chance for her personally, as a group leader, to awaken in herself “the spirit of peace, the spirit of prayer, the spirit of solidarity and mutual respect, the spirit of love and loving kindness,” and to let it grow and so help spread the spirit of Christianity.

 

Portrait of Antonio Topalovic, one of the young people who are aAntonio, a young man, also has great hopes of the papal visit to Sarajevo. He believes that “this meeting will bring back hope,” and adds: “Hope, as one of the foundations of human society, is slowly losing ground in our country. More and more young people are leaving the country in search of happiness, and they are leaving their families and friends behind because they believe that everything will be better then.” But the Pope has said, “Do not fear, life is before you. Do not let your hope be stolen from you.” For Antonio this means that “our life is right here, with all its crosses and difficulties, with all the pain, but at the same time with a sense of inner happiness. Life is worth living, and we can achieve great things.” He also sees the Pope’s visit as an opportunity to show the world, and at the same time to show themselves, that there are “great people living in Bosnia, people who believe.”

 

As for Father Marsic himself, he also has high hopes of the papal visit. “I believe that the visit of the Pope will be a huge encouragement, and I am hoping that the young people will become still more strongly engaged in the Church and in society. The young people who are involved with the Saint John Paul II Centre are often the ones who are most active in their own home parishes. They are showing that it is possible to live peaceably together in this country, to find work, to found a family and to build a life for oneself.”

 

And there is another issue dear to his heart, namely the harmonious coexistence between the various ethnic groups and religions, so that bridges can be built for a peaceful future. The older generation often finds it difficult to step out from the shadow of the past. “But through these joint activities the young people also bear witness to the older generation that they have the courage to believe in a better present and a better future,” he concludes.

Koenigstein, 15.052006Father Dr. Simo Marsic (responsible for t

There is another great moment approaching this year,  in fact, for Father Marsic is hopeful that the centre can be formally opened on 22 October 2015. It is on this day that the Church will be commemorating the patron of the centre, Pope Saint John Paul II. It is no coincidence that the centre bears his name, for as early as 1997, just two years after the war ended, Pope John Paul II travelled to Sarajevo to appeal for peace and reconciliation. Then in 2003, already marked by age and illness, he visited Banja Luka. He urged the young people there “to engage their energies, so that life can get back to full swing again at every level” and warned them “not to stand on one side, not to give way to discouragement, but to strengthen their initiatives, so that Bosnia and Herzegovina can once again become a land of reconciliation, encounter and peace.” And Father Simo Marsic comments: “We are taking these words to heart as a mission for the work of our youth centre.”