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THE TRUTH ABOUT THE 'HERZEGOVINIAN AFFAIR'

The History of the Tragic Conflicts between the Bishops and the Franciscans in Bosnia-Herzegovina


by: Viktor Nuiæ, OFM, Dr.
Publisched by: K. KREŠIMIR, Zagreb, 1998
English version by: Snježana Pezer

INTRODUCTION

I. BOSNA SREBRENA (SIVLER BOSNIA)

1.The Establishment of the Bosnian Franciscan Vicary
2. Introducing a New Church Hierarchy
3. The Era of Archbishop Stadler

a) The Dispossession of Parishes
b) The Secularization of the Franciscans
c) Squeezing the Franciscans out of Public Life

4. The Development of 'Bosna Srebrena' (Silver Bosnia)
5. Archbishop Šari's Era


II. FRANCISCAN HERZEGOVINA

A. THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE HERZEGOVINIAN FRANCISCANS

1. The Monastery on Široki Brijeg
2. An Apostolic Vicary for Herzegovina
3. A Franciscan Custody for Herzegovina
4. The Monastery in Humac (Ljubuški)
5. The Monastery in Mostar
6. The Franciscan Province in Herzegovina

B. THE PROBLEM FACED BY THE PARISHES IN HERZEGOVINA

1. The Decision of the Holy See of 1899
2. The Decision of the Holy See of 1923
3. The Calamities of the Franciscans During the Second World War
4. The Revocation of the Decision by the Holy See of 1923
5. The Decision by the Holy See to Consign Five Parishes
6. The Fruitless Agreement of 1968
7. The Outbreak of the "Herzegovinian Affair"
8. Longterm Negotiations
9. The Holy See's Decree "Romanis Pontificibus" of 1975
10. The Franciscans Refuse to Actively Participate in the Implementation of the Decree
11. Sanctions (penalties)
12. The Mostar Affair
13. The apljina Affair
14. The "Alleviated" Implementation of the Decree of 1975

C. HIDING BEHIND THE DECREE OF 1975

1. Who is Behind the Holy See's Decree of 1975?
2. The Unquestionable Obedience of the Mostar Bishops Towards the Holy See?
3. The "Goodness" of the Decision by the Holy See of 1975
4. The "Justice" of the Decision by the Holy See of 1975?


CONCLUSION

INTRODUCTION

Preliminary remark: This brief review of the history of the tragic conflicts between the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Franciscans and the bishops from their beginnings (1881) until the month of August 1996, and with special emphasis on the conflicts between the Herzegovinian Franciscans and the last three Herzegovinian bishops, or better known as the "Herzegovinian Affair", has been designed and written as a popular edition. As such it is not equipped with a scientific apparatus: notes containing data about the use of sources or literature. This has been left for some future, all-encompassing, scientific edition. Nevertheless, the book is based on the documents (sources) cited, some works of which have been published while others are still waiting to be published. Other sources include notes and the memory of the author as a direct participant in all negotiations held between May 1968 until the end of 1979, excluding however, negotiations held during the Congregation for Evangelization of the People held in Rome on 20 February 1974. The author did not participate in this Congress as he was refused a passport. The literature used include: The Schematism of the Herzegovinian Franciscan Province, from 1977, a book by Friar Ignatius Gavran Lucerna Lucens, from 1978, and an article by the same author Law against Justice, published in St. Anthony's Calendar of 1996, pp. 71-82.

I know that many will receive this book with wonder and with a multitude of questions: why bring out internal ecclesiastic conflicts to the public? Maybe they are right, but seeing that the conflict between the bishops and the Franciscans continued publicly for centuries and that it is the topic of discussion in many places, we believe that it was more respectable and useful to approach the matter openly with the full truth at hand. Silence, secrecy, cover-ups and one-sided explanations of the truth are food for gossip and sometimes lies which we, at least they who are well minded, certainly do not need. It would be dishonourable to speak about someone in such a way that they cannot defend themselves, that is, behind someone's back, to an uniformed public and without presenting any evidence.

We will not speak about individuals, except where this is unavoidable, but rather about the facts, actions and attitudes. We will not depict individuals on one side as bad and on the other as good. We believe this a useful method to adhere to the motto that Solshenyzin used in Volume II of his Gulag, "The line, which separates good from evil, does not flow between classes nor between parties, but across and through every human heart. This line is mobile and moves throughout the years. Even in the heart that has been overtaken by evil it maintains some bridgehead towards good. Even in the best of us - there exists some unconquerable shelter of evil."

The direct inspiration for publishing this text is the latest conflict between the Bishop's Ordinary in Mostar and the Provinciality of Herzegovinian Franciscans where the Bishop forces the Herzegovinian Franciscans out, during the fiercest battles between the Croats and the Bosnian-Muslims. They were virtually driven out of Mostar in 1996, and later further on from apljina. Yes, that is right, he is expelling them, in the literal sense of the word because he will not allow them to survive anywhere near the wider area around apljina where they were the spiritual servants for centuries. He will not let them stay not even as a Community of Clergy without a parish!

Nevertheless, to be able to fathom the crux of the problem and for the sake of the truth, it is necessary as briefly as possible to recall the history of the conflict. Firstly, in Bosnia and then later in Herzegovina.

I. BOSNA SREBRENA (SILVER BOSNIA)

1. The Establishment of the Bosnian Franciscan Vicary

The Bosnian Vicary was established immediately following the arrival of the Franciscan General, Father Gerald Odnonis to Bosnia, when he came in 1339, to visit the Bosnian ban, Stjepan Kotromani. The primary task of the Franciscans was to drive back and withstand the Bogumil heresy which would have engulfed Bosnia. And so they came from various areas of Europe - Italy, Germany and even England, Spain and Poland - as Franciscan missionaries to work on this task. They were very successful: they rapidly learnt the language and adapted to the mentality of the local people - recruiting candidates from the populace - they too, soon became domestic. Several papal documents refer to the tedious task faced by the Franciscans. The most expansive of them all has to be the papal bull issued by Pope Eugene IV, Super gregem Dominicum, dated 23 January 1445. However, conversion needed to be supported by faith so the Franciscans immediately set off organizing a curatic service for which they were given exclusive rights to by the Pope. If, for example, a nobleman wished to have his own chapel and his own secular priest, he firstly needed to obtain approval from the Franciscans.

When the Turks invaded Bosnia, the Franciscans continued their work but they were now exposed to far worse ordeals, which continued to become worse as time went on. It was especially difficult when Austria and some other European countries began to successfully ward off the Turks and repress them liberating Hungaria, Slavonia, Dalmatia, that is, at the end of the Seventeenth Century on to the Eighteenth Century and in to the Nineteenth Century.

It was not infrequent that the Turks humiliated, beat, detained and murdered the Franciscans. Despite the horrific pressures and despite the fact that a great deal of the Catholic population suffered calamities and fled, one section of the population nevertheless remained in Bosnia and managed to preserve Catholicism as a constituent factor of these regions. Most of the deserves for the preservation of Catholicism goes to the Franciscans.

Even Bishop Stadler (whose inauguration virtually marks the beginning of the conflict) said, "There probably is not a country in the world, which has so much to thank the Franciscans for, as does Bosnia-Herzegovina. The sons of St. Francis faced with the greatest suffering, victims and banishment managed to maintain the Catholic faith in Bosnia. They lived for Bosnia and died for it until finally better days once again came to these lands, once again thanks to them."

The Bosnian-Herzegovinian Franciscans are not just merited with preserving the faith amongst their people but their very national awareness as Croats as well as their cultural exaltation during the dark centuries of our past.

Let us just mention the pleiad of Bosnian Franciscan writers led by Matija Divkovi who shone in the 19th Century, with the list ending with Juki, Marti, Kneevi and Josi.

2. Introducing a New Church Hierarchy

Austria was a dual monarchy: it was not forthcoming in sharing its rule with the Hungarians and at the same time it held the Slav people as subordinate and wherever possible as divided. After invading Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Monarchy did not particularly favour the idea that the Slavs and most especially, the Croats should be strong and united. This is where the origins of a Bosnian nation as such arise, as did the Bosnian language and a tendency to lean towards the Muslims. This was typical colonial politics so that even after 30 years of rule, Bosnia had not done away with serfdom and where 85% of its children remained without even a basic education. This political idea was threatened by the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Franciscans who always stressed their Croatian belonging. As such, Austria was determined to diminish the influx of Franciscans by cutting off any financial support, dispossessing them of their parishes and to completely squeeze them out of public life. Preparing for it in the long run, Austrian diplomacy decided in 1875, to sent a papal visitator to Bosnia to investigate the need and possibility of establishing a new Church organisation in that region. Because of the Uprising, the visitation did not take place until 1878, and even then it ended with a negative result: the visitator, Dr. Kazimir Forlani and the apostolic vicar Vujii and the Bosnian Franciscans signed a statement in Kraljeva Sutjeska stating "that for now there was no need for any changes in Bosnia". Nevertheless, immediately following the occupation, Austrian diplomacy was determined that through their emissary Paara and other contacts in Rome, it would succeed in its intention: to dispossess the Franciscans of their parishes and to introduce secular priests to Bosnia which would be headed by a regular hierarchy (a diocesan bishop). As such, the Holy See and the papal bull by Pope Leon XIII Ex hac augusta dated 5 July 1881, led Bosnia-Herzegovina into the regular hierarchy. It recognised the right for the Austrian Emperor to nominate the Archbishop and bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina, to recommend to the Pope, the first Canon for the Sarajevo Kaptol while the other three he would nominate himself personally. Austria did not succeed with its intention of completely excluding the Bosnian Franciscans. It used other means, often not quite honourable in that aim: it revoked pledges made to the Franciscans, the Franciscans were blasphemed and slandered as being uneducated and disorderly, it threatened with administrative measures against them and the whole while attempting to pass the odiousness of its demands on to the Holy See.

3. The Era of Archbishop Stadler

Several months after declaring the mentioned papal bull, Dr. Josip Stadler was nominated as the first Archbishop of Vrhbosna. The Bosnian Franciscans warmly welcomed the new bishop with good intentions. Several Franciscans went ahead to Slavonski Brod to meet him upon his arrival even before he was to step on to Bosnian land as the bishop. All the way to Sarajevo, Franciscans greeted him along the roadway with their populace.

It is undeniable that Archbishop Stadler was a conscientious and diligent man. This diligence and conscientiousness - amongst his other qualities - were often emphasised and highlighted by many Franciscan provincials. His education was also at a solid level, that is, within the framework of theology and 19th Century thinking and, the surroundings he grew up in and its views on man and society and the role of science and faith, relations between the State and religion, nation and faith. He was most surely a very capable organiser.

His contemporaries highlighted the huge construction efforts undertaken by the Bishop: the cathedral (1884 - 1889), education facilities in Travnik and Sarajevo, the parish church in Novo Sarajevo, the Archbishop's Palace with its chapel, the women's refuge Bethlehem and men's refuge Egipat in Sarajevo and a church and convent for the nuns, Dolorosa located in ardak near Gradaac. He also assisted with the construction of other churches and parish presbyteries.

Nevertheless, there are some less favourable sides to Stadler and his manner, which led to the deep conflict with the Bosnian Franciscans. There were three general problems in Bosnia which emerged after the arrival of the Archbishop Stadler and then later during Šari's rule: a) the dispossession of parishes; b) the secularization of the Franciscans; c) the squeezing out of Franciscans from public life.

a) The Dispossession of Parishes

The Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastic Business on 10 December 1881, determined that all parishes were at the disposal of the bishops if the Franciscans do not manage to claim their rights to them, except those which are adjoined to Franciscan monasteries. These same parishes were to be handed over to the bishop upon them being vacated. At the same time a moratorium was set for a period of 1 year when parish priests would not be nominated. This was intended to be sufficient time for the Franciscans to present their case to the Holy See with regard to their special rights to these parishes, if indeed these rights existed.

In the last Clause of the Decree, the Franciscans were especially grateful to the Holy See. They namely, presented a special petition to prove their rights. A special book was even published on the matter. According to the Ecclesiastic law of the time a parish could rightfully become monastic in four ways: 1) in that the monks founded the parish where there had not been one until then; 2) in that they obtain a grant; 3) in that they administer the parish for a certain period (between 30 to 40 years), which is referred to as prescription or a case of statute of limitation; 4) in that the parish is handed over to them to their ownership and care by the appropriate Church authorities or the Holy See. The Bosnian Franciscans had attained the right to own their parishes in all four of these ways.

They nevertheless expressed their readiness to withdraw from 16 parishes in the Vrhbosna and 8 in the Banja Luka dioceses. However, the bishop considered this number far too low. Then the Franciscans offered an additional 8 parishes to the original 24. But, the Archbishop did not accept this offer but demanded that in addition to the 24 originally offered, a further 20 be handed over. The Franciscans turned to the Holy See with a petition, which was taken to Rome by Friar Ilija avarovi where he presented the entire situation in person to the Holy See. At the same time, the Archbishop too went to Rome and expressed his wishes. Pope Leon XIII commissioned the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastic Business to investigate the matter. The investigation was concluded with a decree issued by approval of the Holy Father on 14 March 1883. The Decree passed an order that the Franciscans hand over 35 parishes to the Archbishop while the remainder were to remain as monastic parishes in the ownership of the Franciscans.

At first, Archbishop Stadler accepted the Decree of 1883, as final. In the magazine The Sacred Heart of Christ, issue no. 4, 1883, the Decree was published with an official no. 290 and titled "The Parish Issue Resolved". However, Stadler later attempted to and continued to deny the validity of that Decree.

b) The Secularization of the Franciscans

The word "secularization" in this context is taken to mean the transition from a monastic to a worldly (secular) clergy. Stadler's attempts to compel the Franciscans to transfer to a secular clergy ruined their faith in the Archbishop and shook the very foundations of the 'Bosna Srebrena' Provinciality.

Before he even arrived in Bosnia, Stadler had come to a negative judgement about the Franciscans. In his sermons he constantly reiterated that the secular clergy would be more successful in pastoral care than the Franciscans had been. Sometimes he would say, "If the Franciscans become secular clergy, then they will be good priests!" It is generally well known that secularization is not embarked on as a result of higher motives but rather as a human weakness and as a result of indecisiveness. The Franciscans were, as a result of Stadler's actions, if indeed they survived at all, destined to be limited to some dozen monasteries.

In 1883, he approached Provincial avarovi and recommended they come to an agreement regarding the secularization of the Franciscans! This would have been the same thing as coming to a father and discussing how best to demolish his family. These attempts were repeated in 1896, when he suggested to Provincial iak that the Franciscans simply be allowed to leave the Order. In 1898, he sent his Proclamation to the Franciscans to join the secular clergy - via their Provincial!

In the beginning that is in 1898, there were only 11 secular priests. Stadler hoped that with more priests at hand he would attain all the parishes. He believed that many Franciscans would refuse to accept the new constitution (he referred to them as "reforms") and that they would naturally request secularisation. He himself went amongst them to try and convince them of this move. At the same time (around 1 February 1898) he sent a letter to the Holy Father requesting that he be assigned all the Bosnian parishes. As his justification for this request he noted that the majority of Bosnian Franciscans desired to be secularized and had requested that he, Stadler, accept them. He also requested the Holy See to allow him to be given the authority to accept these Franciscans to his clergy without the necessary papal approval.

Nevertheless, despite the claims noted in the Archbishop's letter mentioned above, few Franciscans actually proceeded to be secularized. As such on the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March 1898, he issued his Proclamation which openly and publicly called on the Franciscans to renounce the Order and to join the secular clergy. The Proclamation was sent to individual addresses with the same reference number: 322, and was also published in the official newsletter Vrhbosna.

c) Squeezing the Franciscans out of Public Life

This phenomenon of squeezing the Franciscans out of public life was most evident during Stadler's period. He diminished their reputation and position in society before government authorities and attempted to completely exclude them from reputable and lucrative services. These included positions like the catechists in Sarajevo and other large towns. It appeared that Stadler believed that it was unfathomable that a Bosnian Franciscan could become a member of the Bishop's Kaptol (Court).

Attempts to diminish the Franciscans continued by preventing them from participating in political life. During elections for the Bosnian Parliament, opponents of the Franciscans managed to convince Rome that the Bosnian and Herzegovinian Franciscans should lose their right to passive voting. This meant that they could not be elected as representatives to the Parliament. As citizens and in keeping with the Constitution, they had this right and now the "Church" was to take this right away from them. This could in a sense, even be positive, for why should priests be allowed to be politicians for this could bring their spiritual mission into doubt? If this was so, why was this right not taken away from the secular clergy in Bosnia and elsewhere for that matter? This was never even considered as a possibility. This in a way did not only harm the Bosnia and Herzegovinian Franciscans as much as it did the entire national issue. During that period when there was still too few a secular intelligentzia and participation of priests including the Franciscans, it was more than necessary for them to be involved in defending national interests. A Herzegovinian Franciscan, Friar Didak Bunti was quite harsh in his reaction to these actions and he sent a letter to the Provincial of Bosnian Franciscans and later the Bishop of Mostar, Friar Alojzije Miši, "Thanks to this ban, we are certainly being thrown out like garbage. It is almost as if they are saying, 'Off with you Friar! Out of our parish! Away from public life Friar! Back to your monastery, Friar!' that is, 'Move out of this world, Friar!'"

The fundamental reason behind squeezing the Franciscans out of public life was the "ideal" of the Bishop's power, which he exercised over the Bosnian bishops. Stadler brought this ideal from Austria which, at the time, still breathed with a feudal spirit. This seemed natural to Stadler and was founded on his belief of God's almighty right.

The Bosnian Franciscans however, had until then been used to bishops who were not bishops for the sake of their own power and reputation but rather for the sake of the priests and the people? These were bishops such as Friar Marko Dobreti, Friar Augustine Mileti, Friar Marijan Šunji, Friar Paškal Vujii and others. The Franciscans could not feel such deep respect for the worldly praise of authority and the ostentatiousness of high Church dignitaries as they had felt for the true values of worth and holiness.

For this reason that is, the Archbishop's attitudes and efforts even the most humble of Franciscans, such as avarovi, both the uri's, Miši, ubeli etc, rebelled against him. They were deeply disappointed with the actions of the Church leader and were of the firm belief that his actions did not do that much harm to them as Franciscans as it did in fact to Catholicism itself in Bosnia.

