franjo komarica.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Denis CERIĆ/ tš

Banja Luka Catholic Bishop Franjo Komarica was exposed to abusive media and political attacks by both Bosnian Serb government officials and the Opposition after he compared the destiny of non-Serbs in the Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1992-1995 war to what happened in the aftermath of WW2 and the death marches from Bleiburg back to the then Yugoslavia.

The President of the Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, on Wednesday sent an open letter to Bishop Komarica after the dignitary compared the killings at Bleiburg with the suffering of Croats in Banja Luka during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, when local Croats were exposed to mass persecution and killing.

Dodik's open letter, forwarded to the local media, says that with his latest statement the bishop "has crossed the line of tolerance" which he said both of them "are obliged to maintain", noting that until now he had refrained from similar reactions even though he had reason to react.

Later in the day, the Mayor of Banja Luka of Dodik's SNSD also condemned Komarica's statement in the strongest terms.

The SNSD demands that the Bishop apologise for his statement. It also insists that the latest comments from Komarica were the crown of his "years-long irresponsible public statements".

The opposition PDP says Komarica's comparison is a continuation of inappropriate statements from the local Catholic Church.

In the past Komarica warned on many occasions about the deteriorating status of Catholics in his diocese, noting that before the 1992-1995 war, 220,000 Catholic Croats lived in the area which is now under the control of the Bosnian Serbs, while now only a few thousands remained.

More than 400 Roman Catholics, mostly Croats, and four priests were killed in their homes by Serb armed groups in the Banja Luka region, north-western Bosnia, during 1992-1995, according to a statement issued by Banja Luka Diocese officials in 1995. Thirty seven (37) churches were blown up or burnt, 17 were heavily demolished, and another 21 suffered minor damage in the Banja Luka area in this period, according to the statement.

Besides, 24 Roman Catholic parish houses were torn down or ruined. Many Catholics were physically abused and several hundreds were taken by force for hard labour on front lines. These acts were committed in a Bosnian area that has not been directly exposed to war, according to the statement, which also underlines that Serb authorities in Banja Luka have never taken any action to find the perpetrators of such crimes and to protect innocent people.

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