Sarajevo Tag


ACN Project of the Week—Support for the youth pastoral centre in Sarajevo, Bosnia

29.11.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Eastern Europe, Pastoral aid, Pastoral care, Pastoral work, Religious formation

Project of the Week—Bosnia

Support for the youth pastoral centre in Sarajevo

By ACN International, Adapted by ACN Canada
Published online – November 29, 2019

Catholics are a minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina—now at a bare 14% of the population, and falling. This decline began during the Bosnian War (1992 to 1995) when half the Catholic population was expelled or forced to emigrate from the country. And with every new year, many continue their exodus as the future looks dim, owing to the discrimination they face when seeking employment, in attending schools and in regular social life. Catholic bishops have been complaining for years that Catholic Croat families who would otherwise be willing to return are not receiving the support they are entitled to. At the same time, a growing Islamization of the society is very noticeable, with the building of numerous new mosques.


The Catholic Church continues to work hard for a better future, through its reconciliation work, its schools and its charitable work, all of which are open to people of all ethnic groups. At the same time, the Church strives to offer steady employment opportunities that will provide families with some prospect for the future. One beautiful example of reconciliation work is the John Paul II Youth Centre in Sarajevo, offering a range of initiatives for promoting interfaith and interdenominational dialogue.

Spiritual Retreats, Pilgrimages and Interfaith Dialogue

Each year thousands of young people benefit from a broad range of programs offered by the centre. Their enthusiasm remains as they return with great energy to their own parishes to work with a renewed faith for a better future. The centre also offers employment, with 10 full-time positions and 10 part-time positions, providing these men and women with a steady income and a future for their families. An additional 300 volunteers help out as needed. Training in leadership is available along with courses in spiritual exercises for confirmation candidates, volunteers, altar servers and other types of youth groups. An ecumenical program is in place for young people of different faiths to learn about shared responsibility and how to create a better future in the society in which they live. Those attending come not only from the archdiocese of Sarajevo (Vrhbosna) itself, but from all over the country.

Other big events are have been organized, such as a large youth pilgrimage in May to the Shrine of Our Lady in Kondzilo,  which was attended again this year by well over 3,000 young people. A music festival, with modern Christian music, and a young people’s Way of the Cross procession giving hundreds of youth from individual parishes the opportunity to gather together in shared faith.


ACN recognizes the valuable work done by this youth centre named for the great Pope, Saint John Paul II. The Saint who held such great affection for young people, established the very first World Youth Days during his pontificate. This year we are helping once again, with a promised contribution of $37,500.


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

 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


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.

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


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.






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.





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.






Journey with ACN – Sarajevo

15.09.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Interview, Bosnia Herzegovina, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week :  Bosnia-Herzegovina

Belgium, Brussels 04.10.2012Cardinal Vinko Puljic (Archbishop o

Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Archbishop of Sarajevo ©ACN

 A growing pressure on Catholics in Sarajevo

One hundred years ago the First World War began. The event that triggered it was the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo. So what is the situation of Christians in Bosnia and Herzegovina today? What sort of help is coming from Europe? These questions were put to Cardinal Vinko Puljic, the Archbishop of Sarajevo.

How have things evolved for Catholics over the last hundred years?

According to our statistics, there were 458,990 Catholics living in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1914. Before the Second World War there were 640,501 and before the most recent 1991 war, statistics indicate there were 812,256 Catholics. Twenty years later, only 443,084 remain – that is almost half as many.  Catholic families were always the first schools of faith. But as a result of the war of 1991, many families were forced to flee.  After the war, it was mainly older people returned home. The politicians are making no effort to encourage the return of Catholics. So today, there is a lack of younger families and therefore of spiritual vocations.


Do Christians of today have more freedom than one hundred years ago?

Under Ottoman rule, the Christians were discriminated against. After that – 100 years ago that is – there began a time of tolerance. The Church structures were established, including schools, churches and cathedrals. Today, the Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a bridge between East and West, both culturally and religiously. On this path of dialogue the education provided by Catholic schools plays an important role.

That is also the purpose of the John Paul II Youth Center with its programs to help young people develop their own sense of identity. There is so much that we can do together for the welfare of everyone. Many Muslims also share this same spirit of solidarity. However, since the recent war of 1992-1995, the relationship has changed. The influence of Arab countries has become stronger. Radicalization is gaining ground. Even older Muslims, who have always lived side by side with the Christians, are disturbed by this. But money is what counts, especially in politics. Moreover, there is a legal insecurity, particularly for the Catholics.


Do Christians receive help from Europe?

It varies greatly. To give two examples: when the Serbian Orthodox Church in Mostar began rebuilding the damaged Orthodox churches, all the international bodies supported them. The same thing was true of the Orthodox Church in Sarajevo. When the Muslims began the renovation of their mosque in Banja Luka, they were given support by the American government. But when we Catholics asked for help, we were told that they did not support churches, only cultural monuments. Is not the Catholic Church also a part of the country’s culture? It is the same story with the support for returning refugees: for the others there was plenty – for Catholics there is little or nothing.


How is the region recovering from the terrible flooding this spring?

Forty parishes within my archdiocese were flooded. In twenty of them the damage was severe. The initial wave of solidarity was tremendous, but it was a matter of basic survival. Now it is about getting on with life. Livestock was decimated; farm buildings, houses and furniture were destroyed. Many people simply lack the strength to rebuild again from scratch. The state has failed them. No one is bothering about the plague of flies, or repairs for the broken river dikes. But the biggest problem is the creation of jobs and economic development. How are we supposed to live?       


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