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Association of Croats of Banja Luka diocese wrote to Pope Francis ahead of Dodik's visit

Pope Francis during his visit to Sarajevo (photo Patria)

(Patria) – Refugee associations from the region of Banja Luka issued a press release regarding the upcoming visit of Milorad Dodik with Pope Francis.

The letter has been also sent to Pope Francis. This is the full content of the letter:

We, the displaced people, Croats and Catholics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, assembled around associations of Croat refugees from the area of Banja Luka diocese, with anxiety in our hearts, received the news that our supreme head of the Catholic church, Pope Francis will receive the chairman of the Presidency Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Milorad Dodik – the man whose name, deed and politics are synonym for suffering and hardship of all the people displaced from the ethnically cleansed BH entity in which Dodik himself decides about lives of all those who do not bow before him and who do not follow him blindly. 

We respect the protocol of visits to the Holy Father.

We are also aware that the Holy Father, by his service and also as a person, is a genuine father who receive with an open heart all those who wish to come and hear out his message that always directs to the path of good. It is a fatherly act to receive every man, and even the biggest a sinner. However, we express our deep regret that, in preparations of this visitation, if it should have taken place at all, the highest representatives of the Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina have not been involved, who know the best the condition of their dioceses.  

Should one be frightened that a sad truth about hardship of the remaining Croats and Catholics who are almost exterminated will surface; because of those 200,000 who lived in the RS before the war, according to the church data, only 8,860 have remained there. We know that the Holy Chair is aware of heavy injustice inflicted upon the Catholic community, particularly in the region of Banja Luka and Vrhbosanska dioceses in the areas that belong to the RS entity which Mr. Dodik has ruled for 16 years.

The bishops of the Catholic Church in BiH have been incessantly bringing to the attention of the church and the world public the facts about the harsh conditions, including our Banja Luka bishop Dr. Franjo Komarica whom neither Mr. Dodik nor the citizens of the RS wish to hear out. What's more, Mr. Dodik tends to direct unfounded insults at bishop Franjo, which he particularly showed back in 2018 when, on the eve of the catholic Easter, insulted him by saying that 'bishop barks against the Republika Srpska'.

Considering the fact that bishop Franjo is a representative of all Catholics of Banja Luka diocese and the church representative, the said insult by Mr. Dodik is meant for all Catholics but also many other people who know very well the proven philanthropy and Christ-loving of this shepherd of the Banja Luka church towards every person regardless of his religious, racial and ethnic affiliation.

Just how much Mr. Dodik cares about the Catholics in his entity proves the fact that for the last eight years he has been refusing to receive the bishop of Banja Luka for a discussion on issues and problems that the remaining Croat Catholics face.

As members of the living expelled Catholic Church from the region of Banja Luka diocese, we have never heard Milorad Dodik in the 16 years of his rule (two mandates as president of the RS government and two mandates as president of the RS entity) either expressing regret for the brutal and forceful expelling of more than 200,000 Catholics from the RS, or that his undertaking concrete measures to make amends for injustice, including enabling return of the displaced people to that half of Bosnia and Herzegovina that he has ruled all this time.  

The local and world public is well acquainted with Mr. Milorad Dodik, and we hope that Vatican is too. We will remind of some of his latest policies that bring the relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina to the boiling point and possible new explosions with immense consequences.

In addition to consistent obstruction of any sustainable return of the Croat and Bosniak refugees to the ethnically cleansed territories of the RS, Mr. Dodik and his politics, in spite of final decisions of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, deny the crimes and the genocide committed in Srebrenica and other places in BiH that have been confirmed by this international court.  

He has worked hard to name the student house in Pale by war criminal Radovan Karadzic. He personally and pompously opened it in 2016 together with Karadzic's wife Ljilja. Is that the way to build confidence between peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is that the way to create conditions for return of the displaced and the expelled citizens of this troubled country, with everyday disputing of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the top of it all, with 'big cartographer' Milorad Dodik drawing borders of Greater-Serbia???

Should we add to this everyday denying of the state BiH of which he is the current chairman of the presidency, and everyday favoring of the RS as a state, along with frequent announcements of its secession from the state Bosnia and Herzegovina, we could pose a legitimate question – what is the purpose of his visit and what is the chairman of the BiH presidency going to bring with him to this visit, what could he possibly say to pope Francis that this one already does not know? Will he seek pope's forgiveness for publicly telling the bishop of the martyr Banja Luka Church that he 'barked', for designing and implementing the politics that prevents return and reconstruction of the homes and infrastructure for tens of thousands of Croat Catholics in the RS, for shutting down the ministry for refugees and displaced persons and for declaring the return and rehabilitation finished even though they haven't even started when it comes to the Croats Catholics who returned in very small numbers, while most of those who survived the war have left.

The property of the displaced people has been destroyed and until now, as far as we know, none of non-Serb population in the RS have received any compensation for the loss and damage. The houses that were supposed to be repaired so that people could return to their places of origin, have not been so. The planned obstruction of return by the RS government has been, unfortunately, successfully carried out with silent consent of the large part of the international community which thus admitted that ethnic cleansing is legitimate as long as it is in the interest of the great powers.

As far as we know, nobody has answered for the crimes committed against innocent civilians, Croat Catholics, even though the names of the criminals are known.

In the village of Brisevo, for example, 67 innocent and unarmed civilians, women, children and men were killed in 1992, in just one day. In the region of Banja Luka, where there wasn't any war activities, several hundred persons were killed only because they were Croats, and often at their doorstep.

The politics that resulted in ethnic cleansing is maintained with blessing by large part of the international community that has never had any strategy for return of the displaced.

When a compromised person like this goes to visit the Holy Father, we have to ask ourselves what his intentions are and if it is his attempt to manipulate the public so they get an impression that even the Holy Father accepts the current situation and the politics of ethnically clean areas in the RS where more than 90% of Catholics were driven out and expelled.  

Is room being created for public to reproach the Holy Father for receiving a man who has violated all international norms and standards, who is, as some have put it, a 'disturbing factor'.

We have read in the newspapers that Dodik will not 'talk about political situation in BiH or lobby for political events in BiH' with Pope Francis; instead, he will 'talk about ecumenism, tolerance, respect and coexistence...' How could those topics ever be discussed with Mr. Dodik when everybody in Bosnia and Herzegovina know him very well as a person who would do anything to prevent ecumenism, tolerance, respect for human rights and coexistence.

As Mr. Dodik performs the most important duty in the state of BiH, we trust it necessary to discuss with him core issues of implementation of justice and peace, exercise of all human rights and religious freedoms in every corner of BiH, particularly in the entity of the RS, as well as the necessity of undertaking urgent steps for undoing injustice and allowing all those who wish to return to BiH and especially to the RS, to do so.

As people who have borne their refugee cross for almost 30 years, we express our opinion in these holiest of days of Good Friday and Easter, and we make our plea hoping it will reach Pope Francis with help from good and truth-loving people.

This is also our modest contribution to unmasking Mr. Milorad Dodik as the key protagonist of the continuation of the politics that drove us out of our homes.



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