In time, the Archbishop's Ordinary had in fact created its "own" clergy and virtually tripled the number of parishes at its disposal. He offered a huge deal of the foreign and later domestic income of the Church to the discretion of his priests. Finally, he personally defended the clergy in addition to the excessively liberal rights they enjoyed under Cannon Law. These were then his envious successes during this century of politics. These successes proved to be far too costly though.

4. The Development of 'Bosna Srebrena' (Silver Bosnia)

Despite all the hardship caused by Archbishop Stadler and his Ordinary, the Franciscans continued to develop their Province. One branch was their rapid development of construction activities (not including the construction of the education centres in Visoko and Sarajevo). Construction sites existed on many fronts during Stadler's reign. The Franciscans built five completely new monasteries: Kraljeva Sutjeska, Petrievac, Sarajevo and Rama. They also built 26 Franciscan parish churches. Some churches were completely refurbished; it could be said they were virtually rebuilt almost as new. These being in Vareš, Vidoši, Ljubunica and in Gorica (Livno). The Franciscans also constructed a significant number of churches in diocesan parishes. During Stadler's period they also built 31 parish presbyteries of which 17 were located in diocesan parishes. I will not mention here other public institutions and buildings, which they also constructed.

What needs to be stressed here, is that by constructing these buildings - which were often much larger and numerous than those that the Archbishop's Ordinary constructed - the Franciscans were exclusively financed by themselves and their communities. It was rare that the government offered any assistance in these constructions.

All the money, which the Christian world collected and sent to the Archbishop for the poor Bosnian Catholics - as far as the Franciscans were concerned - virtually did not come to Bosnia. In this regard, the Franciscans were in a much worse state than they had been during the Turkish invasions. During the Turkish rule, aid was sent from France and Germany as support for the construction of churches and supply of church vestments. This source had now "dried" up. "Wherever the Franciscans now knocked, the reply was, 'They have their own government to care for them now, so let the Government take care of them!' So now their knocking was in vein even when it came to those doors where they had never before been refused."

5. Archbishop Šari's Era

Following the very long period of Stadler's rule which lasted for a full 37 years (1881 - 1918), a much shorter period of twenty years signified Šari's era (1919 - 1945). This was the period between two world wars and in a new State known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Slovenes and Croats (SHS), or rather as it was, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Compared to Josip Stadler, Ivan Šari (1871 - 1960) was born in Bosnia. He came to know the Bosnian Friars directly. And indeed, he sometimes showed some feelings of sympathy and understanding towards them. However, he was influenced a great deal more during his education in Travnik and Sarajevo. Here he adopted the Jesuit opinion of the monastic clergy. He was finally influenced by the joint life he shared with Archbishop Stadler. He became a Canon in Sarajevo virtually immediately upon graduating, when he was only 25 years old. He remained with Stadler until his death. It appears he virtually - without any criticism - accepted anything that Stadler had to say about the Franciscans as well as his perceptions of authority and regarding his duty as the Archbishop of Vrhbosna. As such Šari inherited Stadler's aims and goals. He simply wanted to imitate Stadler.

We know of three grievances or rather requests forwarded by Šari demanding that the Franciscans be dispossessed of their parishes; in 1928, 1931 and 1936. However, it could virtually be said that his requests to confiscate these parishes were ceterum censeo (predetermined demands) as was his other correspondence to Rome regarding the Franciscans - even if this was not always clearly and directly expressed.

According to Archbishop Šari, the Franciscan parishes could not be Franciscan because the presbyteries and churches did not belong to them but were rather built by the people! Even if it were true that the people constructed these churches this still would not prove that the parishes did not rightfully belong to the Franciscans. Rights to a parish can be gained in only one way (title) while the ownership of the church and the presbytery is another matter entirely. Cannon Law never asked that a church and presbytery in monastic parishes required to be in the ownership of the monastic community to which the parish belonged. In this light, the Archbishop's claims on behalf of the "people" had no worth. The monks had earned a great deal with their own toil and labour and with their earnings they constructed or bought these houses. Legal documents exist to prove this. Indeed, the people helped construct these churches and often voluntarily but these Franciscan churches were built in the end to serve the "people".

Archbishop Šari was of the belief that the Franciscans received all they had from the people and benefactors because when they first came to Bosnia they did not have anything. As such he concluded that nothing belonged to them. The people gave for the church and not for the Franciscans themselves! Nevertheless, it is not important who received what from whom but rather the reason why something was given and finally received. If someone rewards or pays me for my work then that is my earnings and it is mine. Can it be that in 600 years of their existence in Bosnia the Franciscans did not earn or gain anything at all?

Penalties issued by Archbishop Šari during his reign were not rare. We will not however, speak of those now. The aforementioned is unfortunately only a minute detail of the misfortunes committed by Archbishop Šari, which afflicted the Croatian people, and the Church in Bosnia. Misfortunes, which were mostly felt by the ordinary man, the believer, who despite the fact whether a priest is a Franciscan or diocesan priest, if he is a good priest serves as an ideal and leader for his brethren.

II. FRANCISCAN HERZEGOVINA

Herzegovina was once the administrative province of the Bosnian kings. Stjepan Kosa, a noble who administered the southern and eastern regions of the Bosnian kingdom in 1448 was given the title "Herzog" or "the Duke of St. Sabe". This is how the region then gained its name Herzegovina or the Dukedom of St. Sabe.

Pastoral activities in Herzegovina were firstly conducted by Franciscans from the Slavonian or Dalmatian provinces and then later from the Bosnian Vicary. Before the Turks occupied Herzegovina that is in 1482, there were at least three monasteries in Herzegovina; in Konjic, Mostar and Ljubuški. In the 16th Century, the Turks destroyed all three monasteries so that not one monastery existed in the entire region of Herzegovina. Nevertheless, the Franciscans continued with their pastoral care amongst their people coming from the closest monasteries outside Herzegovina. Namely, after the destruction of the monastery in Ljubuški, the Franciscans re-settled in Zaostrog, which belonged to the Bosnian Vicary. From here they continued to spiritually serve their former parishes which had belonged to the Ljubuški monastery. After the destruction of the Mostar monastery, the Franciscans left and moved out of Herzegovina from where they continued to serve the parishes covered by their former monastery. They stayed in various towns until they finally built a monastery in ivogoše from where they served their faithful located in Herzegovina. This situation lasted until the liberation wars - the Candian War (1645 - 1669), and the Viennese War (1683 - 1699). During these wars it was very dangerous and later the Turks did not allow Franciscans from other (enemy!) lands to come to Herzegovina and to spiritually serve the Catholics in the region under their jurisdiction. Since then, the Franciscans located in the monastery in Kreševo in Bosnia were virtually responsible for the pastoral care of Herzegovina in its entirety. Duvno alone was served from the monastery in Fojnica while Roško Polje was served by the monastery in Kraljeva Sutjeska (both in Bosnia). This situation lasted up until the 19th Century.

A. THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE HERZEGOVINIAN FRANCISCANS

At the beginning of the 19th Century the Franciscans from the Bosnian province who were born in Herzegovina began to seriously consider building a new monastery in Herzegovina. They were further motivated to make this move by the fact that Herzegovina, which had previously been a Bosnian sanjak (administrative region) had during the Turkish rule been granted status as a separate 'pashaluk' (region administered by the pasha).

1. The Monastery on Široki Brijeg

And indeed on 8 July 1843, eight Franciscans from Herzegovina by birth met in Posušje. They were members of the Bosna Srebrena province. After the meeting they sent the Holy Congregation for Spreading the Faith a letter in which they requested to be given approval to build a monastery in the land of their birth with the purpose of being able to better and more easily serve their faithful with their spiritual needs. Approval was issued by the Apostolic Vicar of Bosnia (in a letter dated 26 September 1843), as well as the General of the Franciscan Order (in a letter dated 30 September 1843).

Upon receipt of the said letter, the Congregation for the Spreading of the Faith adopted a decision on 6 February 1844, and issued a decree which directed that a new Franciscan monastery be built in Herzegovina. After approval was given - following tedious efforts - by the Turkish Sultan on 23 July 1846, the founding stone was laid for the new monastery on Široki Brijeg.

2. An Apostolic Vicary for Herzegovina

However, as soon as the Franciscans began work on building a monastery in their land, they were met with opposition by the elders of the Bosna Srebrena province. They considered that this would introduce disorder in the province and would diminish the value of the monastery in Kreševo. Matters became so tense between the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Apostolic Vicary that peace could only be attained by separating Herzegovina from Bosnia - as far as Church matters were concerned.

The Bosnian-Herzegovinian Vicar, Bishop Rafo Bariši (Friar), on 24 March 1846 abdicated from the Bosnian Vicary and held on to rule in Herzegovina. This decision was accepted by the Congregation for Spreading the Faith and approved with a decree issued on 29 August 1847, which was later approved by Pope Paul IX on 24 September the same year.

As such in 1847, seceded from a unified Vicary for Bosnia and Herzegovina, a separate Vicary was established for Herzegovina alone.

3. A Franciscan Custody for Herzegovina

Bishop Rafo Bariši (Friar) was nominated as the Apostolic Vicar for Herzegovina. He was a Franciscan from the Bosna Srebrena province. As the Apostolic Vicar and Visitator he was at the same time the ecclesiastic supreme authority of the Order. This however, did not last long because the Franciscans wanted to adapt their lives according to the Constitution of the Order on the one hand and on the other, circumstances as they were did not allow them to recruit novices. As such, as soon as they settled into their new monastery in Široki Brijeg they requested the Congregation for Spreading the Faith and the General of the Order to establish a Custody in Herzegovina which would be dependent on and under the direct authority of the General. Matters however, were not settled as quickly as they would have liked and a decree regarding the establishment of a Custody was only issued on 3 October 1852.

The newly established Custody only had one monastery and even it was not completely built when the Custody was set up. The monastery had its own custodian, noviciate and a Franciscan school. The monastery was in charge of the then Franciscan parishes in western Herzegovina; Seonica, Grabovica, Roško Polje, Mokronoge, Posušje, Ruii, Veljaci, Brotnjo or Gradnii, Gradac, Mostar, Blato (Široki Brijeg) and the local chapels in Gorica and Zaslivlje.

4. The Monastery in Humac (Ljubuški)

As soon as the monastery in Široki Brijeg was completed, the Franciscans decided to build a new monastery and college. They decided that the site of the new monastery would be in Humac, immediately adjoining the presbytery of the newly established Humac-Ljubuški parish. When they were given all the necessary approvals, the Apostolic Vicar, Friar Aneo Kraljevi laid the founding stone of the new monastery on 4 April 1867. Construction of the monastery lasted for ten years. In 1876, the noviciate from Široki Brijeg was re-settled in the new monastery, as was the school.

5. The Monastery in Mostar

After the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1878, which meant that after four centuries, Christian rule was once again established in these regions, the need for a new monastery in Mostar was felt even more. Mostar was virtually the only city in Herzegovina. In 1866, the founding stone was laid for the church while in 1873, a residency was built next to the church. It was only in 1880 however, that the residency came into use. Then the decision was made to build a monastery. Construction began in 1890, while on 10 November 1894, the newly built building was by Cannon, proclaimed as a true monastery.

6. The Franciscan Province in Herzegovina

The Herzegovinian Franciscan Custody proved through its forty years of existence to be developing quite well. In 1892, it already had two monasteries, 31 parishes, 65 priests, 19 clergymen and 5 honourable brothers. This was all that was needed to guarantee a regular, orderly and secure continuation of life. After obtaining approval from the Congregation for Spreading the Faith on 27 April 1892, General Alojzije from Parma established a new Herzegovinian Franciscan province.

B. THE PROBLEM FACED BY THE PARISHES IN HERZEGOVINA

1. The Decision of the Holy See of 1899.

At that time, the Franciscan Herzegovinian province was already riddled with the problem that parishes requested to be recognised with the appropriate decrees. The first diocesan bishop in Herzegovina was a Herzegovinian Franciscan, Friar Paškal Buconji who remained very favourable towards the Franciscans. What is more, he was their greatest benefactor. He did not present any threats to the Franciscans whatsoever. However, the new Austro-Hungarian "Catholic" authorities attempted through the Archbishop of Vrhbosna to influence Rome to dispossess the Franciscans of their parishes and to squeeze them out of public life. The Franciscans were compelled to offer the Bishop several parishes as secular to a diocesan clergy, which still did not exist in the area! In 1885 already, an agreement was reached with the Bishop that the parishes along the right bank of the Neretva river (western Herzegovina) were to remain as Franciscans, while the secular priests were given those parishes on the left bank of the Neretva river (eastern Herzegovina). However, the Holy Congregation did not approve this agreement. Nevertheless, when the Franciscans offered 12 existing parishes in western Herzegovina to be at the disposal of the local Ordinary and the secular clergy, the agreement was ratified on 17 July 1899. The Province now only had 25 parishes.

2. The Decision of the Holy See of 1923.

In the first half of the 20th Century the Herzegovinian Franciscan province was marked with visible advancements. It had numerous vocations and a well-organised study programme, especially at the Franciscan Classical Grammar School in Široki Brijeg, which became public in 1918.

During the First World War (1914 - 1918), the Herzegovinian Franciscan province sent several of its priests to the USA as pastors for Croatian workers. In 1926, the Croatian Franciscans in the USA established the Holy Family commissariat, which was then in 1931 annexed to the Herzegovinian Franciscan province. Later the Commissariat was upgraded to a Custody. Today that Custody consists of a monastery (in Chicago) and fifteen parishes and missions in the USA and Canada.

Then too, the brothers were mostly involved in pastoral care for the faithful. In the Mostar-Duvno diocese, that is, the right bank of the Neretva river, of the 43 parishes in existence the Franciscans were responsible for 40. In addition to the 25 parishes which in 1899 remained in the care of the Province, the Franciscans also served in 15 other parishes, which were at the free disposal of the local Ordinary, or rather, the Bishop.

In an effort to best conduct their pastoral care and to prepare priests for pastoral care the Province's administration came to an agreement with the bishops, Friar Alojzije Miši, a Bosnian Franciscan who had in the meantime become the Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, to grant them by Cannon the 15 parishes which were already established and which they served in addition to a further 12 parishes which were to be established in the near future. The agreement was ratified by the Council of the Holy Congregation on 22 June 1923.

3. The Calamities of the Franciscans During the Second World War

The Herzegovinian Franciscan province was almost but completely destroyed during the Second World War (1941 - 1945). The communists murdered 67 Herzegovinian Franciscans. A large number of them fled for refuge in order to save their bare lives. Following the War, some 70 Franciscans were detained and imprisoned in Communist dungeons to a total number of over 200 years. As such not even one-third of the faithful were left in Herzegovina after the War. The communists shut down all the education facilities that belonged to the Province; the High School in Široki Brijeg, the noviciate in Humac and the Seminary in Mostar. Throughout the entire time of Communist rule these institutions were prohibited from re-opening their doors. The authorities confiscated the majority, if not all, the monasteries in Herzegovina including most of the presbyteries and residencies in their ownership. In 1949, a decree was prepared to abolish the Herzegovina Franciscan province and the Franciscans were issued a directive to evacuate their monastery in Mostar. Fortunately, a few hours later this decree was withdrawn before it saw the light of day.

Nevertheless, the Province once again revived itself, developed and strengthened. The blood of its martyrs truly was the seed for the new Franciscans who were educated and trained and were enrolled in the education institutions located in other Franciscan provinces and other monastic institutions and diocese, but mostly in Bosna Srebrena.

4. The Revocation of the Decision by the Holy See of 1923.

However, huge problems for the Province, this time internal ecclesiastic problems, began some 32 years ago. This is namely, how long the conflict over parishes has existed between the Bishop's Ordinary in Mostar and the Province of the Herzegovinian Franciscans.

In 1942, namely, the new Mostar bishop, Dr. Petar ULE, was a non-Franciscan - nominated by the wishes, choice and machinations of the Archbishop of Vrhbosna, Šari - and who from the very beginning of his inauguration began to impose Archbishop Stadler's politics on the Franciscans in Herzegovina and their parishes. Already in 1943, he conducted an official visit (ad limina) to Rome and instigated an investigation by the Congregation regarding the issue of parishes. In fact he attempted to show that the agreement between the Province and Bishop Miši was "ob vitium subriptionis et obreptionis" (because of the disclosure of the truth and exposure of lies) to be invalid. However, he did not receive the response he desired. He then, upon being dismissed from gaol, when he visited Rome again in 1958, once again instigated the same issue.

All this took place behind the backs and without the knowledge of the Franciscans who were in fact quite ignorant to all this. When in 1962, someone unofficially advised the Franciscans what ule's intentions were, the Deputy Provincial, Dr. Jerko Mihaljevi forwarded Bishop ule with a written request to clarify the matter. The Bishop replied on 31March 1962, stating, "Most respected! Is it necessary to shame ourselves before the Holy See unnecessarily exposing these matters? - We immediately require at least another 100 priests, taking into consideration that we have a number of priests who are old or ill. If we succeed in introducing Religious Instructions in schools then we would immediately require 150 priests. This however, is a number which we cannot hope to achieve in the next 30 years taking into consideration that many of our priests today will have died in that time. Therefore our generation will not have the opportunity to look for new positions but rather to fill and maintain those in existence now. So let us leave this problem to the new generation which will succeed us once we a well in our graves."

After this, Bishop ule went to Rome to attend the sitting of the Synod and once again, without the knowledge of the Franciscans, initiated the issue regarding the parishes affirming that he was in a poor state because he did not have anywhere to place his priests, even though there were nowhere enough secular priests by far to cover the parishes he had already been granted at his disposal and these were in fact catered for by Franciscans.

All this was made public in the autumn of 1964, when the Holy See sent its Apostolic Visitator to Herzegovina. The visitator was none other than the Archbishop of Belgrade, Bukata who was assigned to investigate the validity and rightfullness of Bishop ule's request.

Naturally, the Franciscans felt they had been betrayed. They lost their faith in Bishop ule. Custodian Mihaljevi stated, "Believe in man!" Later he wrote, "This statement (cited response to Bishop ule by Custodian Mihaljevi - author's note) needs no explanation. It speaks for itself. If we were to identify it with its real name, we could be nothing but shocked!"

