[Consider what the RC Croat bishop calls "vulgar propagand" in light of Bernstein's Holy Alliance , Mumford's Unholy Trinity and even NCR's reporting of the alliance between Reagan's CIA and the pope.]

The forces advocating that program, he said, were "leading Serb politicians, the military officer corps of the former Yugoslav army, which was predominantly Serbian, and unfortunately some leading personalities in the Serbian Orthodox church."

"Vulgar propaganda" was used to attack the Catholic church, its local representatives, the pope and the Vatican as a symbol of evil, he said, and the Serbian press repeated a single formula "that makes one flabbergasted - the oft-repeated thesis that there is a conspiracy against the Serbs by the Vatican, the Islamic bloc and the CIA."

[Says RC Croat bishop. Excepted from following article.]

From National Catholic Reporter

September 6, 1996 page 5



WASHINGTON - Kidnapped and facing gunmen, Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina, had just been told he was going to be shot.

The 52-year-old Komarica, a stocky, smiling man with thick wavy hair and cherubic cheeks, told them, "Don't burn in hell with sin. One day you'll come to judgment.

Don's worry about us," the bishop recalled them saying, "Your life is over."

Komarica replied, "I will pray for you to God to forgive you. But you have to tell me how to behave. Do I face you? Do I have to turn my back to you?"

The visiting bishop, recalling the story, looked with a rueful grin at the 30 or so people in the Woodstock Theological Center's library and, through his interpreter, said, "The situation was hopeless."

But he had much earlier in the conflict decided he would not "give too much weight" to his own life, so he had "acquired a sensation of freedom."

The kidnappers did not shoot.

Everyone at the talk laughed with relief. But there was little enough humor in the 90-minute "conversation with the bishop" July 25. Komarica recounted events of the past four years in Bosnia and dwelt on the details of attempts at political solutions.

Bishop of the diocese in northwest Bosnia-Herzegovina for a decade, Komarica had remained in Banja Luka despite the "ethnic cleansing," despite seeing 80,000 Catholics dwindle to 5,000, despite the destruction of 70 out of 75 churches.


Introducing the bishop to the Woodstock gathering, Gerard Powers of the U.S. Catholic Conference's International Justice and Peace Office described Komarica as "a special person with a special perspective. He has been targeted, his house attacked and he has been under de facto house arrest most of last year for his willingness to speak out on issues."

Visiting the United States to address a congressional committee and meet with policymakers and church leaders, Komarica told the three dozen people in the Woodstock library that "it is sometimes said that Bosnia is a cancerous issue in 20th century Europe, a wound in Central Europe, and this is why it cannot be considered separately from the problems of Europe." But it cannot be separated from the United States either, he said. "As you know yourselves, the presence of American troops is precious at this moment." He later made a strong plea that those troops not be withdrawn at year's end as the United States intends.

Describing "the carriers of the destructive process" as people "who are spiritually empty," Komarica emphasized that "the people who are engaged in reconciliation and forgiveness come from the ranks of the believers. If we could find more such people in the community, it would lessen destruction."

"As members of the Catholic church in Croatia," he said, "we have tried to put into practice the teachings of the gospels. And this means practicing the most difficult of the precepts, mainly love your neighbor and forgiveness. This is not easy. I can confirm this.

"But there is no other solution to meeting the needs of peace and happiness for all the people of this area," he said, "and, as you may know. the area around Banja Luka has not witnessed any war or conflicts because we refused to arm ourselves." Komarica described that courageous decision in simple terms. "Myself, my priests and nuns were telling our flock to be prepared to suffer injustice rather than to impose it on others. This was a clear, unambiguous call for a Christian response.

"Ethnic cleansing was implemented mercilessly because it was a part of a plan that was realized regardless of our opposition," said the bishop, who said the Muslim population had suffered even more than Banja Luka's Catholics.

Even before the war started, he said. Croatia's Catholic bishops' conference called attention to the likelihood of ethnic cleansing due to resistance to democratic changes in the former Yugoslavia, resistance to decentralization of power and the emphasis "on domination by the Serbs for their interests."


The forces advocating that program, he said, were "leading Serb politicians, the military officer corps of the former Yugoslav army, which was predominantly Serbian, and unfortunately some leading personalities in the Serbian Orthodox church."

Nonetheless, he said, the Croatian bishops' conference continued to advocate human dignity and respect for human rights and ethnic, religious and national rights. There were meetings of Catholics and representatives of the Orthndox and Islamic communities "as they tried to stem the evil that was expanding into Croatia and into Bosnia. But politicians were not ready to accept the appeals of church representatives," said Komarica.

The hierarchy of the Serbian Orthodox church generally supports the Serbian political leadership, as do the Islamic representatives, he said, whereas the Croatian Catholic community displayed a "disassociation from Croatian leadership decisions that were not in agreement with Christian principles."


With his priests and people, he said, he had worked "to alleviate the pain of the Catholics and the Muslims and the Orthodox people in our diocese. My fellow citizens in all the area know this very well. As a result, my priests and nuns were killed, not because they were evil but because they were in the way of the plans of others."

As he spoke, occasionally overcome by emotions, the bishop stressed the religious communities' defense of "the human values and principles of Western civilization, the consistent decisive support of the charter of the United Nations, and church teaching for the protection of every man and of every religious and ethnic community."

Obviously exasperated and frustrated by his inability to make policymakers and the wider public aware of what had happened and could continue to happen, Komarica emotionally demanded of his audience, "What are we to do? If you are punishing us [by not coming tu Bosnia's assistance], then your act is a criminal one. Allow me to express my own conviction that at least American politicians will persist in defense of principles. What do you think?"

He turned to his interpreter, as if to urge the interpreter to stress the emotion in his translation. But the interpreter maintained his moderate composure and delivery.

Komarica gave a big, sad sigh.

As for himself, he said, the "sensation of freedom" he acquired after deciding he would be killed, plus his faith and spiritual life, meant he "felt very free."

Again, those present laughed, but at heart, most of them seemed uncomfortably aware that even at the center of the U.S. Capitol, they could offer little action, only solace. -



WASHINGTON-Banja Luka Bishop Franjo Komarica believes the preconditions for the Sept. 14 Bosnian elections, mandated by the Dayton, Ohio. peace accords, have not been met and will not be met by the time of the election.

Those preconditions, he said, require freedom of movement and the return of refugees, which should should have started on April 1 and are not yet being implemented. "On the contrary," he said, "people are still being expelled from their homes."

Furthermore, political parties are holding to their "ethnic cleansing" programs - "that is," said Komarica, "the creation of ethnically pure territories, which means there cannot be free access to participation in the elections. Also, some individuals, well-known multiple-war criminals, are on the list of candidates."

The general opinion is that the date was set too early and that preparations cannot be made adequately, he said. And while many politicians talk of the election date as the "choice of a lesser evil, I am not sure that this is a lesser evil, for some people say the elections may cement the divisions that exist within the country."

Asked about the decisiun to remove U.S troops as part of the NATO Implementation Force for Bosnia, whose mandate ends in December, the bishop said it was his conviction that the use of U.S. troops "was a temporary salvation." Their arrival, h e said, prevented many additional victims.

"Politicians and those who make military decisions should keep this in mind. This fragile truce has not grown roots and it will not it if the process is interrupted," said Komarica, who then appealed for a continuation of the U.S. presence.

- AJ