BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CWN) - Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo strongly criticized the United Nations and "world powers" for not ending the aggression of the Yugoslav army and Serbian paramilitary troops against Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the years following the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

      Cardinal Puljic gave his remarks during the "Gathering of Solidarity" held on Saturday and Sunday in Banja Luka, the seat of the Catholic diocese that suffered the heaviest dispersion of believers due to Serbian aggression in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The meeting was organized by the Justice and Peace Commission of the European Bishops' Conference. In addition to the representatives of the commission and Catholic Church in Bosnia-Herzegovina, other participants included a Muslim mufti Ibrahim Halilovic of Banja Luka and the president of the local Jewish community, Danilo Nikolic. Representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church did not attend, though they were invited.

      "Mighty world powers introduced an embargo and prevented the victim from defending himself," said Cardinal Puljic. "And I am afraid that the European civilization rushes to its decline if it makes the right of the strong legitimate." Cardinal Puljic also said that European Catholics do not care enough for Catholics in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "Why are European Catholics ashamed of us?" he asked, adding that after the fighting ceased, more than 70,000 Catholics moved out of Bosnia-Herzegovina, mostly going to the US, Canada, and Australia.

      Cardinal Roger Etchegaray said that there were intolerable things happening in the Banja Luka region about which the world still knows nothing. He said that the main role of the Catholic Church in Bosnia-Herzegovina is to contribute to the reconciliation. Mufti Halilovic said that in and around Banja Luka alone, 16 mosques were destroyed. Jewish representatives warned that there are only 1,000 Jews left in Bosnia-Herzegovina after the war.

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March 17, 1998 volume 9, no. 54         DAILY CATHOLIC