The Apostolic Visitator Bukato came to Herzegovina, stayed a few days with bishop ule, visited some parishes and conducted a brief visit to the Provincial of the Herzegovinian Franciscans, Friar Zlatko ori. After that, he submitted his report to the Holy See. We do not know what the report contained nor what his recommendations were. We can only guess by the response, a Decree by the Holy Congregation for Spreading the Faith dated 18 March 1965, which revoked the Agreement signed in 1923, and which directed Bishop ule and Provincial ori that in the autumn that same year, they come to Rome before the Congregation and decide upon a new division of parishes.

The meeting indeed took place however, an agreement was not reached regarding a new division of parishes. Negotiations continued in Herzegovina but the agreement was not forthcoming. In fact, an agreement could not be made, because Bishop ule asserted that the revokement of the Agreement of 1923 ipso facto (the revokement itself) meant that all the parishes went to him in addition to the 25 which by the Decision by the Holy See of 1899, remained with the Franciscans. On the other hand, the Franciscans claimed that the revokement of the Decision of 1923 itself, did not mean that the parishes now belonged to the Bishop but rather that this meant that a new division was required which after all stood written in the Decree itself.

5. The Decision by the Holy See to Consign Five Parishes

Even though the Franciscans put forward their suggestions for a new division of parishes, Bishop ule continued to refuse their proposals counting on the Holy See to finally make the decision he was waiting for. On 21April 1967, the Holy Congregation for Spreading the Faith issued a Decree by which it requested the Franciscans, as a sign of good will and prior to a final decision being reached, to consign five parishes to the disposal of the Bishop. These being, Crna, Gradac-Blizanci, Grljevii, Grude and Mostarski Gradac!

The Franciscans submitted an appeal and requested that a final agreement be reached regarding the distribution of parishes and only then should any parishes be consigned. Nevertheless, the Apostolic emissary for the then Yugoslavia, Cagna issued a Decree dated 13 November 1967, which ordered that the handover of the said parishes be conducted within six months, that is, no later than 13 May 1968.

6. The Fruitless Agreement of 1968.

This decision caused great dissatisfaction amongst the Franciscans and their faithful, which had in the meantime, come to know about the agreement. Aware of the danger and of the unaccountable reaction of the Franciscans and their people the Provincial of the Herzegovinian Franciscans, Dr. Rufin Šili, by his authority vested in the Provincial Capitulate of May 1967, commenced negotiations with Bishop ule. He wanted to reach a final agreement about the new distribution of parishes, which would be acceptable to the Franciscans prior to "D" day, that is 13 May 1968. He thought he would be able to calm down his friars and would then ask for a postponement of the impending execution until the Franciscans had time to prepare their faithful for the handover/takeover.

However, Bishop ule felt that he was in a better position and so he dictated the conditions. By this token he put the 25 parishes which were guaranteed to the Franciscans by the Decision of the Holy See of 1899, together with the parishes which according to the Decree issued by the Holy See in 1965, were to be re-distributed. This in fact, was a trap. Namely, in the draft agreement Bishop ule did not want to specify the ownership procedure to the Province of those parishes which were left to the Franciscans, not even the 25, that is, whether these too would be validly united with the Province as were the other 25 pursuant to the Decision of 1899, or on the other hand, were they all, including these 25, being placed in their care - temporarily or permanently, that is for a determined period. He claimed that it was best to leave it to the Holy See to decide which parishes were to belong to the Franciscans. Naturally, he counted on the Holy See deciding in his favour. In this way, he actually wanted to bring into question the ownership of the 25 parishes, which until then undoubtedly belonged to the Franciscans and were validly united to their Province.

In an effort to avoid a greater evil, which he presupposed, Provincial Šili consulted with a legal advisor in Rome and as such accepted this condition. Negotiations were held secretly. In the end, Šili and ule came to a decision about the distribution of all the parishes in Herzegovina. It appeared that the danger had been avoided. When Bishop ule's secretary delivered the final text of the draft agreement one evening for signing, Provincial Šili asked is it the same as we previously agreed in writing with Bishop ule. When he received a positive response, he signed the text without even reading it. However, his own secretary read the text later that evening and realised that Bishop ule had at the last moment thrown in a clause by which the Provincial could lose his own residency and parish in apljina. Warned about the clause, Šili revoked his signature in writing that same night because the Provincial Capitulate of 1967 gave him the authority to discuss all parishes which by the Decision of the Holy See of 1965, were determined to be re-distributed excepting two parishes which were adjoined to Franciscan residencies - the one in apljina and the one in itluk.

7. The Outbreak of the "Herzegovinian Affair"

Provincial Šili was deeply disappointed and concerned. Atrocity was inevitable. This, namely occurred just prior to the deadline to hand over the five parishes as a sign of good will. He convened a meeting of the elders and conducted all the written formalities regarding the handover/takeover of the five parishes and advised all those who needed to be, the current parish priests of the said parishes, Bishop ule, the Supreme Authority of the Franciscan Order in Rome and the Holy See.

When on 12 May 1968, the Franciscans departed from their parishes their faithful said their goodbyes with pain in their hearts. In three parishes, (Crna, Grude and Mostarski Gradac) the people did not allow the secular priests to take over the presbytery or church.

This was the birth of the painful "Herzegovinian Affair". For the past twenty-eight years, this affair has from time to time smouldered and other times erupted. There were occasions when the church entrance was bricked up, the secular priests driven out and the nomination of unfavourable new parish priests to take their place. There were massive public protests held by the faithful. Often enough the Communist police were called in to protect the Bishop from the masses. In 1995, a protest organised in Mostar turned into a firebomb, so to speak. Violent incidents were even recorded committed by individuals against the Bishop. Anyone who has any feeling for their Church must feel regret for what has happened. Violence against anyone, and most especially against the highest representative of one's Church, must be condemned even though the bitterness felt by the faithful can be comprehended.

8. Longterm Negotiations

Despite all this, negotiations did not cease. Negotiations were held in Herzegovina and in Zagreb (in the Archbishop's Court and at Bishops' Conferences), and finally in Rome (at the Congregation for the Evangelization of the People and at the Vatican State secretariat).

Immediately following the occurrence of the "Herzegovinian Affair" in 1968, commissions were appointed to conduct negotiations, which consisted of Franciscans and diocesan priests. However, an agreement was not forthcoming even after several years of negotiation because the two sides stood firmly on opposite sides with uncompromising attitudes. The Franciscans continued to support the idea that it was necessary first to come to a general agreement about the parishes, which would be acceptable to them. In this way the Franciscans would be given an opportunity to prepare their faithful for the imminent transition to secular priests, which meant giving enough time for the people to be calmed down and peacefully accept the change. The diocesan side placed a pre-condition to any further negotiations demanding that the Franciscans immediately enable the said three parishes to be taken over, that is, the three parishes which the Franciscans placed at the disposal of the Bishops and which they vacated on 12 May 1968, but where the people did not allow the secular priests to enter. As far as the remaining parishes, mentioned in the Decree by the Holy See of 1965, which were to be redistributed the diocesan side firmly stood by their idea that they were automatically handed over to the Bishop at his disposal by the very fact that the Decree was issued and now the only question was how to technically arrange for the hand over of these parishes. At the same time the diocesan side was very "generous" in considering to leave one or two parishes to the Franciscans. The Franciscans foresaw that this was a perfidious way of eventually doing away with the Province and were not prepared psychologically to engage themselves with the people and to depart these parishes leaving them to secular priests.

Nothing changed in Herzegovina, not even after the arrival of Assistant Bishop ANI who was assigned to negotiate with the Franciscans on behalf of the diocesan authorities. From the very beginning he presented the hard core attitudes of the Bishop. Towards the end of the very first meeting he attended, he demanded that the Franciscans sign the following statement, "Seeing that we were not able to come to an agreement, we have decided to let the Holy See decide and we will accept such a decision no matter what that decision may be." This was not accepted by the Franciscans. Nevertheless, all the following meetings of the negotiation team which were attended by Bishop ani ended in the same manner. Naturally, he counted on the fact that the Holy See would decide in his favour. Later he bragged that this was the purpose for him to visit Rome on more than 70 occasions.

9. The Holy See's Decree "Romanis Pontificibus" of 1975.

It was evident that the Holy See wanted an agreement to be reached. As such in 1972, it sent its Apostolic Visitator to Herzegovina. The Bishop of Burgenland in Austria, Msgr. Stefan Laszlo was assigned the task to head further negotiations. He showed a little more understanding towards the Franciscans but was too concerned with the inflexible, unchangeable attitude by the diocesan side. This is the reason why negotiations held under his auspices (in Mostar, Zagreb and finally in Rome) ended the way they did. The result of these negotiations was a decree by the Congregations for Evangelisation of the People or for Spreading the Faith known as the Romanis Pontificibus and dated 6 June 1975.

The Decree satisfied all of the demands set by the diocesan side and which had been presented during the negotiation session with the Congregation for Evangelisation of the People, excepting the demand that the Bishop, without prior approval of the Holy See, can establish a parish in Ljubuški and Radišii, which would surely have resulted in the annihilation of the then second largest, and now the largest Franciscan parish in Herzegovina - the monastery parish in Humac at the very edge of Ljubuški.

The dissatisfaction felt by the Franciscans with this - in their opinion, founded on untruths, injustice and quite damaging - Decree could not even be calmed down by the Apostolic Visitator, Bishop Laszlo who had invited their representatives once again to Zagreb that same year.

10. The Franciscans Refuse to Actively Participate in the Implementation of the Decree

In the spring of 1976, elections were to be held for the Capitulate of the Herzegovinian Province of Franciscans, which was to elect the new administration in the Province. Provincial Šili could not be elected again as he had already served two terms. The Holy See postponed executing the Capitulate and requested the current Provincial administration that they formally and unconditionally" pass "a statement about the acceptance of the decision brought by the Holy See within 20 days".

After holding a survey amongst the members of the Province, the Provincial administration on 10 May 1976, forwarded a letter directly to Pope Paul VI in which amongst other things they stated,

We, friars of the definitorium of the mentioned Franciscan province, (...) concerned for the good and peace in the Church and amongst God's people in Herzegovina and completely aware of the possible repercussions solemnly state that we a prepared for our faith, the Gospel, Church and Holy Father, if necessary, to share our own blood as did so many of our brethren throughout our history and in recent times; only in the most recent past, 70 brothers from this Franciscan province gave their lives or served over 200 years of imprisonment serving as witnesses to God, which cannot be falsified nor can their faith and love towards their religion, the Gospel, their Church and the Holy Father.

Nevertheless, while we recognise and express our faith and faithfulness and above all our loyalty, at the same time we fully aware and with full responsibility on behalf of our monastic province which we lead and before God's people which has been entrusted to the pastoral care of our brothers in the same monastic province, before Christ's Church and before You, Holy Father, state that the Decree, "Romanis Pontificibus" evidently contradicts the truth, offends natural justice and directly opposes good souls and has tarnished the reputation of the Church.

It contradicts the truth: because it presupposes and on four separate occasions refers to a non-existent mutual agreement between the two sides based on our words which were taken clearly out of context and cited; what is more, we feel betrayed; namely, the Decree denies us that which the Holy See, through its Apostolic Visitator, the most Reverend Stefan Laszlo had guaranteed as a condition sine qua non;

It offends natural justice: because without any explanation, the Decree condemns our Monastic province to a gradual extinction; at the same time, we Franciscans should leave our homes and churches without any guarantees for the future;

It directly opposes the goodness of our souls: because an attempt to implement the Decree at any cost would be against the will of God's people and would cause great detriment towards saving the souls of God's people in Herzegovina, a deed which will not be repairable;

It harms the reputation of the Church; because throughout the entire text it calls upon the authority of the Church, the Holy See and Your Holiness, which is an attempt to - although unsuccessfully - cover up the non-evangelic motives behind this affair and by its actions destroys the reputation of the Church, the Holy See and the Holy Father.

As such we feel bound by our conscience to undertake the stand that we cannot and will not; no we cannot take responsibility for the repercussions which will surely follow if we were to approve, accept or implement the Decree for all the reasons we have briefly noted above…

Holy Father! Even though we cannot implement the said Decree, as it stands now, we firmly believe that we are doing good for the general well being of this particular Church. For our non-approval, unacceptance and non-implementation of the Decree does not mean an alternative but rather a postulate of our faith and love towards our religion, the Gospel, the Church and the Holy Father…

Holy Father! Once again we take solace with Your Holiness (even though we are not sure this letter will even reach Your hands; for we have never received any confirmation that Your Holiness received any of our previous letters), we nevertheless most humbly appeal to You, Father of all Christians and the Pastor of God's Flock, do not allow that this Decree, written by man, be more important than the good souls of God's people in Herzegovina or the fate of this martyrous monastic Province."

11. Sanctions (penalties)

We are not aware whether this letter ever reached His Holiness. Nevertheless, Rome's response to the letter is well known. The harshest sanctions (penalties) were imposed: the Provincial administration was removed from their posts, while the Supreme General of the Order in Rome was given authority to administer the Province directly, that is, via his delegate or deputy delegates and advisors. The election Capitulate has not been held to this day. There were prohibitions from accepting new recruits to the noviciate, or to order new Franciscans and their taking their final vows. Bishop ule issued his own sanctions: he did not issue any Cannon missions to the jurisdiction of Franciscans who did not apply for the same from him personally and at the same time withdrew jurisdiction from all Franciscans within the diocese if indeed they had any, including the Deputy of the Delegate-General who was the administrator of the Province. He stated that he was not sure that any Franciscan what so ever could be given jurisdiction from him or be assigned a Cannon mission.

That same year, that is 1976, the new Apostolic Visitator - a Zagreb Jesuit, born in Herzegovina, Father Vladimir Vlaši with the task to visit all the Franciscans in Herzegovina in an effort to find those who would accept the Decree so that they could be nominated as the new administrators of the Province and be assigned to implement the Decree. He visited all the members of the Province and spoke with them and even conducted a written survey regarding the (non)acceptance of the Decree. He then sent a report to Rome stating that the Franciscans thought exactly the same way as their deposed administration, that is, that for the same reasons the administration noted, they could not accept the Decree nor engage in its implementation - all except one Franciscan who is not quite well of mind.

As a result, the Holy See extended its sanctions and ban to hold the Provincial capitulate elections for the Provincial administration. The Province was still administered by the General of the Order via his delegate in Rome and Deputy Delegate in Herzegovina. Execution of the Decree was then withdrawn from the auspices of the General's deputy delegate and his advisors for the Herzegovinian Franciscans and assigned personally to the General of the Order and his council.

12. The Mostar Affair

Nothing changed with the arrival of Bishop ANI at the helm in September 1980, who immediately after his inauguration in the Franciscan monastic church in Mostar announced that he was going to establish a cathedral parish in Mostar and that he was going to carve up the Franciscan monastic parish so that four-fifths of the faithful would belong to the cathedral parish and one-fifth to the Franciscan monastic parish. His explanation for this decision was that the Franciscans had agreed. This immediately caused a negative reaction amongst the faithful in the church. When the parish priest of the Franciscan monastic parish cautioned the Bishop while still in the church, that his explanation that the Franciscan had agreed to this, was not the truth, the Bishop withdrew any jurisdiction and Cannon mission away from the parish priest with effect in the entire diocese.

What was the real issue here? Throughout the entire time of negotiations since 1965 when the Agreement of 1923 was revoked and a redistribution of parishes ordered until 1975, when the Decree by the Holy See Romanis Pontificibus about the final resolution to the conflict over parishes in the Mostar-Duvno diocese were held, the Franciscans put forward their proposal for the distribution of parishes: they cited the names of parishes which they had founded and served until then but were prepared to give up with the condition that they be left with the remaining parishes. In this context, there was often mention of parishes that were yet to be founded. The Franciscans believed that it would be simpler if the Bishop were to set up new parishes rather than confiscate already existing Franciscan parishes. After this, the diocesan side always asserted that the Franciscans had agreed to give up some parishes and that these be founded as new diocesan parishes however, they never referred to the pre-condition that the remaining parishes remain with the Franciscans permanently. This presentation of the argument was also used to dupe the Holy See in 1975, into adopting it. The Decree Romanis Pontificibus, on four separate occasions referred to the "mutual agreement of both sides", as it ordered that certain Franciscan parishes should be offered to the Bishop at his disposal. However, there never was any such agreement. It was only a proposal put forward by the Franciscans but contained a specific pre-condition or rather, laid down a certain price. This was presented to the Holy See as approval on the part of the Franciscans failing to mention the pre-condition, that is the price of such an agreement. The Holy See accepted this argument and ordered that the Franciscans hand over these parishes without the diocesan side being obliged to fulfil any pre-conditions. This would be the same as if you offered someone a house for one million dollars while they told you that you were prepared to hand over you house - without any payment. In this regard, the Provincial administration in a letter sent to the Pope in 1976, noted that the Decree, Romanis Pontificibus was contradictory to the truth.

The same thing occurred when the cathedral parish was founded in Mostar. The Franciscans at one time proposed that the Bishop take over the greater part of their parish under the condition that they be left the majority of their existing parishes. The diocesan side did not accept this proposal. Bishop ani nevertheless took over four-fifths of their parish with the explanation that they agreed to this but he never once mentioned the pre-condition they proposed but rather continued to seek those parishes they demanded as a pre-condition to the agreement to be left to them permanently. He in fact considered these parishes as his own!

The people of Mostar and the Franciscans did not accept this division of the Franciscan parish in Mostar and Bishop ani did not succeed in implementing this division not even until the end of his mandate as bishop. This was the beginning of the Mostar Affair, which is continuing even now.

