THE BANJA LUKA DIOCESE IN WORD AND PICUTRE FROM 1881 TO 2006
on the occasion of 125 years since founding the Diocese
written by Franjo Maric and Anto Orlovic
This is an important and extremely interesting book about Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with emphasis on the Banja Luka bishopric.
Written in Croatian, with the preface of bishop Franjo Komarica, it is accompanied with summaries in English and German, and with a very extensive index and bibliography.
The book has monumental A4 hardcover format, as many as 752 pages,
accompanied with more than 2000 photos (90% color photos), 65 tables, 20 maps, and several graphs.
We congratulate the authors on this superb and painstaking work. It is planned to issue the whole book on CD in the near future.
Those wishing to order the book, may write to
Vikarijat Banjalucke biskupije
Ulica grada Vukovara 226c
or to write to the first author prof. Franjo Maric for immediate information at
We know Franjo Maric as the author of a series of important books on the history of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and on the history of Catholicism in this state, see http://www.croatianhistory.net/etf/et22.html
Now we turn to the formal content of the book, which is as follows (chapters are not numbered):
1. Bishops of the Banja Luka bishopric from 1881 to 2006 (short biographies with photos),
2. Cardinals and bishops originating from the territory of contemporary Banja Luka bishopric (short biographies with photos),
3. Parishes of the Banja Luka bishopric in the past and today - historical and statistical survey (All 48 contemporary parishes are described, including the data about the number of inhabitants of inhabited places and the number of Catholic houses and Catholics for each of these places in the course of the last 100 years. Furthermore, the data are accompanied with photos of parish churches in the past and today, with additional photos showing for example typical costumes of Catholics, etc.),
4. Parishes of the Banja Luka bishopric that dissapeared during the WWII and after it,
5. Monastic convents in Banja Luka bishopric in the past and today (with illustrations),
6. The list of contemporary prists from Banja Luka bishopric(with short biographies and photos),
7. Priests of the Banja Luka bishopric that passed away
8. Croatian and Catholic institutions and organizations in Banja Luka in the past and today (with illustrations).
The books finishes with a summary we reproduce here with kind permission of the authors.
The Banja Luka Diocese in Bosnia and Herzegovina was founded in 1881. This was in fact after the cessation of more than four centuries of hardship and the constant perishing of Catholics under Turkish rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1463 1878). The diocese spreads into northwestern Bosnia and is a branch diocese of the Vrhbosnia Metropoly with its see in Sarajevo. This year marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of the diocese. That is in fact what inspired the emergence of this book. With this book, both authors, Prof. Franjo Marić and Dr. Anto Orlovac wanted to offer an historical retrospective of that region, presenting abundant statistical data and tables followed by an overview of the life in the diocese throughout its history as well as presenting the current situation of that seriously wounded Banja Luka Diocese brought to the edge of mere existence.
Here is a brief overview of what this book contains.
We could virtually divide it into six major parts.
Firstly, the diocesan see is portrayed with its cathedral and Bishop's curia in Banja Luka and then there is a brief presentation of the most significant personalities and events in that diocese. There were seven bishops of Banja Luka and apostolic administrators throughout the diocese's 125 years of existence. Their characters and acts are briefly presented as well as the (arch)bishops who officiated in it and other domicile churches but who were born in this diocese. There are four, two of whom even became cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. One of them is the current Archbishop in Sarajevo Vinko Cardinal Puljić. The other is the late pontifical diplomat Guido Cardinal Del Mestri. This section is followed by an overview of the figures that stand to the pride of this diocese including the first Catholic layperson from Bosnia and Herzegovina to be beatified, Dr. Ivan Merz whom Pope John Paul II. beatified on 22 June 2003 in Banja Luka (Petrićevac). Appropriate worth is dedicated in this book to the high visit by a Pope to the Banja Luka Diocese.
The second major part of this book contains an overview of the history of the Church in that region which only much later became a separate diocese with its see in Banja Luka. Namely, Christian roots in that region are significantly deep and date back as far as Christian Antiquity. The region of today's Banja Luka Diocese in the Roman Era was divided into two provinces: Dalmatia and Panonia. Christianity was very active in that region which is evidenced in archaeological findings of several basilicas from that period. So for example, are the remnants of basilicas found in Blagaj, Bosanski Novi, Majdan near Mrkonjić Grad, Lištani and Rešetarica near Livno and the Glamoč prairie and so on. During the Roman Empire, a diocesan see existed in the region known as the Baloie Diocese and it was most likely located near Šipovo. With the onslaught of the Avars and Slavs in the 6th and 7th centuries, Christianity was virtually annihilated. Nevertheless, soon after that, when the Slavs settled here, that is, the Croats, they accepted the Christian faith and religious life in that region flourished once again.
