Friday, October 26, 2007


VATICAN CITY,Vatican (October 26,2007) - An accord designed to guarantee religious rights and freedoms for the Catholic Church in Bosnia formally went into effect yesterday during a special ceremony at the Vatican.

After meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, the Bosnian President Zeljko Komsic formally exchanged documents marking ratification of the accord, or concordat, with Vatican officials.

The Bosnian President Zeljko Komsic underlined the importance of the concordat with the Vatican, saying it provides the legal framework for guaranteeing the right of the Catholic Church to carry out its activities in Bosnia.

The Vatican press office reported that during the meeting with the Pope, "consideration was given to questions concerning the implementation of the agreement itself."

The Catholic community's contribution for the peaceful coexistence of the various ethnic and religious groups in Bosnia was also stressed.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, called the occasion "a historic day in relations" between the two states.

The accord with Bosnia "represents a positive development in the consolidation of a rule of law and the democratic principles Bosnia wants to forge its future upon," Cardinal Bertone said.

The finalized concordat will help bolster the country's international image and "will contribute to overcoming the serious problems inherited from the past and building a better future," the cardinal said.

Bosnian bishops have been warning that Catholics in this European nation have become like second-class citizens and, in some regions, are on the verge of extinction.

While the 1995 Dayton peace accords brought an end to the 1992-1995 Serbian,Montenegrin and Croatian aggressions against Bosnia, the country's bishops have said the Catholic community is powerless and faces discrimination.

President Komsic, who heads the Bosnian Presidency, fought with the Bosnian Army during the 1992-1995 Serbian,Montenegrin and Croatian aggressions against Bosnia and was awarded the Golden Lily, Bosnia's highest military honor. He was the chief municipal official of New Sarajevo before being elected the President Of Bosnia.

In his speech to Vatican officials, the Bosnian President Zeljko Komsic said "we will not forget" the important and urgent calls Pope John Paul II made to end the violence and work for peace.

In speaking with journalists immediately after his private meeting with the Bosnian President, Pope Benedict said the Balkans was a region "with many problems, but also much hope."

The Vatican also issued a statement acknowledging President Komsic had invited the pope to visit Bosnia,a country in which Muslims make up 40 percent of the population, Orthodox 31 percent and Catholics 15 percent.

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