This unresolved state in Mostar awaited the new Bishop, Dr. Ratko PERI, who took over the diocese in 1993. During the trying and bloody battle for the survival of Croats in Mostar, he established four secular parishes within the intended cathedral parish. During the fiercest battles and destruction of the Franciscan monastery and when it was almost impossible to reach, several Franciscans took refuge in an outer suburb Cim, so that they could serve their people. Bishop Peri however, prohibited them from living there because it was located within the area of a secular parish. After being threatened with the harshest of sanctions via Rome and when in 1995 the situation had calmed down somewhat in Mostar, the Franciscans moved back to the demolished monastery and the people of Mostar reacted harshly against the Bishop and on occasion exuded violence against him. A great deal of Mostar was left without any regular pastoral care. This situation was reflected in the recent elections held in Mostar when in the most Croatian section of the Mostar suburbs of Ilii and Cim, as a sign of protest, the people only participated in the elections at a rate of less than 40%.

13. The apljina Affair

And so the Franciscans were pressed back to the very outskirts of Mostar. Yet, Bishop Peri did not stop there. He demanded the immediate retreat of the Franciscans out of apljina. He threatened with the harshest sanctions via Rome (in the same manner that the international community has been threatening Croatia with sanctions if it does not accept its conditions). Finally, the General of the Franciscan Order in April 1996, formally and legally handed the parish to the Bishop. The Franciscans were ordered to hand over their residency and church to the newly nominated secular parish priest on 12 May 1996, and to leave apljina. That day, the people blocked the path to the church and the Franciscan's residency and did not allow the newly nominated secular parish priest nor the bishop's Vicar-General from Mostar, nor the Franciscan's Delegate-General from Rome nor representatives of the Franciscan Province in Mostar to enter nor the apljina Franciscans to leave. After that Bishop Peri cancelled the Sacrament of Confirmation which was to have been held on 30 June 1996, in apljina. After serious pressure and threats of the harshest penalties from Rome on Sunday 14 July 1996, the Franciscans said their goodbyes to the faithful and on the Feast of St. Elijah on the 20th of the same month, they left apljina. They were greeted by several thousand faithful. Since then the church bells have been quiet, the church door is bricked in and the "wall will be taken down when they who built the church return, that is, the Friars", is written above the main entrance to the church and the faithful gather in the church yard when mass is scheduled and only pray the Rosary.

14. The "Alleviated" Implementation of the Decree of 1975.

The Mostar and apljina incidents were a good starting point to head off in the direction of a positive solution to the conflict between the Franciscans and secular priests over the redistribution of parishes in Herzegovina.

Namely, even after the Decree Romanis Pontificibus was issued in 1975, the Franciscans did not cease with negotiations and discussions. Apostolic visitators continued to visit Herzegovina, as did delegates of the Franciscan's General in Rome. They all tried to convince the Franciscans that it was unrealistic to expect that the Holy See would revoke its Decree, nevertheless at the same time they were during its implementation prepared to alleviate some points of the Decree in favour of the Franciscans (this is referred to as the modality of implementation). Educated by bad experience in the past as a result of "Dananian" promises, the Franciscans were sceptical toward this proposal and so they waited to see how this alleviation would be felt upon the first partial implementation of the Decree.

The first phase of the partial implementation of the Decree was the division of the Monastic parish in Mostar. The Bishop had seceded four-fifths and founded four new parishes - all secular. The alleviated implementation of that decision would be in that for example, the Bishop would hand over one or two fifths back to the Franciscans. However, he did not even wish to consider this possibility!

The second phase of the partial implementation of the Decree was the handover of the apljina parish to the Bishop for his free disposal. In all the negotiations ever held, apljina was the hardest apple. When Bishop ule was once asked why he insisted on apljina so much he replied, "All the surrounding parishes are mine and so it would be handy for my parish priests to be able to gather in apljina at the regular meetings of the Deanery. The same question was posed to the Franciscan Provincial. He replied, "With the loss of apljina the already minute area of our province would be significantly decreased. The eastern border of the Province is being moved in the south to the Ljubuški - Veljaci line" (which was backed up by a map of the Province).

There were several opportunities to actually implement the Decree with its alleviated form regarding apljina. One possibility was that the Bishop found a second secular parish in apljina because it was large enough to support at least two parishes. At one time in 1968, Bishop ule actually agreed to this proposal but then he feared that the Communist authorities would not allow the construction of a new parish (a church and presbytery) so at the last moment he threw in an extra clause in the draft agreement: if he was not able to establish a new parish within five years in apljina then he would automatically be handed over the exiting Franciscan parish. According to the draft then, the Franciscans still stood to lose apljina. For this reason this agreement, as was mentioned earlier, fell through.

As new circumstances cast off the danger that the civil authorities would not allow the establishment of a new parish, the Franciscans suggested to both Bishop ani and Bishop Peri that they found a new, second parish in apljina and with that leave the existing parish to them. A second proposal was put forward when this one was refused. The Franciscans proposed that they remain in their residency as a monastic community without a parish in apljina and that the Bishop take over the entire parish and build a new parish church and presbytery. The third proposal, when the second was not accepted, was the latest proposal by the Franciscans that they be allowed to remain in apljina as a monastic community without a parish in some other house which they would build and their current residency and church would be handed over to the Bishop as the centre of the new parish. However, Bishop Peri would not hear of this. He ardently demanded that the Franciscans not only leave their residency and church but to completely leave the territory of apljina. With this he was not trying to implement the alleviated Decree with regard to apljina but what is more it was even harsher that the Decree itself: he was demanding of the Franciscans that which was not even directly noted in the Decree, which ordered the Franciscans to hand over their parish at the liberty of the Bishop, but it did not make mention that they as a monastic Order had to leave the territory of apljina!

This meant that all the promises which had been given to the Franciscans from Rome about the alleviated implementation of the Decree was another misused occasion to resolve the "Herzegovina Affair" or at least to move from a stale point towards a positive direction.

C. HIDING BEHIND THE DECREE OF 1975.

The diocesan side continually asserts and repeats, "That is how the Holy See determined!" What they want to say with this is that this very fact is good and should be implemented without criticism.

1. Who is Behind the Holy See's Decree of 1975?

Let us first ask who in fact is in the background of this decree and who really drafted it? The above historical review relating the issue of parishes shows that it is evident that since 1943 until 1965 and in 1975, Bishop ule certainly exerted a great deal of effort towards obtaining what he wanted from the Holy See. He not only exerted a lot of effort with the Holy See but also placed a great deal of pressure on the Holy See and threatened that if his requests were not met that he together with "his" secular priests would completely leave the Herzegovina and transfer to the Zagreb Archdiocese! He often repeated this threat during negotiation sessions with the Franciscans. In a letter to Friar Dominik Mandi written on St. George's 1965, he admitted that he had made this "proposal" to the Holy See! When we consider that Bishop ani had boasted that he had made over 70 visits to Rome regarding this issue then it is clear who convinced the Holy See to adopt such a decision. How else would the Holy See even know where Crna, Grude, apljina and other small towns were, if they had not been receiving any information from Herzegovina itself? These towns are just as foreign to the Holy See as would be some remote African or Irish towns. The Decree was more than likely on the major part composed in Mostar and after a long time of pressure and efforts to convince the Holy See, it finally gave its signature to the Decree.

As such this decision, whether it finally is a good one or not, is the mastermind of the Mostar bishops, ule, ani and Peri. Naturally the Holy See is also responsible but this responsibility does not diminish the primary responsibility of the Mostar bishops. Let us call to mind how St. Augustine responded to the Jews who were stating that they had not killed Jesus but rather that Pilot was guilty, "He is guilty because he condemned him, but are you innocent, you who compelled him to do so?"

2. The Unquestionable Obedience of the Mostar Bishops Towards the Holy See?

The Herzegovinian bishops often stressed obedience as the supreme principle of conduct within the Church. In practise however, they themselves at times, did not adhere to this principle but rather when it suited them. When Bishop ani, for instance, came to Mostar as the Assistant Bishop he immediately embarked on convincing the Herzegovinian Franciscans to disobey their lawful Provincial Šili, with the intention of better achieving his aims. He did not succeed in this. When he took over the diocese that is in 1988, a group of Franciscans did not accept transfers, which had been assigned them by the Provincial administration. Bishop ani backed them up in their refusal. He even forbid in writing that they be transferred! They who were disobedient were allowed to keep their jurisdiction and Canon mission yet he refused to issue these to those who were lawfully, pursuant to decision of the Provincial administration, to succeed them. This same practise was continued by the bishop's successor, Bishop Ratko Peri.

The Herzegovinian bishops demanded that the Franciscans hand over parishes which belonged to them in accordance with the Decrees of 1967 and 1975, yet he continually refused to take over the parishes of Glavatievo and Nevesinje, which were assigned to him in the Decree of 1923, and which the Franciscans had been offering for quite a while. The bishops were not prepared to implement the Decree of 1975 in its literal sense. The Franciscans offered Bishop ani that upon carving up the monastic Franciscan parish in Humac he found new secular parishes in Zvirii-Bijaa and Crveni Grm as determined in the Decree of 1975. Nevertheless he refused this and demanded that the heart of this same parish - Ljubuški and Radišii and that he be allowed to found a new secular parish in these towns even though this is the one thing that was explicitly forbidden in the 1975 Decree! Bishop Peri at all costs demanded that he be given Mostar and apljina yet he refused to take over the parishes in Jablanica and Blagaj which had been virtually completely ethnically cleansed by the Muslims but which nevertheless were to belong to him in accordance to the same Decree of 1975!

These few examples clearly show that the Herzegovinian bishops are not exactly marked by uncompromising obedience to decisions adopted by the Holy See even though they demand this same obedience of the Franciscans.

3. The "Goodness" of the Decision by the Holy See of 1975.

Nevertheless, if the Holy See did actually make a decision as is noted in the Decree is this necessarily good and just? Even though we are obliged to adhere to decisions made by the Holy See, they need not always necessarily be right and just.

There are a few examples in the history of the Church, which shall easily convince us that these decisions are not always necessarily right. In 1415, the Church Synod in Constanza decided to have Jan Hus burned at the stake. Today the Church is ashamed of this decision and rightly so, because this was an atrocious crime. A similar decision was made to burn Savonarole or the condemnation of Galileo's findings. The Church has in modern times, repented for its actions.

The supreme criteria to evaluate the ultimate goodness or ultimate evil in behaviour including decisions made by the Church according to the unanimous opinion of Church teachers, "the good of the faithful" or the "salvation of souls", as is noted in the codex of Cannon Law (salus animarum suprema lex in Ecclesia esto). Anything that is opposed to this must be denounced, as should anything that cannot be incorporated in this supreme law of the Church.

In principle, everyone accepts this rule. Whoever would bring it into question would immediately show that they were a "mercenary" and that they were not "interested in their own flock". It is not enough however, to just accept this rule for the sake of it. It contains something holy, something exclusive. It cannot tolerate other Gods around it. These other Gods are by the way wishes, which often oppose that "supreme law". Is not one of these wishes for example, the desire to expel the Franciscans from those regions where they are now? Can this desire be placed above the need to "save souls" and can both these issues be referred to in the same breath and same tone?

Everyone needs to decide towards his or her own conscience - does one's behaviour serve towards that supreme goal. While trying to evaluate this response one needs to keep in mind one's "spite" and "uncompromising attitude at whatever cost" and then to admit one's own pride, selfishness, self-confirmation, desires and power. Everyone in Herzegovina is bound to ask themselves this question; the bishops, secular priests and the Franciscans.

4. The "Justice" of the Decision by the Holy See of 1975?

The question still remains - are matters to be left only to paragraphs on paper or should justice be involved. As followers of Christ, being decisively in opposition to legality, should not be considered a minor matter. If the diocesan side is in the right, if Church regulations support this, does this mean that everything has been resolved? We are aware namely, that law and justice do not always go hand in hand. The Romans expressed this by saying, "The highest law is sometimes the greatest injustice" (summum ius summa iniuria). This "Herzegovinian Affair" should be investigated to see if this is perhaps not the same case.

We are not referring to the violation of the paragraphs because they themselves leave provision for this, but rather the violation of justice and the violation of goodness. If this is the case, where is the violation?

When the Herzegovinian Franciscans in 1844, seceded from the Bosnian Province, they virtually came on bare ground. They did not have any houses, nor churches, nor any inventory what so ever. They found themselves in a new homeland and were almost like survivors after a shipwreck; they virtually owned nothing but the shirts on their backs. Also there was only a small number of them then in 1844, eighteen in all. When we look now and see what this small community has achieved in the past one hundred and fifty years, with its efforts, denouncement, art, love and apostolic ardour, we can be nothing but awed. If we look at the Schematism of the Province in 1977, we can see that the number of priests had grown to 200 as well as another 54 clergymen and 11 recruits and 5 holy brothers. This is all so despite all the calamities faced during the Communist rule. In Herzegovina alone these people have built a huge number of monasteries as part of parishes or subsidiary churches. During the period of 13 years (between the publication of two Schematisms - 1964 and 1977), they built 40 new churches and refurbished virtually all the old churches. They built several monasteries adjoining some churches, numerous presbyteries, schoolrooms for religious instructions and support buildings. They had their own Classical High School and Theology School, a printing house and several collections. The most renown is the museum in Humac, which is oldest known museum in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Another of these is their library in Mostar). Outside Herzegovina, the Province has two monasteries in Croatia (a wooden monastery in Slano and the newly built monumental monastery and church in Zagreb). There are monasteries located in Austria and Germany where they serve six German parishes and two Croatian missions. In Switzerland there are two Croatian missions with 12 friars. Especially significant is the Custody in America with one monastery, a residency and fifteen parishes and missions in the USA and Canada. And finally, the Province has five missionaries in Africa and two in Albania.

Has not the mustard seed grown into a large tree? Anyone who knows what it means to build just one house or church - especially during those times when our people had not gone to work abroad and when a peasants toil was frugally paid - they will understand the scope of what has been achieved. Many a builder while building a church built himself in it. The diocesan side has a habit of commenting (in typical Communist style), that these massive and numerous buildings were built by the people and not the friars and that these buildings were built for the use of the Church and not the friars. This is not entirely true, but even if it were true that the friars built these buildings together with their faithful. The huge efforts made by the friars however, is undoubted. The truth is that the people helped build the said buildings for the use of the "Church" but ask these same people did they give their donations and money so that they could be evicted from these same buildings and their gifts confiscated from those they were intended? It appears that the diocesan side is asserting that "we are the Church, the friars are not nor are the people!"

The Herzegovinian Franciscans were - and still are - valid pastoral workers expressed in their efforts and the quality of their work. It is enough to note just one detail from the Schematism of 1977, that the Franciscans held religious instructions in Široki Brijeg in 108 sections and in Mostar in 110 sections. Try and find a similarly large town served by whichever Croatian diocese where during the Communist regime, Religious Instructions was taught in so many sections! The same situation existed in smaller towns where the absolute number was not so high but was, if looked at relatively. This work was not rewarded in anyway. They did however receive an "award" to be prohibited from working in many towns, an award issued by the official Church.

In the past fifteen years, the Franciscans have been taking care of the pilgrimage in Meugorje. We are not concerned here with the issue of the validity of the visitations which are claimed to exist there. All we want to do is highlight the heroic efforts lodged in spiritually serving the masses of pilgrims, a number - which by some accounts - has far surpassed 10 or even 20 million. Can we turn a blind eye to all this work? Does this not have any weight as far as the Bishop is concerned?

Along their basic pastoral work, the Herzegovinian Franciscans have assigned themselves to their people in a multitude of ways. If we just look back a little in the past, we will see that during the Turkish rule, the Herzegovinian Franciscans educated the people and naturally all this without any payment. They saw to make premises for schools available as well as alphabet boards. We all know the wonders that Friar Didak Bunti conjured up in teaching peasant children to read and write when at the same time at the turn of the century, despite all its financial and other resources the State left most of the population of Herzegovina to be illiterate. It is a well-known fact but probably worth mentioning, because too often we forget Fr. Didak Bunti and his brothers saved thousands of Herzegovinian children from death during the First World War. Did he not along with his brothers try and economically advance their faithful? We have only noted a few of his efforts. The list goes on and on.

Is it right and just that a well-built and furnished building should be demolished when we are not even sure what the new building will even look like? In whose interest can it be to see that the Herzegovinian Franciscans be left to die out? This is surely not in the interest of the Croatian and Catholic being. The Province which produced Friar Petar Bakula, Friar Paškal Buconji, Friar Didak Bunti, Friar Dominik Mandi, Friar Rufin Šili, Friar Ferdo Vlaši (who are just a few of the most renowned), is the fertile mother of the greats within the Croatian people and Catholic faith. If it were not for them or the huge number of their brothers, the Catholic Church and Croatian people would surely to a large measure be poorer?

CONCLUSION

The Franciscans were expelled from eastern Herzegovina in the first half of the 17th Century by the Bishop of Trebinje-Mrkanj who did not even sit in his diocese. He expelled the Franciscans and left the diocese without any priests! We know what the fate of that diocese was, some fifteen thousand Croat Catholics before the War for the Homeland!

During the latest war, the Bishop of Mostar-Duvno pushed the Franciscans back from the Neretva river towards the west. This is the case for virtually the whole of Mostar and a wider area of apljina. When this is added to the fact of the virtually complete ethnic cleansing of Croat Catholics by the Muslims in the regions around the Neretva river from Glavatievo through Konjic and Jablanica to Mostar and Blagaj so that the Franciscans will probably not be able to survive there, then we can obtain a vivid picture of the geographical map of the territory of the Province of the Herzegovinian Franciscans. This is a region covering a few points (near ekrka in Mostar and in Šurmancima, a village in the Meugorje parish) and which touch the Neretva river. When and where will this drive toward the west cease? What will the map of Croat Catholics in Herzegovina look like after the final end of the War for the Homeland and following the forthcoming general elections or the disentanglement of the current political situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina?

Today in August 1996, when we have almost completed this text, the internal situation of the Church in Herzegovina has warmed up to the point of being red-hot. At a time when the existence or rather survival of the Croats in these regions is at stake, once again old misunderstandings and ambitions have flared up, as have old passions which lead to new conflicts and which have existed for more than one hundred years. It is difficult to comprehend the attitude of the Mostar Bishop Peri who is literally driving out the Franciscans from the greater part of Herzegovina, from Mostar and apljina and is demanding them to convince the faithful to admit that it is a good thing they are leaving and that secular priests are finally coming! Maybe the people would be satisfied that they could both share the same space during these most difficult times and together as brothers in every sense of the word, they serve as an ideal for their suffering people,to whom, it seems, in principle, are not so concerned about which servant of God serves them, since is the survival of the people in question and not a struggle for parishes.