In the Middle Ages, part of the region of todays Banja Luka Diocese belonged to neighbouring diocese in todays Croatia: Nin, Knin, Split, Krbava, Zagreb and the Bosnian Dioceses. In that period which was politically ruled as part of the Hungarian-Croatian kingdom, the region was settled entirely by Catholics with hundreds of churches, chapels and monasteries. More than a hundred churches alone were known of in that period in Church history as archaeological findings tell us. Later, Moslem mosques and Orthodox churches and monasteries were built on these very sites. With the fall of Bosnia and Herzegovina under Turkish rule in 1463 (Banja Luka itself only fell in 1528 and some parts of todays Banja Luka Diocese and the town of Bihać, fell even later, in 1592), the region was once again settled by the Vlahs and Serbs, while Catholic Croats began to leave their land and emigrate towards the west, fleeing from the Turks, all the way to Burgenland in todays Austria and Hungary. The Turkish tyranny caused some Catholics to convert to Islam and bishops entrusted with these areas in the region were forbidden to visit their faithful and to engage in pastoral work during the Turkish rule. Consequently, the Holy See temporarily set to resolve this matter and in 1735 founded an Apostolic Vicary in Ottoman Bosnia (and Herzegovina); pastoral services were conducted almost exclusively by the Franciscans from the Bosna Srebrena Province. This situation prevailed for almost a century and a half until the re-introduction of a regular hierarchy in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the founding of the Diocese in Banja Luka in 1881.
This is followed by a brief overview of life in the Banja Luka Diocese to this day. A life interchanged from the bloom of Catholicism to hardship, suffering and destruction, above all in World War II and in the communist post-war period and now in the most recent greater-Serbia aggression in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last decade of the past century. This is verbosely testified with numerous tables and statistical data. Here, we need make mention of the hardship, in fact, torment experienced not only by the Catholic laity but their priests too: in World War II and the post-war period, this tiny diocese lost 12 diocesan priests and 15 religious monks as well as some ten candidates for the priesthood. That was more than half of the entire pastoral clergy in that diocese. In the war in the late 20th century, eight priests and one nun were killed, entirely innocent. We can truly refer to the Banja Luka Church as being one of martyrdom.
The major part of this book is dedicated to a detailed review of all forty-eight parishes in the Banja Luka Diocese, divided into six deaconates. There is also a presentation of a further ten parishes that ceased to exist in World War II and the post-war period. This is where the extent of the destruction of the diocese can best be seen; this section is in a way a schematism of the current situation in the diocese. Two-thirds of the parishes are currently ruled by the Serb entity, the so-called Republika Srpska, from whence virtually all the Catholic Croats were expelled as were other non-Serb citizens, above all Muslim Bosnians. Not one Catholic remained in two parishes where once these parishes counted around 1,500 Catholics; in a further thirty-two parishes only a few dozen Catholics remain (!) or at most a few hundred and these are almost without exception, the elderly. This has resulted in a paradox where only 6,000 Catholics exist in virtually two-thirds of the diocese where in the remaining one-third of the diocese, in parishes that are in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina there are around 33,000 faithful; today, there are about 40,000 Catholics in the entire diocese.
The fourth section of the book presents the livelihood and once flourishing and rich work of religious orders in the region. These were above all the Franciscans (OFM) who prior to the Turkish onslaught had nineteen monasteries in the region of todays Banja Luka Diocese. Today there are only three. They belong to the Bosna Srebrena Province which today covers all of Bosnia where as once it covered Herzegovina too and large sections of todays Croatia, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria. During the Turkish rule, they were virtually the only pastoral workers in these regions. One member of the order, M.S. Anđelko Barun, presents here all the monasteries that existed in the regions of todays Banja Luka Diocese in history and those still remaining and their activities.
