In an open letter dated Dec. 8, 1995, the bishops wrote: "This peace agreement, instead of the much-desired peace, introduces new unrest and doubts regarding the return and protection of basic human rights and freedoms, which include religious and ethnic rights and freedoms of all inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
"As bishops of the Catholic faithful, whose future is also the subject of this agreement, we rightly expect that all responsible factors and institutions, both international and domestic, who participated in the creation of this peace agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina, will resolutely commit to redressing injustices and achieving as just peace as possible for all the peaceful inhabitants of this country."
Addressing a meeting of the Bishops' Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Nov. 4, Cardinal Vinko Puljić said that events had shown the Church's initial reservations about the agreement to be "well-founded."
"Unfortunately, our fears expressed on that occasion were mostly fulfilled, so our message at the time proved to be well-founded," the archbishop of Sarajevo and president of the bishops' conference said.
"We see that the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not being resolved in terms of correcting numerous injustices and establishing equal rights for every person in every part of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the equality of all three constituent peoples in BiH."
Earlier this month, Puljic was admitted to hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus. Local media reported Dec. 13 that the 75-year-old cardinal had left hospital and was continuing to recover at home.
Pope Francis appointed a coadjutor archbishop of Sarajevo in January this year. Archbishop Tomo Vukšić, 66, will ultimately succeed Puljic, who was named archbishop of Sarajevo in 1990, at the age of 45. Vukšić was also hospitalized after a positive COVID-19 test, but has now tested negative and left hospital.
In their Nov. 4 appeal, the Catholic bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina said: "Now, after 25 years, we must state with grief and justified indignation that this Agreement, unfortunately -- through all the past years -- has been used more as a justification and alibi for preserving and legitimizing various past and new injustices, and much less for building true, lasting peace, based on justice and equal rights for all."
They criticized local and foreign officials overseeing the agreement's implementation for failing to encourage the return of "several hundred thousand local Catholics" who had fled the fighting between 1992 and 1995.
They said: "Almost the entire Catholic population in one half of the country -- in the Republika Srpska entity -- has been eradicated, and in the other half, in the Federation of BiH entity, it is continuously declining, mainly due to the departure of young people from the country and entire families -- mostly due to crime, corruption and political selfishness in the country and poor evaluation of professional work."
The appeal was signed by Puljic and Vukšić, as well as Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka, Bishop Petar Palić of Mostar-Duvno, and Auxiliary Bishop Marko Semren of Banja Luka.
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The five bishops concluded their appeal by saying: "The Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to strive -- consistently and tirelessly -- to fulfill its duty received from its Supreme Leader -- the pope -- and its promise given 25 years ago, 'to help in the realization of all constructive and enforceable solutions in establishing true peace on the territory of our bishops' conference, that is on the territory of the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina.'"