We must not forget the victims of the War for the Homeland! Over 12,637 people were killed in Croatia and more than 20,000 were injured while in Bosnia-Herzegovina 9,639 Croats were killed and 14,563 were wounded. Of the total number of those killed or wounded in Croatia, more than 50% were of Herzegovinian origin! And today following so many victims, to enter into new conflicts which could lead to more blood shedding for this already victimized Croatian people in Herzegovina is truly a question of responsibility and morals for all those who would inspire such a conflict.

Therefore, it seems, that it is now the last opportunity, that all who are called, those who are responsible and those who could contribute to an end of these tragic conflicts among the Croatian people, come to the negotiating table. Those called iclude Croatian leaders since the seeds of this evil were originally sown among the Croatian people by the leaders of the occupying forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who did not favor the Croatian people at all. The Croatian hierarchy of the Church is also called since it is undebatable that some Croatian hierarchs, in resolving the question about the allocation of the parishes in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the last one-hundred years, were not always guided by the ultimate low of salvation (good) of souls of the (Croatian) people of God in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Franciscans are called since they too are obligated by the same ultimate law of the salvation (good) of souls. It is really necessary to repeat one more time that in the interest of the salvation (good) of souls and in the national interest od the Croatian people, taht all who are called upon to come to the negotiating table, and along with the gratest scrifice, they come to a decision that will not be a sad extension of the "spite" that has continued for the past one-hundred years, but will instead guarantee peace and the future of the Croatian people and the Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

ADDITION:

CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN BISHOP AND AUTHOR

about the contents of the book

THE MOSTAR-DUVNO & TREBINJE MRKANJ DIOCESES

DIOCESAN CHANCERY OFFICE OF MOSTAR

(Tel: + + 387/88/323-944; fax: + + 387/88/324-328)

Mostar, 10 April 1998

Prot. no.: 334/98

Friar Viktor,

we at the Ordinary received your "Truth About the Herzegovinian Affair". The History of the Tragic Conflict Between the Bishops and the Franciscans in Bosnia-Herzegovina", Zagreb, 1998, which was sent to us by K. Krešimir d.o.o. What an imaginative title, my dear man of God! Not to mention the spirit in whic it is written. Following Mihaljevi's "grey" version, here now we have your "white" version." You are going to compel us to have to bring the entire truth to the public. Allow me to review some of your points which I underlined as I read them. Who could answer the whole lot?!

1) YOU: "Nevertheless, when the Franciscans offered 12 existing parishes in western Herzegovina to be at the disposal of the local Ordinary and the secular clergy, the agreement was ratified on 17 July 1899", (p.25). Transeat that Glavatievo and Nevesinja are not entirely in "western Herzegovina"!

THE TRUTH IS: In addition to the 12 established parishes a further 12 "Paroeciae novae pedentim erigendae in dioecesi Mandetriensi pariter pro libera collatione Ordinarii", are also listed by name. The events surrounding both categories are tragic.

2) YOU: "…the Province's administration came to an agreement with the bishops, Friar Alojzije Miši … to grant them the 15 parishes which were already established and which they served in addition to a further 12 parishes which were to be established in the near future. The agreement was ratified by the Council of the Holy Congregation on 22 June 1923." (p.26).

THE TRUTH IS: The rescript (or as you put it: decision) lists 27 "paroeciae quae iam ab ipsis Fratribus administratae fuerunt", consisting of 14 existing and 13 non-existing parishes. Put it aside that then, of the 13 non-existing parishes to this date only the Crna parish has been established! This is probably what you mean by: "which was to be established as soon as possible." It is also true that an indult was issued "ad nutum S. Sedis", which vitally influences the entire affair, yet you did not note this.

3) YOU: "In 1942, namely, the new Bishop of Mostar, Dr. Petar ULE, was a non-Franciscan - nominated by the wishes, choice and machinations of the Archbishop of Vrhbosna, Šari - and who from the very beginning of his inauguration began to impose Archbishop Stadler's politics on the Franciscans in Herzegovina and their parishes." (p.27).

THE TRUTH IS: To sign an Agreement which was to solve the century old problem about the parishes in Herzegovina without reading it could only have been done by someone who is not serious, irresponsible, unreasonable, just as is stated in the reply: "absentia mentis"! "Once again, I state, perhaps it was wrong of me and not normal, but it happened", on 20.4.1968, Provincial Šili wrote to Bishop ule regarding his revokement.

9) YOU: "However, his own secretary read the text later that evening and realised that Bishop ule had at the last moment thrown in a clause by which the Provincial could lose his own residency and parish in apljina. Warned about the clause, Šili revoked his signature in writing that same night because the Provincial Capitulate of 1967 gave him the authority to discuss all parishes which by the Decision of the Holy See of 1965, were determined to be re-distributed excepting two parishes which were adjoined to Franciscan residencies - the one in apljina and the one in itluk." (p.31).

THE TRUTH IS: Don Marko continues: "The agreement is dated 20.IV, because it was intended to be sent to Belgrade that day, however, early in the morning about 7 a.m. of 20.IV, a brother layman from the local monastery, where the Provincial resided, brought the letter to the Ordinary in which the Provincial revoked his signature to the agreement and demanded that the agreement not be sent but destroyed, as if had not been written or signed".

Apart from that, you "ad nauseam" repeat "draft agreement", and this is not only when you refer to it as the "final draft agreement" but also as the "signed draft agreement". Is a signed agreement still a "draft"? You who are an attorney play with such senselessness as if we were all "pupazzi"!

Friar Viktor, if the issue was about one point, namely apljina then it would have been "necessary to sit at the negotiation table", as you state in the final sentence of your "Truth" (p.54), like a suggestion of salvation now, thirty years after you participated in destroying the agreement signed that night (or was it just YOU?). So then sit down and resolve this particular point but do not destroy the entire agreement, especially since the issue here, as you put it, is regarding some sort of "draft agreement"!

Bishop ule wrote to Provincial Šilic, on 20.IV.1968, "The agreement was destroyed, one which were worked on together for so long and one which you proprio marte on holy Thursday announced to the priests gathered …2) As far as apljina is concerned you never once with one word mentioned that your hands were tied." That is the TRUTH about the beginning of the "Herzegovinian affair."

10) YOU: "Violence against anyone, and most especially against the highest representative of one's Church, must be condemned even though the bitterness felt by the faithful", (p.32).

THE TRUTH IS: You show some understanding towards the bitterness felt by a group of incited faithful, but you are not sorry that all this violence has been localised amongst individual members of your community who for years now have been living under sanctions and from whence for years they have been inciting the people. You know best what your role is by writing in this way.

11) YOU: You wrote that Bishop ani "from the very beginning presented the hard core attitudes of the Bishop", and that any negotiation held ended with, "Seeing that we were not able to come to an agreement, we have decided to let the Holy See decide and we will accept such a decision no matter what that decision may be", however, "this was not accepted by the Franciscans". (p.33).

THE TRUTH IS: You wrote correctly here. I just want to add, in this case the Bishop's stance is the Church's stance! The stance taken by the Franciscans in this case is not in line with the Church! You are more than likely aware that some Franciscan fathers requested that someone outside Herzegovina come to Mostar rather than a local boy. Bishop ani was on several occasions told in the Vatican, "that Father Šili requested that he be nominated as Assistant Bishop to Bishop ule and that the entire affair would be immediately resolved but if he wasn't then let all the guilt be placed on him", wrote Msgr. ani in his Memoirs. There, you were given a man "in keeping with your heart", and now you are blaming him in this way! Yet you are probably proud of your statement, "the Franciscans did not accept"?

12) YOU: Pastor Vlaši DI, reported to the Holy See about his visitation in 1976, that all the Franciscans think like the deposed Provincial administration, that is, that they could not accept the decree for the same reasons nor could they be engaged in its implementation - all, "except one who is not quiet sound of mind" (p.38).

THE TRUTH IS: I am not familiar with what P. Vlaši reported but by going by what you write it is evident what the administration and its community were like. It is well known that the administration and community in 1997, were of a completely different attitude with regard to the decree. Cannot it be denied that they are "of sound mind"?

13) YOU: Turn to the Mostar incident, where you mention the current bishop who "established four secular parishes within the intended cathedral parish", (p.40).

THE TRUTH IS: I cannot understand that you are not familiar with the fact that as the Ordinary, Bishop ani established parishes on 6 January 1993, and that the hand-over/take-over was conducted on 1 August that same year in Mostar.

14) YOU: "After being threatened with the harshest of sanctions via Rome and when in 1995 the situation had calmed down somewhat in Mostar, the Franciscans moved back to the demolished monastery and the people of Mostar reacted harshly against the Bishop and on occasions exuded violence against him" (p.40).

THE TRUTH IS: Some Franciscans have unfortunately still not withdrawn from the Franciscan monastery but are continuing their activities which denounces your claims. The people too readily react the way the priests advise them to even if this may be "harsh". I believe there is no need for me to explain this to you! Even some of the faithful have come to us and have told us just who and in what way the people have been incensed to violence.

15) YOU: With regard to the "apljina incident" everything that you wrote about the "Franciscan residency", cannot hold water. When in the autumn of 1996, the Franciscan side were asked by Nuntio Monterisi to show the Bishop's approval or "beneplacitum" by the Holy See, the Franciscans had nothing to produce or show. You are quite aware that there are no valid papers yet you consistently use the term "residency", believing perhaps that if something is repeated often enough especially on paper then it may even become accepted as the - truth!

16) YOU: Say that the Franciscans "…suggested to both Bishop ani and Bishop Peri that they found a new, second parish in apljina and with that leave the existing parish to them. A second proposal was put forward when this one was refused…", (p.43).

THE TRUTH IS: What are we to do, Friar Viktor with the "secretary" if he cautions us that the "Provincial Capitulate of 1967", does not authorise anyone to "negotiate" regarding the two parishes "which are joined by the Franciscan residency - in apljina and itluk"? (p.31) Or is your desire that the diocesan side too ignore the Pope's decree?

17) YOU: "How else would the Holy See even know where Crna, Grude, apljina and other small towns were, if they had not been receiving any information from Herzegovina itself? (p.45).

DISCOVERY!

18) YOU: "The Herzegovinian bishops demanded that the Franciscans hand over parishes which belonged to them in accordance with the decrees of 1967 and 1975, yet he continually refused to take over the parishes of Glavatievo and Nevesinje, which were entrusted to him in the 1923 Decree, and which the Franciscans had been offering for quite a while" (p.46).

THE TRUTH IS: I'm shocked that you are not aware of the "Decree" issued by the Mostar-Duvno bishop, the Franciscan Alojzija Miši, no. 534 dated 15.IV.1925, which states, "For very significant reasons which are equally important for the diocesan and Franciscan provinces, we exchanged the Gabela and Glavatievo parishes Episcopalis liberae collationis for Prisoje and Dobri so that Gabela and Glavatievo belonged to the Franciscan order while Prisoje and Dobri Episcopo liberae collationis".

I am even more amazed that you can even call on that "Decree" as one issued by the Holy See when Bishop Miši changed, exchanged, muddled it without asking anyone! Who authorised him to amend the Holy See's "Decree"?

19) YOU: "Bishop Peri at all costs demanded that he be given Mostar and apljina yet he refused to take over the parishes in Jablanica and Blagaj which had been virtually completely ethnically cleansed by the Muslims but which nevertheless were to belong to him in accordance to the same Decree of 1975!" (p.47).

THE TRUTH IS: You are shocked why I didn't jump to take parishes which the "Muslims virtually ethnically cleansed"! Jablanica and Blagaj. This is the first wind I have of any such thing! Is it possible that your brothers have presented the matter to you differently? It is true that some time before the war, I cannot recall the year exactly, I suggested that Nevesine and Jablanica, and not, Jablanica and Blagaj, be transferred to the diocesan administration. The propaganda machine wrote off to your administration that the diocesan side accepted in an effort to resolve point 4 of the Decree "R.P.": Jablanica, Nevesinje, Blagaj and Ploe-Tepii. As this signified more than the initial "crumbs", the Franciscans withdrew. We insist on the implementation of the Pope's decree despite the situation in Nevesine, Jablanica …

20) YOU: Rights - justice (pp.48-51).

THE TRUTH IS: Instead of replying, I take the liberty to send you a copy of a letter which I wrote some time ago and sent to the Minister of Education and Sport, Ms. Ljilja, who stood in support of your Franciscan hypothesis of "rights and justice"!

I wish you a Happy Easter and may all go well for you according to the Holy Spirit!

+ Bishop Ratko Peri

Dr. Friar Viktor Nui

Franciscan Monastery Herzegovina Province

Avenija izviaa 2

10040 Zagreb

Zagreb, 25 April 1998

Most reverend sir!

I received your comments to my brief review of the history of the tragic conflict between the bishops and the Franciscans in Bosnia-Herzegovina "The Truth about the Herzegovinian Affair" (Published by: K. Krešimir, Zagreb 1998). You wrote it in the form of a personal letter addressed to myself personally and dated 10 April 1998. Nevertheless, seeing that the letter is written on official letterhead of the Herzegovinian dioceses and carries a registration number: (334/98), it must be considered an official letter. Because you forwarded it to several other addresses (I am not sure exactly how many), the letter takes on the attributes of an official circular. Nevertheless, this is not the most important factor.

You refer to the title of my review as being "imaginative". No matter what you may think about it, the title together with its sub-title is entirely clear and they express the contents of the booklet. It is true, my review is not all-encompassing. But, I did mention this in a comment preceding the preface, announcing a more detailed all-encompassing researched edition. This review was intended and written as a popular edition with the aim of offering the background information about the historical circumstances surrounding the conflict over the parishes in Bosnia-Herzegovina and especially, about the attempts to resolve the issue of the division of parishes between the Franciscan Province and the Diocese and of course the conflicts which resulted - in Herzegovina. I considered this information a vital pre-condition to an explanation of the actual "Herzegovinian affair", as well as serving as an exhausted discussion about the individual rights it pertained to, and other issues that were therefore implicated.

You objected to the spirit in which I wrote the review. From the context of your letter, I can only conclude that you consider this spirit as negative. This is so far the first objection to my review in this light. All the other comments which I have had the opportunity to come across, in fact evaluate the spirit and tone of my review in opposition to your views. I am worried with the repercussions of comparisons conducted by interested persons of the tone and spirit of my writing compared to the tone and spirit of your writing regarding the same subject, especially compared to your infamous, unminded homilies published in The Church on Rock, or for that matter in your comments to my review.

You stated that I was going to force you "to come out with the whole truth in public" (you wrote "us", so I can only conclude that this relates to you personally, and not the diocesan side which you represent, as such I refer to "you" with a lower case letter). I am not afraid of the truth, because the truth can only liberate us all (cf. Jn 8:32). However, your statements would seem to indicate that I may have overdone matters with my public appearances regarding the "Herzegovinian affair", and that "you" and you have remained silent until now or in the least have remained restrained. The truth is in fact the opposite: I have come out in public after almost twenty years of complete silence, while in the meantime you (your predecessor, Msgr. Pavao ani, Don Luka Pavlovi and Don Antan Luburi and you personally) have on numerous occasions released articles both in the religious press and in daily rags!

And now to turn to your individual objections:

Ad 1) If the border between western and eastern Herzegovina is the Neretva river, then your "aren't exactly in 'western Herzegovian'" refers also to the parishes of Konjic, Jablanica, Drenica, Mostar and Blagaj. Nevertheless, all these parishes belong to the Mostar-Duvno Diocese and not the Trebinje-Mrkanj. There are no clearly defined borders between eastern and western Herzegovina. For this reason eastern and western Herzegovina are not geographical notions which carry a capital letter.

It is true that by the Decision of the Holy See of 1899, in addition to the twelve already existing parishes, the bishop was given free access to twelve other parishes which were yet to be gradually established (pedetentim erigendae). I did not mention this in the cited text because this did not appear to me to be decisive enough to confirm the agreement between the Province and the Diocese with regard to the division of parishes and I did not have the intention to, in light of the context, to review the entire decision in detail.

Ad 2) It is true that the Act issued by the Holy Congregational Council of 1923, in its form of a rescript which issued Bishop Miši with an indult in response to his request (authorisation), due to the lack of secular, diocesan clergy to transfer to the Franciscan the nominated parishes in which they held service anyway. This Act is registered in our archives as the "Decisio S. Sedis", even though because it is in the form of a rescript which responds to Bishop Buconji's request and in its first half confirms the agreement between the Diocese and the Province regarding the division of parishes, in its latter half it issues the Bishop with an indult that because of the lack of secular, diocesan priests, those parishes which were available could continue to be filled with Franciscans. For this reason the literature refers to these documents as decisions by the Holy See of 1899 and 1923.

It is true that of the 13 parishes yet to be established which Bishop Miši entrusted to the Franciscans pursuant to the Rescript of 1923, only one actually was. But it is also true that to this date not one parish was established of the other 12 which by the 1899 Decision of the Holy See were to be done so as secular parishes (Podprolog and Zvirii). It is evident, that in 1899 and 1923, neither the Franciscans nor the bishops correctly assessed the demographic development of Herzegovina. I would not blame them for this because I am sure that they could not have foreseen that some very prosperous highland and cattle villages would in the near future remain virtually without any residence. After all, many existing, then very populated parishes are today unfortunately dying off.

The "indult was not issued 'ad nutum S. Sedi'?, but rather it was issued in response to Bishop Miši's request and the indult (authorisation) was issued so that he could entrust the nominated parishes to the Franciscans with the condition that he entrust them "ad nutum S. Sedis". By implementing the Decree of 15 April 1925, Bishop Miši does not mention this condition. Nevertheless, this condition is not vital. The Holy See however, legally revoked this decision in 1965. This matter will be dealt with in more detail in the forthcoming extended edition.

