Croatia’s President Zoran Milanović highlighted the situation of the Catholic minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina during a visit to the Vatican on Monday.
The Holy See press office said on Nov. 15 that after meeting with Pope Francis, Milanović held discussions with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and “foreign minister” Archbishop Paul Gallagher.
“During the cordial discussions, the parties expressed their appreciation for the good existing bilateral relations, and the intention to further develop collaboration,” it said.
“In addition, several international and regional issues were discussed, including the situation of the Croatian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Catholics — most of whom are Croats — are a minority within the country, comprising 15% of the population, according to a 2013 census. Half of the population is Muslim and around 30% belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Medjugorje, a popular Catholic pilgrimage destination, is located in southwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina, 12 miles east of the country’s border with Croatia.
Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka told Aid to the Church in Need earlier this month that Catholics faced discrimination “in all respects: politically, socially and also economically.”
“The Catholics often have problems when they have Croat names. It is also difficult for them to find work. There is one part of the country, West Herzegovina, where they can more or less live in peace. But the Catholics are leaving the country even there,” he said.
He added that Catholics acted “as a sort of ‘adhesive’” between the Orthodox Serbs and the Muslim Bosniaks.
“Should this adhesive disappear, then these two worlds — the Islamic and the Orthodox — will drift ever farther apart. This will give rise to even greater unrest,” he commented.
Cardinal Vinko Puljić of Sarajevo said last year that up to 10,000 Catholics leave Bosnia and Herzegovina every year.