One other order received blessing to be active in Banja Luka. These were the reformed Cistercites (OCSO or OCR), colloquially referred to as the Trapists (named after the monastery in La Trappe in France). The first monks came to Banja Luka in 1869, led by an energetic monk from Tyrol, Fr. Franz Pfanner, the founder of their monastery. Their monastery "Mary the Star" raised on the right bank of the Vrbas river near Banja Luka served more than just as a monastery; it was not only a place of prayer but of education, work and culture where Benedictine rules prevailed "Pray and work!". After World War I, this monastery was the largest for the whole order in the entire world! Orphans were raised and educated here, trained in various crafts and trades. Thousands earned their keep here and the monastery served as a guiding light for faith and culture; the first electric light in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina was powered in 1899 from the Trapist hydroelectric plant on the Vrbas river.
We cannot imagine the history of the Banja Luka Diocese without its religious women's orders or congregations. The first to come to Banja Luka in 1872 at the invitation of Fr. Pfanner were the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul. That same year, they opened a primary school in Banja Luka and later in Livno. They worked in charity as well as in state hospitals. Seven years later the Adorers of the Precious Blood of Christ arrived, firstly to Budžak, near Banja Luka and then later they spread throughout most of the diocese. They founded primary and secondary schools for children and special girls schools. They ran orphanages and later assisted in parishes and so on. Franciscan nuns arrived and became involved in Franciscan parishes. Each of these orders still have their convents in the Banja Luka Diocese. The Sisters of Mercy were active in one parish (Lištani) for 25 years, while Benedictine nuns of the Sacred Heart of Mary were active in another (Presnače). Unfortunately, since 2005, there is no longer not one member of the latter two orders in this diocese. The last order to come to Banja Luka was the Missionaries of Love whose members arrived in the autumn of 2005. They are better known as Mother Theresas sisters from Calcutta. They have set up their convent in Banja Luka to serve the poor amongst us.
Even though Banja Luka is a relatively small diocese, throughout history it has offered many priests and religious men and women. The majority of them lives and works in their domicile diocese while others have been commissioned with various duties in other dioceses, orders and congregations.
The last, sixth, section of the book presents a list of all these men and women in various lists. All the current pastoral workers, either diocesan or from various orders are presented in alphabetical order with a brief biography and photograph of each. This is followed by a list of religious men who were born in the Banja Luka region but belong to various other provinces. The majority of them belong to the Bosna Srebrena Franciscan Province, which today covers all of Bosnia, that is, the Vrhbosnia Archdiocese (Sarajevo) and the Banja Luka Diocese and the majority of its members are pastorally active there. The end of this section presents a list of deceased diocesan priests from Banja Luka who carved their lives and work into the local Church over the past 125 years.
Because the Church consists not only of bishops, priests and religious men but more so, of God's people, that is, all those baptised in Christ's name, a brief overview is given in the end of various Catholic and Croatian associations and societies that were active and still are in the Banja Luka Diocese. Belonging to both, that is, the Catholic Church and Croatian nation can hardly be separated one from each other seeing that throughout time, with the exception of the period of communist tyranny when this was not possible, the Church worked closely with various initiatives with the aim of promoting culture, science, education and health and sport, above all of the Catholic Croats, who form the major part of the Banja Luka Diocese.
The book starts with a preface by Bishop Franjo Komarica, the main motivator of this book, who came to the head of the Banja Luka Diocese on 15 July 1989 as its diocesan bishop and since then has headed it as the diocese's pastor and led it during its most critical period in history and is still in charge of it. This is followed by and Introduction by one of the authors, Dr. Anto Orlovac. The book is readable with the assistance of an index of names and places at the end of the book. A wealthy bibliography is included with a summary in English and German, excerpts by both reviewers and a note about the authors.
Added value is given by the photographs, maps and excerpts included in the book in witness of a time. Often they speak louder than words. This is the work of one of the books authors, Prof. Franjo Marić and his associates, Ivica Božinović and Pero-Ivan Grgić. We hope that book justifies its title and presents readers with the Banja Luka Diocese in word and picture in the period since its founding in 1881 to this day. This is the first of its kind. In that hope, the authors confidently offer it to our public despite any possible faults or errors it may have.
Translated by Snježana Pezer
The book has about 2000 photos. Here are a few of them:
The society Hrvatska Zena - Croatian Woman (dealing with education, humanitarian and social aid); both photos are from the town of Banja Luka, the second one is from 1938, when a branch of this society was opened (see [Maric, Orlovic]).
Hunger among Bosnian children, 1918 (see [Maric, Orlovic])
Playing harmonica in Banja Luka, 1920s or 30s (see [Maric, Orlovic])
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