Ad 3) Bishop ule was entirely legally nominated by the Pope. Noone opposes this fact. However, his nomination was to have been preceded by regular procedure. Pursuant to this procedure, following the death of Bishop Miši on 26 March 1942, the Consultative Corps (which was substituted by the Cathedral Capitol) was to within eight days choose a Capitulate Vicar to administer the diocese until a new bishop was elected and inaugurated. However, Dr. Petar ule, a member of the Consultative Corps, in agreement with Archbishop Šari, disappeared. Following the death of Bishop Miši, he became indisposed and as such the Vicar-General, Friar Leon Petrovi could not convene the Consultative Corps to elect the Capitulate Vicar. In this way, the Consultative Corps lost its power to chose the new Capitulate Vicar as the eight days after the death of Bishop Miši had expired. In the meantime, Archbishop Šari made sure that on 15 April 1942, therefore in quiet an amazing short period considering the war circumstances and availability of communicating within them, the Holy See chose, and the Pope elected the new diocesan bishop who happened to be Dr. Petar ule. In the process, and one would hope it was not by oversight, not one Franciscan was consulted regarding this decision. This is what I referred to when I used the term "machinations by Archbishop Šari". As far as the letter which Archbishops Stepinac and Šari received in 1942, I do not know who wrote this letter nor what they were thinking when they wrote it. I nevertheless do not agree with their writing nor their judgement.

Ad 4) The rescript (or decision) by the Holy See of 1923 was not revoked in 1965 because of "the cover-up of the truth and failure to disclose the truth", but because of "the new division of parishes", which had been entrusted to the Franciscans pursuant to that very rescript "ad nutum S. Sedis". The Holy See assessed that new circumstances (the presentation of the increased number of diocesan secular clergy), warranted a new division of parishes. So much about that for now.

Ad 5) It is true that at the session of Cardinals of the Holy Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith held on 18 March 1965, a decision was passed to revoke the Indult of 1923, and that this decision was approved by the Holy Father during an audience on 22 March 1965, and that the same Congregation passed a formal decree in this regard on 26 March 1965. The revokement required to be approved by the Holy Father and this is why the Holy Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was required to revoke the decision another Holy Congregation had adopted - The Holy Council's Congregation, which was not the case with regard to the Rescript of 1923. As such there is not anything suspicious in that the Holy Father did not approve the Rescript of 1923.

Ad 6) It is true that parishes are entrusted to monastic communities. Nevertheless, there are several ways to entrust parishes. Canon Law prior to the Second Vatican Council is one of the methods of entrustment and this was fully legal unification. The Council could issue these rights commencing with the motu proprio of Pope Paul VI Ecclesiae Sanctae on to the new Canon Law Code, presents only two ways of entrusting parishes: a) permanently (in perpetuum), or b) for a specifically determined period (ad certum praefinitum tempus). In this way, pursuant to these rights, parishes are entrusted to persons religious by agreement which need to be specified and need to note how the relevant parish is to be entrusted - permanently or for a specified period. However, the new, post-Council ecclesiastic legislature does not revoke rights gained pursuant to previously existing ecclesiastic legislature. Twenty-five parishes which remained with the Franciscans pursuant to the Holy See's Decision of 1899 were entirely legally united with the Province (or pro mensa Regualri Fratrum Minorum Provinciae Hercegovinae, which is how Bishop Buconji referred to them in his request to the Holy Congregation on behalf of the bishops and regular men religious). This was not changed by the Rescript of 1923 nor by the act to revoke that rescript in 1965, nor pursuant to new post-Council ecclesiastic legislature.

Nevertheless, in his draft agreement about the division of parishes, Bishop ule includes these 25 parishes with those which needed to be newly divided and notes that these parishes too were being entrusted only to the Province without any explanation in which way they were being entrusted: permanently or for a specific period. Not only is this in opposition to new ecclesiastic legislature which required an agreement to specify details but it brings in to question the legal (which is still permanent) unification of these parishes with the Province and leaves the possibility that in a new division these parishes could be entrusted to the Province for only a specified time. This is what I meant by referring to it as a trap. I am firmly convinced that that draft agreement, even had not Provincial Šili withdrawn his signature and approval of it, would never have been given the necessary approval: Definitorium of the Province nor the Definitorium-General of our Order.

Someone has the rights to a parish if they have legally gained this right (for example, they have been permanently entrusted to a particular religious community). The Holy See can grant a particular religious community exclusive rights to the spiritual care (just as did Pope Eugen IV by his Decree of 3 July 1446, when he granted the Franciscans with the Bosnian Franciscan Vicary). Historical rights is not a cannon law phrase. Nevertheless, if the Franciscans in Bosnia-Herzegovina for centuries took care of the pastoral needs of the faithful and established parishes in Bosnia-Herzegovina, then we can rightly refer to their historical rights to a parish: their rights to a parish have become historical. Around 1881, this right was no longer exclusive.

Ad 7) It is evident that in their notes, Provincial Šili and the Bishop's secretary Marko Peri do not agree with the time of the signing of the draft agreement. However, this is not important because it does not change matters.

Ad 8) You can think what you want about Šili withdrawing his signature. However, the fact remains that he did withdraw it when he discovered that Bishop ule had not included his request to amend the draft agreement regarding the division of the apljina parish, which he had requested in writing on 12 April 1968.

Ad 9) The agreement between Bishop ule and Provincial Šili, even after its signing remained a draft agreement between the Diocese and the Province up until its ratification. This is not nonsense with which I am playing on and I certainly do not consider that you are all pupazzi. As far as our Province is concerned, pursuant to the regulations of the then legislature and pursuant to the Provincial Capitualte of 1967, which the newly-elected Provincial Šili was authorised to negotiate on behalf of, by no means authorised him without further consultation to conclude a final agreement with Bishop ule which would have needed to be approved by the Provincial Definotirium and the Definitorium of the Order. It is more than likely that the Bishop's signature required to be approved by the Consultative Corps. And finally, the agreement would have to have been submitted for approval by the Holy See who by its revokement of the Rescript of 1923 actually requested a new division of parishes. Until then, even without the withdrawal of the signature, it would have remained a paper tiger just like the Rescript of 1923 which remained just that until 15 April 1925 when Bishop Miši implemented it with his decree.

Why Bishop ule and Provincial Šili did not continue negotiations is not entirely clear to me. I do know that Provincial Šili stated that there was no longer enough time (12 May was the deadline to hand over five parishes). Apart from that, as far as apljina was concerned, his hands were truly tied by an order issued by the Provincial Capitulate of 1967. On the other hand, Bishop ule in his letter following the withdrawal of the signature never offered to correct the issue over apljina. If he had not known previously that Provincial Šili's hands were tied by the order of the Provincial Capitulate, he did, once he received the letter regarding the withdrawal of the signature, but he never reacted positively to this fact. Truly the damages that a final agreement had never been reached are immeasurable. However, just like I have said before, the agreement did not fall through simply due to the withdrawal of that signature. It would have fallen through because of the infringement of permanently gained rights by the Province to the 25 parishes but also because of the undetermined manner in which the new ecclesiastic legislature did not define how further parishes would be entrusted to the Province. Pity, pity, pity…

You are gravely mistaken when you accuse me of participating in the "destruction of the agreement reached that night". You evidently believe that I was that secretary who cautioned Provincial Šili that by signing the draft agreement the Province could loose its residency in apljina, which inspired him to withdraw his signature. I was not the secretary then nor did I read the signed draft agreement, so I could not have participated or influenced Provincial Šili to withdraw his signature. As such I would expect you to correct the injustice you have brought against me by claiming that I participated in "the destruction of the agreement that night". You are mistaken when you question whether I participated in "the destruction of the agreement", on my own. You evidently believe in that subsequent fabrication that a group of young friars that night exuded pressure on Provincial Šili to withdraw his signature. This just did not happen. I, for example, despite being a close associate to Provincial Šili, found out about the signing of the draft agreement and the subsequent withdrawal of the signature, several months later, when this was released in the Glas Koncila (The Voice of the Council), by the Bishop's Ordinary in Mostar.

So that there may be no misunderstanding or incorrect misinterpretations, something needs to be said about Bishop ule's claims in his letter to Provincial Šili dated 20 April 1968, that Provincial Šili had announced the agreement "proprio marte" on Holy Thursday, to the priests gathered". Seeing that Bishop ule and Provincial Šili had agreed that their negotiations remain confidential until the signing of the draft agreement, this claim at first appears as an accusation. However, the question is of an imprecise formulation by Bishop ule. Holy Thursday that year was on 11 April. At a festive lunch held at the Mostar monastery following Mass and the blessing of oils celebrated in our church, and in the presence of a great number of priests both Franciscan and secular and Bishop ule himself, Provincial Šili very clearly said this, "Everyone is aware that recently, His Excellency and I have met often and negotiated. I can say here that these negotiations are virtually at an end because we seem to differ on only one minor matter" (this is what is written in his report to the Prefect of the Holy Congregation for the Evangelisation of the Peoples, Cardinal Agagianiani dated 14 December 1968, published in Mir i Dobro (Peace and Good), no. 8/1968, pp.7-19). By this he did not violate his agreement to confidentiality regarding the agreement, or rather the draft agreement, what is more he could not have done this as the agreement did not even exist in writing yet. Bishop ule formulated the first written version the day after that Holy Thursday, that is on 12 April 1968. That same day he sent it to Provincial Šili who on 13 April 1968 sent it back to Bishop ule giving his written objections to the agreement requesting some amendments of which the issue around apljina was the most important. An issue that Bishop ule did not take into account and the reason behind Provincial Šili to later withdraw his signature.

Ad 10) I am not aware of the reason for the violence against you "localised to individual members of your (= my) community". If my brothers truly participated in that violence, I am sincerely sorry and condemn their behaviour. However, I fear that the reason for the violence exuded against you which is localised to my brothers has been done so in the same way that you localised me as a participant in inciting the people "for years", prior to that! Do you wish to say that I wrote my review of the "Herzegovinian affair" with the intention to incite the people? Is this the spirit you assign my writing as earlier mentioned?

Ad 11) From its revokement of the Rescript of 1923, the Holy See has insisted on the agreement for the new division of parishes which had been entrusted to the Franciscans pursuant to the rescript. That is why it sent Bishop Laszlo to Herzegovina to conduct an Apostolic Visitation, in an attempt to mediate and assist in obtaining an agreement. Bishop ani made excessive demands which obstructed any agreement being reached and all negotiations ended with a recommendation that seeing the two sides could not agree, the matter be referred to the Holy See and that the decision be made there in the hope that the Holy See would decide in his favour (which indeed occurred in the end). The Franciscans insisted on the opposite, to reach a final agreement just like the Holy See requested and as would have been normal practise according to ecclesiastic legislature. You refer to Bishop ani's stance as being the Church's stance while the Franciscan arguments are proclaimed as outside the Church! I do not understand. Someone has confused the issue here.

If it is true "that Father Šili requested that he be nominated as Bishop ule's assistant bishop on the side", believing "that the entire matter would be resolved immediately" (even though it is not clear how the assistant bishop could resolve the problem of the parishes against the will of the diocesan Bishop's Ordinary), it is not his fault then that the Holy See came across ani of all people!

Ad 12) P. Vlaši did not put in his report regarding the visitation that the Franciscan who in 1976 was the only one who expressed himself in favour of the Romanis Pontificibus Decree "was not completely of sound mind" because he voted that way, but because he was truly mentally ill.

If you are truly aware that "the administration and community in 1997 were of a completely different attitude with regard to the decree", why then do you persist in penalising them, and why then have you not issued members of the community, not even newly ordained Franciscans who in no way could have participated or influenced this existing situation, with jurisdictions or canon mission? Why do you persist in penalising the entire community?

Ad 13) I am familiar that formally looking at it, at the beginning of 1993, Bishop ani established new parishes in Mostar. But I also know for a fact that immediately following you inauguration as bishop, ani stated that he de facto transferred the diocesan administration to you and that he was just waiting for the Holy Father to accept his service and that you were to co-sign the decree to establish these parishes (except that officially in your capacity and the Bishop Coadjutor, you could not sign the decree). I only mentioned you because it was you in fact who most ardently pushed for the implementation of the decree to establish these parishes and that following Bishop ani's retirement you unfortunately became the target of violence because of the insistment that the Franciscans vacate their house in Cim.

Ad 14) When I wrote my review in 1996, I had at my disposal information which indicated that the Franciscans had truly vacated Cim. I later heard that some had again begun to conduct pastoral activities in Cim. Naturally, I could not have written about this before it actually took place.

If it were true that the "people regularly reacted the way the priests tell them to", you would very quickly be able to resolve the "Herzegovinian affair": as the primary priest and the first parish priest of the entire diocese you would only need to tell the people how to react!

Ad 15) When I refer to the "Franciscan residency", in apljina I am not necessarily referring to a Monastic residency established by Canon Law. Franciscan residencies are considered to be those (somewhat larger) houses in our Province which were built by the community in individual (usually somewhat larger) parishes and which were intended for living not only for the parish staff but also for other brothers, be they ill or retired. The Province then only had four monasteries in Herzegovina. One housed the Faculty of Theology another housed the seminary and high-school, the third served as the Novitiate and as such there was not sufficient room to house all our brothers. Of all the parishes, Bishop ule demanded, he had only given apljina recognition of special status for our house and expressed his readiness to pay out (which was adopted by the Holy See in its Romanis Pontificibus Decree). You, it seems, are not willing to recognise what has been founded as true.

Ad 16) I remain of the firm belief that entrusting one of these newly established parishes in Mostar to the Franciscans and to allow the Franciscans to keep their residency in apljina even without a parish or in some other house would be your great chance to introduce a turnabout to the situation and that we could move from this dead point towards a positive resolution of the conflict between the Franciscan and secular clergy regarding the new division of parishes. You have more than likely missed your chance because I am not sure when this sort of opportunity will once again arise. This is why I am surprised at your cynical question, "What are we to do with the 'secretary' if he cautions us that the 'Provincial Capitulate of 1967', does not authorise anyone to 'negotiate' regarding the two parishes which are joined by the Franciscan residency - in apljina and itluk'?" In any of the variants, the Franciscans would keep their residency in apljina and this is exactly what the aim of Capitulate's clause authorising the Provincial to negotiate with the Bishop. As the "Pope's decree" does not prohibit this then there was no need for you to tramp all over it for you to be able to accept the Franciscan offer!

Ad 17) I remain with my question, "How else would the Holy See even know where Crna, Grude, apljina and other small towns were, if they had not been receiving any information from Herzegovina itself?", even if you do remain steadfast with your often repeated claim that you (the Diocese) would not have asked for these parishes had the Holy See not determined so and that you are just implementing the wishes of the Holy See!

Ad 18) I am very well aware of Bishop Miši's implementary decree of 15 April 1925, by which "for very important reasons", which he describes in detail, instead of Prisoje and Dobri parishes, as is noted in the Rescript of 1923, the Gabela and Glavatievo parishes be entrusted to the Franciscans. However, I am amazed that you are not aware of the decision by the Capitulate of our Province of 1925 which thanks Bishop Miši for "the offered parishes of Gabela and Glavatievo" but that the Province cannot accept them without the approval of the Supreme Administration of the Order or the Holy See. Bishop Miši was advised of this decision in writing by Provincial Bubalo dated 22 April 1925, ref. no.: 256/1925.

Seeing that the rescript (and not the decree) by the Holy See of 1923 gave the bishop an indult only (authorisation) to (which does not mean it has to) entrust the Franciscans with some (listed by name) parishes. Bishop Miši as its executor could have executed it literally or partially only or even, not implement it all. I recall this rescript only in that section and to the degree it was implemented.

Ad 19) No my brothers did not "present matters differently", but rather I was referring to the offer prior to the war between the Croats and Muslim in Herzegovina, which you mention. This was not an offer to take over just Nevesinje and Jablanica (or Jablanica and Blagaj, no matter), which the Muslims later, virtually ethnically cleansed, and not all the other parishes in point 4 of the decree. The issue here is of the dynamics and the order of handing over the parishes. The Franciscans suggested that firstly the parishes which they considered could be handed over without conflict should be done so first. The diocesan side always insisted on taking those parishes for which they had the most interest - Mostar and apljina. Bishop ani once stated that he personally was not even interested in the some of the parishes the decree entrusted to become secular parishes. Amongst these he noted the Grude parish even, which he considers to be a destroyed parish. Therefore, he was prepared to leave the Franciscans with parishes which had been destroyed while you are prepared to leave us with those parishes which were cleansed of Croat Catholics!

Ad 20) A portion of your letter to Minister Ljilja Voki dated 31 July 1995 (that which refers to rights and justice) is in no way a response to my comments about the goodness and justice of the decision by the Holy See, and so I will not even consider this.

Enough for now, with the aim of explaining some things which appear unclear to you regarding my brief review of the history of the "Herzegovinian affair". If this is not sufficient, you will need some patience and wait for my extended, documented and explanatory version.

With due respects

Friar V. Nui

THE MOSTAR-DUVNO & TREBINJE MRKANJ DIOCESES

DIOCESAN CHANCERY OFFICE OF MOSTAR

(Tel: + + 387/88/323-944; fax: + + 387/88/324-328)

Mostar, 2 May 1998

Prot. no.: 392/98

Friar Viktor,

I received your letter dated 24 April 1998. I do not intend to respond to all seven of your pages. You started with respect before the truth: It is true, It is true, the truth is…, and then: this is important, this is not that important; even that which is signed need not be important, however what is said is important etc. You will understand that I cannot be allowed to be drawn into such dialogue. However, there are some points that I simply cannot but reply to:

Ad 3) You wrote that Dr. ule, "in agreement with Archbishop Šari, disappeared following the death of Bishop Miši, he became indisposed and as such the Vicar-General, Friar Leon Petrovi could not convene the Consultative Corps to elect the Capitulate Vicar." You do not note the source of that "agreement". In his Memoirs Bishop ule wrote, "As Archbishop Šari advised me, Miši worked directly and openly with the Holy See, so that I would not become the bishop in Mostar. Apparently he recommended me to Kotor, when Uccelini died there… In addition to me, the other members of the Consultation were the Herzegovinian Franciscan, Friar Leo Petrovi and the Bosnian Franciscan, the bishop's secretary, Friar Boris Ilovaa. They wanted us to immediately elect the Capitulate Vicar and suggested that this be Friar Leo Petrovi. I did not agree, because we did not have a quorum as there were not at least four of us. Apart from that, I did not consider Petrovi and Ilovaa as a true Consultative Corps as they had attempted to conduct the nomination without the approval of the Holy See and the commission had interpreted the Codex and adopted a resolution by which monks could not be a Consultative Corps without the dispension of the Holy See. As such Metropolite Šari came along and nominated myself as the Capitulate Vicar. The friars were immediately up in arms. But quickly a resolution arrived from the Propaganda which approved of Šari's steps and denied the friars their attribute of the legal Consultative Corps." The likelihood that Bishop Miši "worked directly and openly" against ule's nomination can be seen from a photocopy of a letter sent by Friar Alojzije Miši, the Bosnian Provincial in 1911, to the Banja Luka Bishop Administrator, Friar Marijan Markovi.

