Fund the Training of Seminarians in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Project Code: 444-02-79
Of the 820,000 Catholics who lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina before the Balkan War of 1992 – 1995, only 460,000 remain. And sadly, the wave of emigration is continuing. The truth is that for Catholics in this new nation of south-east Europe, formerly a part of communist Yugoslavia, life is becoming ever more difficult.
Recently, the Archbishop of Sarajevo, Cardinal Vinko Puljic, gave ACN a first-hand account of the way in which Catholics are systematically discriminated against in the field of employment, in the schools and in other spheres of social life. The object of this discrimination is to persuade them to leave the country. Many Church properties and buildings that were confiscated during the communist era have still not been returned. Building permits for churches are delayed, sometimes for years. According to the cardinal, the government has "no interest in returning her properties to the Catholic Church."
With growing concern the 66-year-old cardinal has witnessed the increasing Islamization of the country. In many different places, Islamic centers and mosques are being built, with oil dollars from Saudi Arabia, and new mosques are springing up everywhere, 70 of them in Sarajevo alone in the past few years. Meanwhile, there are already some 3,000 to 5,000 Wahabi Muslims (members of a radical Sunni version of Islam that is the state religion in Saudi Arabia) living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who are endeavoring to exert increasing influence in society. "No one in the government has the courage to oppose this development," the cardinal complains.
He goes on to explain that the Catholic Church is the only force in society that is striving for a peaceful coexistence of the various different ethnic groups and religions, on the basis of justice and equality. "We are a minority, but we are a constructive force that is seeking to contribute something to the success of our society."
Thankfully, the news is not all bad. Despite all these difficulties, 54 young men in the Catholic seminary in Sarajevo are preparing to serve one day as priests at the altar of the Lord. The number of vocations has risen sharply, in fact, and this gives the Catholics in the country some reason for hope. For where people find security and a true pastor of souls in their parish, they do not emigrate. And likewise many refugees find the courage to return to their homes as soon as Church life has been rebuilt in their home town or village. Hence priests are urgently needed. Yet almost all the young men who feel called to the priesthood are from poor families, as indeed are most of the Catholics in the country.
ACN is planning to help and we hope to be able to give $9,400 so that these 54 young men, who have chosen to place their lives entirely in the service of the Church and of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, may be able to continue their training this year. And their courageous Cardinal, Vinko Puljic, who has never shirked any personal sacrifice in order to stay by the side of his faithful during the Bosnian war, has written to us, and through us to you, the benefactors, "We, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, are grateful for all the love that we have experienced during the difficult days of communism, the war and the post-war period."
Will you join in funding the training of these seminarians in Sarajevo so that they can keep the faith alive in Bosnia and Herzegovina? We are sure they will gratefully remember you in their prayers.