Vinko Puljić.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Emir BURLOVIĆ / FENA / mm

The Archbishop of Sarajevo, Cardinal Vinko Puljic, has sent a letter to Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej saying that his statements in which he glorified the creation of Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia and Herzegovina's Serb entity, are unacceptable, the Bosnian Bishops Conference said on Monday.

Puljic sent the letter to Irinej on behalf of all Bosnian bishops on February 8, prompted by Irinej's statements on the occasion of RS Day, observed on January 9. Although the Bosnian Constitutional Court declared the holiday unconstitutional because it reflects the wishes of only one nation, Irinej was among those who attended this year's celebrations in Banja Luka.

Puljic says in the letter that what Irinej said on that occasion caused "disbelief, shock and disappointment," notably his claim that RS was founded on "God's truth and justice." Puljic says that is completely opposite to what happened during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia, which caused numerous deaths, persecution and suffering.

Puljic writes of the suffering of the Catholic Church on the territory of present-day RS, and recalls the three-year siege of Sarajevo by the former Yugoslav army and Serb armed units, including "daily shelling.. thirst, hunger, cold."

The letter reminds the Serbian patriarch that about 140,000 Catholics were driven out of their homes on the territory making up present-day RS, and that only 10,000 remain. It says that in Banja Luka, Puljic's place of birth, 122 Catholics were killed and more than 90 percent were driven out of their homes, and that 151 Catholics were killed in Prijedor.

"For all the crimes mentioned and the many more major crimes not mentioned... no one was convicted at a Republika Srpska court. On the contrary, the truth is persistently suppressed and distorted. Instead of victims, criminals are protected and helped. And that cannot have anything to do with justice and truth, let alone with God's, and God's blessing," Puljic writes, saying that Irinej's statements were an additional, "especially painful" insult to all victims of "an imposed war", all sufferers who were tortured and disenfranchised.

The letter underlines that Serbian Orthodox believers and Muslims suffered in the Bosnian war too, that all victims should be valued equally and that those suffering the consequences of war should be helped. The letter says that everyone, notably God's servants, should stand up for the weak and disenfranchised members of their churches and all other people, seeking that the injustices inflicted on them be rectified.

Puljic calls on Irinej "to help us build true and lasting peace between all the people and nations here, and between our churches and religious communities, which will not be based on lawlessness and the power of the stronger, on the eradication of others, but on 'God's truth and God's justice', because only such peace is based in God" and can guarantee a sound future "that we all desire."

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