Ad 9) Your second paragraph ends, "Pity, pity, pity…" Damages can always be repaired. It is still not too late. Listen to the Pope now and do not spread disobedience against the Pope and the Holy See. Hand over Mostar and apljina in an orderly manner! Last summer (18 August 1997), you wrote, "Nevertheless, early last spring, while there was still time, I sent my opinion in writing in a letter to the Provincial Administration about the dignified withdrawal from apljina. I explained this based on the supreme law of the goodness of the soul, to which we often refer. I firmly believe that the procedures being undertaken by the diocesan side are not being conducted by a good soul. In fact the opposite!" (You write in this way, almost resembling Samson!) You continued, "However, I cautioned that we needed to take care that in an effort to take matters to their very end (summum ius) we do not cause the greatest injustice to occur (summam iniuriam), that is to cause damage to the souls which have been given to our care. If the matter is one of acts and procedures by one individual, once again I am not sure which acts and procedures and exactly which individuals are involved. But when I heard that the events in apljina in one way involved a brother whom I believe, I could influence, I contacted him and asked him to withdraw. He promised that he would withdraw and I believe he will hold to his words". I do not know which brother is involved, but the fact is that the Franciscan charisma is being transformed into the Franciscan schism in apljina, in Mostar and in Herzegovina. Yet your "Truth", which was firstly screened on anonymous video cassettes and entitled "The Fate of the Truth", and then published in a book can only be served as a scenario of disobedience against the Pope and the Holy See.

- It is true that you were not the secretary in 1968! Yes, I too can for once say, this is true! You wrote, "You evidently believe in that subsequent fabrication that a group of young friars that night exuded pressure on Provincial Šili to withdraw his signature."

- Friar Viktor, let us allow Friar Stanko Vasilja to lie peacefully in his grave for he was the one who told Msgr. ani and Bishop ani wrote this in his Memoirs, but please, I beg you, ask Friar Gabrijel Mio about this, he is still alive and let him list the number of "young friars" which he named to me on Holy Thursday this year while at lunch at the Cathedral parish hall! So that we can finally remove this "subsequent fabrication" off the agenda once and for all! And one other thing, we are senselessly debating one "secret" meeting and pressure exuded by some "young friars" while here we are faced with "public" schism by some of these very "young friars" and this is not an argumentum palmarium!?

Ad 12) You ask me, "If you are truly aware that "the administration and community in 1997 were of a completely different attitude with regard to the decree", why then do you persist in penalising them, and why then have you not issued members of the community, not even newly ordained Franciscans who in no way could have participated or influenced this existing situation, with jurisdictions or cannon parishes?"

- Listen to me! I read that 140 Franciscans (that is 140 times differently!), during the last General Visitation signed and accepted the Capitulate's decision with regard to the implementation of the Pope's "Romanis Pontificibus Decree", that 12 rejected to sign it and that they are terrorising and frightening the people around them and furthermore that there are 30 who do not know which empire to join! Jurisdiction and canon mission cannot be issued because of the deliberate disobedience on behalf of the Franciscans, be they the 12, be they 30 or be they the "helpless" 140 who all together are "creating the existing situation" of not implementing the decree! You yourself can see that the issue at stake is not only the jurisdiction or canon mission. This can be resolved the same moment that the parishes begin to be handed over! The issue at stake is the disobedience of the Province, "ad instar" around the Administration's neck, suspension of the Novitiate, the Capitulate's "immediatamente i integralmente," dismission of some members from the Order… I must tell you that I was quite amazed that "Mir i dobro" (Peace and Good) in its broadcast (1/98, 32) advertised your "Truth"! I see now that I am quite naïve and that I overdid it believing that the "administration and community in 1997 was one hundred times of a different attitude"!

Ad 13) In this point you present yourself more like a juggler than a renown attorney. Please keep you tone down!

Ad 14) "If it were true that the 'people regularly reacted the way the priests tell them to', you would very quickly be able to resolve the 'Herzegovinian affair': as the primary priest and the first parish priest of the entire diocese you would only need to tell the people how to react!"

- Friar Viktor this is not so in Herzegovina! The truth here is that the faithful would listen to the Bishop in those parishes led by diocesan priests and even in those which were until yesterday in the hands of the Franciscans! I assure you that the faithful in Stolac, Grac, Gradine and 40 other parishes will listen to me and allow me to nominate a parish priest for them even if he were to be a Franciscan despite them being used to diocesan priests! But for those parishes led by Franciscans we both know what would happen there!

Ad 15) The part about the "Franciscan residency", my dear and renown lawyer, teneas risum!

Ad 18) It is not unknown that the decision by your Capitulate and the elated beginning of the letter dated 22 April 1925, "the friars gathered at the Capitulate and in the entire Herzegovinian Province were filled with deep and holy joy by the resolution of Your Holiness on 15.IV that year, no. 534 by which you, based on the authority of the Holy Congregation's Council of 22 June 1923, no.2299 lawfully incorporated 28 (new) parishes…" Not a hint of "ad nutum" not for anything! Hence the incorporated! and then giù. "One thing is certain nevertheless that this joy is somewhat confused and that is that Your Holiness did not, in keeping with the decision of the Holy See, entrust our Province with the parishes of Dobri and Prisoje…"

You are aware that this was never proclaimed nor released and as such it was never implemented! For if it had been released, the diocesan clergy would have most certainly reacted and turned to the Holy See. When it was found out, this is exactly what happened!

I sent a photocopy of this letter, as I did your previous letter, to your Administration "ad instar".

With particular respects

+ Bishop Ratko Peri

Dr. Friar Viktor Nui

Franciscan Monastery Herzegovina Province

Avenija izviaa 2, - 10040 Zagreb (HR)

Zagreb, 10 June 1998

Most reverend sir!

My letter of 25 April this year, was intended to explain some points in my brief review of the history of the "Herzegovinian affair", which appeared to me from your letter dated 10 April this year in which you commented on my booklet "The Truth About the Herzegovinian Affair", were not that clear to you.

About a month ago I received your letter dated 2 May this year (again on official letterhead of the Bishop's Ordinary in Mostar, reg. no.392/98), where you commented on some of these explanations. I did not intend to reply to your letter as I had said in my previous letter that you could await any further explanations in my "expanded, documented and explanatory edition" of my review. I remain with that. However, I subsequently decided to relay some of my thoughts in response to your second letter, without intending to compel you to enter into dialogue with me, which you explained, you could not allow yourself to be drawn in to.

The major part of my explanation , especially that which relates to the essence of the actual "Herzegovinian affair", was simply avoided by you (skipped over). Some explanations were even referred to as those of a juggler or as being funny yet you go into detail with regard to some of my marginal comments.

One such marginal comment was the one about the "machinations" by Archbishop Šari during the nomination of Dr. Petar ule as the new Bishop of Mostar in 1942 ("The Truth About the Herzegovinian Affair", p.27), upon which I did not intend to build an argument what is more "argumentum palmarium", if I may use the term that you did. In explanation to your objection to my comment (your letter dated 10 April this year, p.1, point 3), I explained that by this I meant the circumstances surrounding the nomination of the Capitulate Vicar following the death of Bishop Miši and not the actual election of Bishop ule (my reply dated 25 April this year, pp.2-3, Ad3).

Nevertheless, you still come back to that (your letter dated 2 May this year, p.1 Ad 3), and in an effort to denounce my claims you cited Bishop ule's "Memoirs" which actually confirm my claims that there was some manipulation involved which is based on testimonies of direct witnesses, the contemporary Franciscans who participated in those events. It is true, ule attempts to justify his actions to thwart the regular election of the Capitulate Vicar by not attributing Friars Boris Ilovaa and Leon Petrovi with the criteria as legal Consultative members. In an effort to be convincing, he should have cited which criteria pursuant to Canon Law required them to have dispension by the Holy See including the date and no. of the appropriate resolution (?), or the Commission for the Appropriate Interpretation of Canon Law's resolution (?), or the Propaganda which "denied the Franciscans the attributes of the legal Consultative Corps". By the same token, he should have explained how is it that only after the death of Bishop Miši he discovered that these friars, with whom he had for years served in the consultative service without objection, were actually unlawful members of the Consultations.

As a by the way I will mention: just like Archbishop Šari had full rights to nominate ule for the Bishop of Mostar by the same token, Bishop Miši had full right to nominate some other candidate, a Franciscan, even though in his letter to the Bishop Administrator of Banja Luka, Friar Marija Markovi in 1911 - when ule was only a high school student and the other the Provincial of Bosna Srebrena - is by no means evidence that in 1942 he "'directly and openly' worked against ule's nomination".

My second marginal comment was the one about the that "subsequent fabrication that a group of young friars that night (19 April 1968, therefore that same day when Provincial Šili put his signature to the draft agreement which was recommended by Bishop ule - my subsequent comment), exuded pressure on Provincial Šili to withdraw his signature" (my reply dated 25 April this year, pp.4-5, Ad 9). I have not built on this marginal comment. What is more, I explained further my opinion, that the draft agreement did not fall through simply because of this signature being withdrawn but that because of the draft's imposition on rights granted and permanently confirmed to the Province regarding the 25 parishes, would in my strongest belief, never have been ratified by the Definitorium of the Province or the Order itself.

Nevertheless you continue to return to this point even though you consider a debate about this as senseless and to back up that fabrication that Provincial Šili withdrew his signature due to the pressure put on him by a group of young Franciscans, you cite Bishop ani's "Memoirs", (not leaving the late Friar Stanko Vasilje to lie peacefully in his grave even though, as you said, this is your desire)), you mention Friar Gabrijel Mio's statement to you on Holy Thursday this year, without explaining the motive behind this statement nor your sources (Your comments of 2 May this year, pp. 1-2, Ad 9). There is talk in the Province that he has been proclaiming that if he was the Provincial, he could make a deal with you in five minutes! Perhaps he might be prepared, if it would at all help if he was the Provincial (even "ad instar"), to give you even more than the decree itself offers however, it is not clear to me how he would implement this amongst the Province and the people themselves and this is what really worries you. If you are truly interested in confirming the rumours about why Provincial Šili withdrew his signature (see "Mir i Dobro" (Peace and Good), 1968/8, pp. 16-19), you can still do this quite easily, the Provincial Secretary then and Provincial Šili's only surviving first hand witness is still alive! Or is it that you only accept those testimonies from those Franciscans who speak in your favour, even though they may have been witnesses who heard the story second or even seventh hand?!

I remind you too, I was not that renown secretary (which you finally admitted). Nevertheless, I lived then in the monastery in Mostar and was a close associate of Provincial Šili. If indeed that night in question, a group of young friars had visited and most certainly had I been part of that group, as you accuse me of (your letter dated 10 April this year, p.2 Ad 9), I would have known this first hand from the very beginning. If it means anything to you, once again I state that I heard this fabrication several years later from Bishop ani's stories who lived in Split in 1968, and more than likely could not even have dreamt then that he was soon to become the Bishop Coadjutor in Mostar.

Your letter dated 2 May this year, spends a great deal of time on these two marginal points, far more than you do the essence of the entire problem. And what exactly is the essence of the problem?

The Holy Sees' Romanis Pontificibus Decree of 6 June 1975 exists. Regardless of how it came about (its preceding history) and how the decree stands on its own (due to its foundation on the truth, justice and relations towards the supreme law of the Church - the goodness or rather, salvation of souls), it needs to be implemented: this is demanded by the Holy See, this is being demanded by you, and this is being demanded - under pressure from you and the Holy See - by the Supreme Administration of our Order via the Ministry of our Province. However, the people are against its implementation and this does not only refer to those parishes concerned. A good deal of the population including the good faithful is prepared to take this matter to the end, regardless of the final repercussions.

And the friars? When in your letter dated 10 April this year you asserted that the Province and its Administration were in 1997 one hundred times of a different attitude with regard to the decree compared to 1976 when it was visitated by Pastor Vladimir Vlaši (p.3, Ad 12), you were not being naïve as you put it in your letter dated 2 May this year (p. 2, Ad 12), but you incorrectly interpreted the 1976 visitation reports written by Pastor Vladimir Vlaši and three General Visitators in 1997. As far as I know, the friars in our Province have not changed their opinion about the decree as evidenced by a survey conducted in 1976: we still consider it to be founded on falsehoods, injustice and that it is damaging - to the reputation and good of the Holy See, that is towards the salvation of souls. Nevertheless, the majority of friars (you noted a number of 140 friars), is not prepared to take the issue to the end (summum ius) even at the price of irreparable damages to the supreme good, that is the salvation of souls (summa iniuria). Nevertheless, I am not familiar with the fact that amongst these friars there are they who would be prepared to go to the parishes in question (apljina and other) to arrange the acceptance and to receive secular priests that is those friars who are prepared to positively support and sacrifice themselves to implement a decree which they consider to be founded on falsehood, to be unjust and irreparably damaging towards the salvation of souls. On the other hand there is a smaller number of monks (you mention a number of 12 friars) who are prepared to take matters to the end regardless of the final repercussions even to their own persons: to the point of sacrificing themselves to the end in the firm belief that they are sacrificing themselves for the truth, justice and salvation of lives.

Where am I? Based on my verbal and written presentations made last year during the General Visitation, I believe I have been placed amongst the 140 friars who does not oppose the implementation of the decision by the General Capitulate adopted last year regarding the execution of the decree. From you letters though, it could be concluded that I belong to the 12 who oppose the implementation of that decision, even though you did not say so directly. In both letters you accuse me that with my writing I am incensing the people - to disobedience against the Pope and the Holy See, yet you do not present one shred of evidence from my writing to back your arguments, (your letter of 10 April this year, p. 3, Ad 10; your letter of 2 May this year, p. 1, Ad 9).

However, I have never pushed that this matter be taken to the end, nor have I assisted the Provincial Administration or individual brothers to take matters to the end (summum ius) to the point of irreparable damage to the ultimate good of the Province and towards the salvation of souls (summa iniuria). In fact the opposite! The essential message in my writings and which is targeted by your accusations - the text on the video cassette "The Fate of the Truth", the booklet "The Truth About the Herzegovinian Affair" and my letters to you - is in fact an appeal that not one side not the diocesan nor the Franciscan take this matter to the end if this would mean irreparable damage towards the salvation of souls. This was the idea behind and the aim of my letter to the Administration of our Province on 18 August 1997, which you cite in your letter 2 May this year (p. 1, Ad 9), as was my attempt to convince one of my brothers not to take the Franciscan arguments to the end with regard to apljina (which he, thank God, accepted).

This is the most I could do, to ask both sides to respect the same Catholic moral principles and canon regulations and rights.

And where are you? Your two letters, which are at issue here, once again confirm my belief that there is only one problem here; how to take over the parishes which were established by the Franciscans and how to settle into the parish church and parish residency which the Franciscans also built.

In an effort to achieve that final goal, or rather your full right (summum ius), you are prepared to accept at whatever price (Es koste, was es wolle!), even at the cost of irreparable damage to the good or rather towards the salvation of souls as well as the schism in the Church in Herzegovina (summa iniuria). You believe and claim that damages can always be repaired: all we need to do is hand over (in reality and not only legally - my addition), the parishes (your letter of 2 May this year, p. 1, Ad 9)! What is to happen to those souls who have already gone to God to face judgement? Time can only limit the damages done towards the salvation of souls, that is stop it, but it can never repair this damage.

In an effort to achieve this aim, you maintain your insistence to collectively penalise the Province: irregular administration of the Province, refusal to grant jurisdiction and cannon missions, suspension of the Novitiate, dismissing some members of the Order…(your aforementioned letter, p. 2, Ad 12). We believed that with the downfall of the totalitarian regime, fascism, and communism the times of collective penalties were over! You insist on these measures due to the disobedience of a minority and yet you are penalising the majority of the Province, that is the Province as it stands today even though most civilised countries in the world have adopted legislative principles which Catholic morality always supported: it is better that one thousand guilty remain unsanctioned than that one innocent man be punished. Or perhaps you believe that the aforementioned sanctions against the Province are not evil and will not cause irreparable damage to the Church in Herzegovina?!

In an effort to achieve you final aim, you use one other method which is not in keeping with Catholic moral principles: you are offering the Franciscans the possibility of being granted jurisdiction and canon mission under the condition that they hand over the parishes to you (your letter dated 2 May this year, p. 2, Ad 12). This is most certainly, salva omni qua par est reverentia Vobis debita, a school example of "Simonism" - bartering with the Church - : for your own material good (the parish with it residence, the church and income that comes with it) you are offering spiritual good (jurisdiction and canon mission)!

Do not once again tell me that you are just enhancing the execution of the Holy See's wishes and are not trying to realise your own interests. The Holy See has shown so much more patience and understanding towards the Franciscans or at least for some of their justified objections to the said decree. It even promised to take into account the implementation module to execute the decree in practise by a so-called "moderated" implementation of the decree into practise (cf. "The Truth about the Herzegovinian Affair", pp. 41-44). Yet you, seek even more than the decree. The decree does not prohibit or limit you from offering a newly established parish to the Franciscans nor to allow them to remain in some towns as a religious community without a parish. I think that this would be your great chance to resolve the conflict in Mostar and apljina (and perhaps in some other places). However, you have always so smoothly rejected any suggestions the Franciscans may have proposed (cf. Ibid.). In this way you may have passed up your great chance.

So much with regard to your letter dated 2 May this year. I am just sorry that your letter did not inspire me to a more optimistic line of thinking.

With due respects.

Friar V. Nui

THE MOSTAR-DUVNO & TREBINJE MRKANJ DIOCESES

DIOCESAN CHANCERA OFFICE OF MOSTAR

(Tel: + + 387/88/323-944; fax: + + 387/88/324-328)

Ulica biskupa ule bb - 88000 Mostar

Mostar, 25 June 1998

Prot. no.: 558/98

Friar Viktor,

I received your four-page letter dated 10 June this year, in which you persist to prove that that which is marginal is essential and that which is essential is marginal, that black is white and white is black!

You yourself can see that we have already exerted quite a bit of dialogue just like our late forefathers and yet we have come back to the starting point. It is as if the Herzegovinian Franciscans want just this, their renown dialogue: "dialogue" (your term on page 1), "dialogue to the point of exhaustion" (phrase used by the late Friar Rufin), and after so many years and decades of this fruitless "dialogue" we have returned to the beginning, to the historical and "exclusive right"!

Your personal and joint struggle in this regard has been brought down to proving your historical right to parishes before the Holy See and the Holy Father the Pope who by the way has the right to do away with the Franciscan Order what is more the right to distribute parishes the way he considers best! You have employed your intellectuals, lawyers and religious powers to prove that the Pope's decree was unlawful, unjust, untrue and that it was against the Holy See's authority! And now it is the bishop's fault! How can the bishop use his historical "great chance", which you would like him to in front of so much great historical and exclusive rights?!

You show in an expert and legal way what the late Friar Stanko Vasilj did metaphorically, to all the diocesan priests and the entire world that, "But it appears to me that the Serbs are more likely to forget Kosovo than the Herzegovinian Franciscans regarding the misfortunes which have been caused to them by the diocesan priests". And then played the harp about "historical rights": This is ours, this is ours, we are on our own! This is how Friar Stanko relayed the matter to Don Andrija Maji on 23 March 1974. Attached is a photocopy of that truly sad letter showing its truly sad "logic" and even sadder mentality within God's Church in Herzegovina.

Is it possible that the "Herzegovinian friars" who cannot "forget" the "imposed misfortunes on behalf of the diocesan priests" are worse than the Serbs who "will easier forget Kosovo", my dear man!

I am sending a photocopy of this letter to your Provincial Administration "ad instar".

I greet you with respects

+ Bishop Ratko Peri

Dr. Friar Viktor Nui

Franciscan Monastery Herzegovina Province

Avenija izviaa 2, 10040 Zagreb

Zagreb, 7 July 1998

Most reverend sir!

I received you letter dated 25 June this year, in which you simply passed over my "four-page letter" to you and dated 10 June this year, and without any argument accuse me of not giving up to "prove that which is marginal is essential and what is essential is marginal, that black is white and white is black".

In my letter dated 10 June this year to you, I stated quite clearly and unambiguously what I considered as essential. I will try to explain once again using different words, the Holy See's Romanis Pontificibus Decree of 1975 whose formal legal validity - which does not admit to its not being founded on falsehood, injustice and harmfulness to the good of souls and the reputation of the Church - I never doubted, needs to be implemented to the letter and the spirit of the Canon Law Code (cf. Can 1752), into reality in such a way that the goodness (salvation) of souls does not suffer irreparable damage.

Have I in this way proclaimed something essential which in itself is marginal? Your demands to actually take over the parishes (which were established by the Franciscans) and to move into the parish residence and church (which were built by the Franciscans), cannot be considered unessential and marginal to the "Herzegovinian affair", what is more I have a great deal of compassion for the matter. Nevertheless, this too is subject to the salvation of souls as the supreme law of the Church (the aforementioned cannon states that this "must always be the supreme law of the Church"). As such no matter how much compassion I may have towards your demands to actually take over the parishes, the parish residencies and churches, I cannot understand your readiness to bring this to reality at any cost even to the point that because of this act the salvation of souls could suffer irreparable damage.

What then is the difference between you with this stance compared to the twelve Franciscans who, as you claim in your letter of 2 May this year (p. 2 Ad 12), refused to sign "the Capitulate's decision with regard to the implementation of the Pope's decree" and who are "terrorising and frightening the people around them"? The only difference is that these Franciscans are prepared to accept the most serious personal sanctions for their beliefs, even more serious than the sanctions which were issued in 1976 against all the members of our Provincial Administration. They were then, even though their mandate had expired taken as an example and collectively penalised by being dismissed of their services and for an indefinite period stripped of their active or passive right to vote in the Province (three of them have already died without this right). You most probably believe that you will be rewarded for your stance the same way that your late predecessor Bishop ule was when, upon retirement, he was nominated as an archbishop!

Is it marginal that I pointed out the Simonism by which you are prepared to act so that you can achieve your essential aim; or on the other hand because I objected to your persistent insistence to collectively penalise the Province which includes punishing the innocent majority of its members, once again just so that you may achieve your objective?

I cannot agree with your claim that "we have already exerted quite a bit of dialogue just like our late forefathers and yet we have come back to the starting point". "Dialogue" is not my phrase like you say. This is one of the most revolutionary journals which the Second Vatican Council introduced for internal Church communication and for communication between the Church and other Christian confessions, other religions, other beliefs and with the modern world. During our written communication, you introduced that phrase in your letter dated 2 May this year, and I cited it in reference to your letter to which I was replying to on 10 June this year and simply repeated it.

No we haven't "over discussed" this issue, what is more, I believe we haven't discussed it at all. It is true that the Holy See wanted us to come to an agreement about the new division of parishes. That is why it ordered that Provincial Zlatko ori and Msgr. Petar ule meet in Rome in the autumn of 1965. The meeting actually took place but an agreement was not reached regarding the new division of parishes. After that a countless number of meetings were held, discussions and negotiations. I participated in many of them (until the end of 1979). I wrote about this in more detail in the booklet, "The Truth About the Herzegovinian Affair", and do not wish to repeat it. Unfortunately, my experiences show that from the very beginning of these meetings, discussions and negotiations there was never any true dialogue. For a pre-condition to sincere dialogue is that all sides who enter into it sincerely wish to come to an agreement. However, the diocesan side always started from the point of superiority, authority and power. Instead of attempting to come to an agreement it attempted to impose its "solution". Once again I repeat, there could never have been an agreement nor could your (diocesan) "solution" be imposed until now.

As such, we have not returned to the beginning, what is more, we haven't yet begun to open a dialogue. The diocesan side always had some white figures, keys to open true dialogue, but it never used them. If it had, maybe the Franciscans might have refused the dialogue anyway (?) However, the diocesan side never gave them a chance to. Has it finally come that the diocesan side wishes to use that key?

Once again you come back to the issue of our "historical" and "exclusive" right to the parishes, as if you are obsessed with this. Whether you like it or not, not one well intentioned person can deny the Franciscans their right to parishes which they legal established for six centuries in Bosnia-Herzegovina (even though this is not the Canon law term). This right was exclusive from the time of Pope Eugene IV (1446) to Pope Leon XIII (1881), that is, no-one else had the rights to that territory which had been entrusted to the Franciscans. Let's face it, during the most difficult times when the Turks, and not only they, ruled there and persecuted their opponents, no-one really grabbed to be there! Now this right is no longer exclusive and no-one denies this. No-one also claims that the Pope does not have the right to interfere with this historical right. Don't accuse them then. He can give it to them as was done in 1446, or revoke its exclusiveness which was the case in 1881. However, by interfering in this right, the Pope could do a deed of injustice. Is it really necessary to prove this point? This is being proven by the current Pope, who despite being old and ill, travels the world praying for forgiveness for the injustice which was committed by religious people, amongst them are his ancient predecessors even.

No, it was not quite necessary to involve all "our intellectuals, lawyers and monastic powers" to prove that the, Romanis Pontificibus Decree was in its greater part, founded on falsehood (which does not mean the decree was "false" as you keep trying to accuse us of), and that it opposes natural justice and that it is damaging to the good of souls and the reputation of the Church (and not that "it is against the authority of the Holy See", as you put it). As such I believe it is high time for you to stop on your insistence to implement this decree into reality at any cost, even at the cost of irreparable damage to the salvation of souls and the destruction of our Province, and referring to this as the authority of the Pope. Spare one of his future successors from the need to have to apologise for something that you are doing. Our existing historical and non-existent, exclusive rights are not an obstacle for you to take "your historical great chance".

Once again you will not let "late Friar Stanko Vasilj to lie in peace", instead you take one sentence out of his as you call it, " truly sad letter", to Don Andrija Maji on 23 March 1974 and then you completely misinterpret it.

Friar Stanko in no way mentions our "historical right" as you accuse him ("played the harp about 'historical rights'"). He just claimed that the Franciscans felt as if they "were theirs on their own in 1878, 1899, 1923 and 1965", while I add in 1975, 1996 and 1998. And will remain on their own until some higher force removes them, spiritual or worldly. The spiritual one has until now not shown to be completely successful. This is perhaps why now more often you refer to worldly force (brachium saeculare), to implement your act into reality that most essential aim of yours and in this way, shove Herzegovina back to the Medieval Ages.

By the same token, in his letter Friar Stanko did not state that the Serbs were bad, nor did he state the Herzegovinian friars were even worse. I add that pursuant to Catholic morality, it is not bad that the Serbs have not forgotten the evil that was done to them in Kosovo, by the Turks who forced them out of the basin of their national state. Nor is it bad that the Herzegovinian friars cannot forget the evil which the diocesan side has truly caused and is still doing so ardently, most probably for evangelic reasons, to push them out of Herzegovina, where they have for centuries legally served the people in their spiritual needs and where they built and established their parishes. Friar Stanko states this but I add, if it was up to you, the Franciscans would not be able to remember the evil done to them for the next six centuries, because they would very quickly not exist anymore. After taking over the diocese as its bishop, your primary and main aim was to "destroy, finish off the friars". You know, sometimes even your greatest friends tells us friars some of the things you say just like sometimes our friends relay to you what we say. The earth vowed to the heavens…", (that all secrets shall be known - translator's note) !

With due respects.

Friar V. Nui

THE MOSTAR-DUVNO & TREBINJE MRKANJ DIOCESES

DIOCESAN CHANCERY OFFICE OF MOSTAR

(Tel: + + 387/88/323-944; fax: + + 387/88/324-328)

Ulica biskupa ule bb - 88000 Mostar

Mostar, 16 July 1998

Prot. no.: 658/98

Friar Viktor,

I read your compactly written, three-page letter dated 7 July this year. I am not sure why you need to use so much paper to say nothing, i.e. that which you have sung countless times at your anti-Church refrains and which we have known for a long time now. I am replying to your letter simply to confirm that I received it and read it. I remained saddened by your religious logic, ecclesiology, dialogue, defence of historical rights and so on.

Maybe these letters will serve one day to show future generations what sort of Franciscans lived in these regions in 1998, who wrote in the same manner as did the ones in 1911, 1942, 1974 etc.

With regard to your fashion of writing and attitudes, I feel - with deep regret - that there is nothing to reply to!

I forward you my sincere greetings and may God grant you his Spirit!

+ Bishop Ratko Peri

Dr. Friar Viktor Nui

Franciscan Monastery Herzegovina Province

Avenija izviðaa 2, 10040 Zagreb

Zagreb, 3 August 1998

Most reverend sir!

Just prior to my departure, I received your short letter dated 16 July 1998, (Prot. no. 658/98), by which, it appears to me, you wish to conclude our written exchange of letters with regard to the publication of my booklet The Truth About the "Herzegovinian Affair".

Taking into account your, as assumed by me, wish to conclude our written exchange of letters, which after all you started, when I arrived back home I decided to explain briefly why I accepted your challenge to enter into dialogue, as you referred to it, with you even though it nevertheless was not this.

I just wanted to motivate you to requestion you attitudes and procedures with regard to the implementation of the Holy See's Romanis Pontificibus Decree of 1975, or to be direct, for you to withdraw from trying to realise your rights (interests) which is ensured by that - largely founded on falsehood, unjust towards the Franciscans, damaging to the good (salvation of souls) of God's people and towards the reputation of the Holy See and the Pope himself - decree at any cost, even at the cost of irreparable damage to the good (salvation of souls) of God's people in Herzegovina; that in attempting to realise that right you do not apply collective penalties (against the entire Province), which means the punishment of those who have not sinned (who according to you form the majority of the Province - 140 against 12 with 30 undecided); and finally in the aim of achieving the same aims, you do not use Simonism - offering clearly spiritual goods (jurisdictions and cannon missions) simply for clearly material goods (parish residencies and churches and income tied to serving these parishes).

I must admit that I did not succeed in my efforts. However, I am not sorry for the efforts made and my good will. I believe that both our letters (and not only, as you say, mine), will serve contemporary and future (and not only as you say, future), generations what sort of bishops and Franciscans (and not only as you say, Franciscans), live here. Why should we leave this letters to be judged only by future generations? Why shouldn't we let them be judged by our contemporary generation whom these events most directly concern?

In the meantime you will probably continue pitying me and being saddened at my "religious logic, ecclesiology, dialogue, defence of historical rights to parishes and so on", while I am left with nothing but to be wretched because of the irreparable damage (already done and looming ahead) for the good (salvation of souls) of God's people, to the fate of our Province, and with that the particularity of the Church and the future of the Croatian people - in Herzegovina - which you persistently insist upon.

May God be merciful to us all!

With due respects.

Friar V. Nui

THE MOSTAR-DUVNO & TREBINJE MRKANJ DIOCESES

DIOCESAN CHANCERY OFFICE OF MOSTAR

(Tel: + + 387/88/323-944; fax: + + 387/88/324-328)

Ulica biskupa ule bb - 88000 Mostar

Mostar, 10 August 1998

Prot. no.: 760/98

Friar Viktor,

I received you letter full of religious arguing and "outlawry" of 3 August this year.

Instead of attacking me for insisting on the implementation of the papal decree "Romanis Pontificibus" of 1975, it would more valuable if you seriously pondered over :-

a) the messages which Pope John Paul II, gave on 12 April 1997, in the Sarajevo Cathedral to you Franciscans, the modern arguers with the Holy See and the local Church. He cited a sentence which the founder of your Order, St. Francis of Assisi said to his contemporaries. That sentence is at the same time an invitation, a modern invitation, in fact a very modern one at that, "I counsel, admonish and exhort my friars in the Lord Jesus Christ that, when they go throughout the world, they not quarrel and that they avoid verbal disputes, and that they not judge others; instead, they should be gentle, peaceful and modest, meek and humble, speaking sincerely with all, as is fitting". That is what St. Francis said to his contemporaries and what the Pope is telling the contemporary Franciscans in Bosnia-Herzegovina. When he uttered St. Francis' words, the Pope directed his eyes to the Minister-General of the Franciscan Order who was only five metres away from him and asked him, Ha Capito? - Did you understand?" It appears they understood well; the Minister General and the Provincial and the Franciscans and all the listeners. Arguments, conflicts, judgement of others even of the Holy See is something we have been listening to for ages, instead of being witnesses of humility, peace and meekness, as the Pope and the Church expect of you;

b) the fact that your General and the General Definitorium in April 1997, immediately following the Pope's aforementioned reprimand, decided to suspend your Provincial Novitiate in Humac until that time that you begin to listen to the Church in which you took your vows of obedience (refer below);

c) the resolution by the General Capitulate of May 1997 which demands the implementation of the said decree:

"With the responsibility and 'order' which was forwarded by the General Capitulate, I turn to you so that you all may have the same feelings as we do and that, despite the pain and struggle, together without hesitation, we implement the decision made by the superior of our Order - the General Capitluate (GGKK Article 188). We wish to do this and ask the same of you, out of faith to our in essence smaller brother.

After carefully balancing the circumstances and future perspectives and following a vote, the General Capitulate adopted the following decision for your Province:

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE "ROMANIS PONTIFICIBUS" DECREE

4. The General Capitulate demands the Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Herzegovina to entirely and immediately implement the 'Romanis Pontificibus' Decree by Pope Paul VI of 1975, beginning with the parish of apljina in accordance with the joint statement by the General Ministry and the Diocesan Bishop of 28.3.1996.

5. The General Capitulate request the General Ministry and the Definitorium to apply the necessary and effective measures to realise that aim.

At its sessions of 20 - 21 June and of 5 July, the General Definitorium examined and evaluated the sad issue which renders the Province as confined so that they could decide what should be done to liberate it from its detention or to help it release itself from circumstances which do not allow it to be an 'educative community'. The conclusion was to confirm the decision which was adopted by the previous Definitorium.

On 24 April 1997, (Prot. no. 085854), together with the Definitorium, the General Minister seeing that the letter of 20 February 1997, (Prot. no. 085566), had not brought any results with regard to the effective hand over of the apljina parish (seal, books, registrars, cessation of ownership by the Province), and after the Provincial brothers had not withdrawn from the parish and did not cease to conduct pastoral activities before given permission for the diocesan bishop, decided that measures of limitation to life for the Province which had already been determined and verbally announced were to be proclaimed and to be immediately effective.

Specifically, 'that the Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bosnia-Herzegovina be dispossessed of its right to accept candidates for the Postulate and Novitiate. As such the Provincial is stripped of its authority to: admit candidates in to the Postulate (GGSS 79§1): to admit and receive candidates to the Novitiate (GGSS 79§2). The General Definitorium reserves the right to permit the General Minister to once again issue the dispossessed authorities after conditions have been accepted as noted in the letter of 20 February 1997 (Prot. no. 085566).

It appears that the mediation of His Eminence, Cardinal Vinko Pulji most recently, is leading towards the resolution of the difficult problem of the actual hand over of the apljina parish and for it to enter into the ownership of the parish priest who has already been nominated by the bishop. We expect the generous reply from the Province. Non-success of this act would inevitably lead to even harsher measures for the entire Province and its future. We are following each step with anxiety and are concerned for your future: it is entirely in your hands and your hearts.'" (Peace and Good, no. 2/97, pp. 53-54).

Please release the Province of its "detention", which you detained with your attitudes of scandalous disobedience!

May God bestow you with the Spirit of docility

+ Bishop Ratko Peri

Dr. Friar Viktor Nui

Franciscan Monastery Herzegovina Province

Avenija izviaa 2, 10040 Zagreb (HR)

Zagreb, 17 August 1998

Most reverend Sir!

I received your reply dated 10 August 1998, (Prot. no. 760/98 to my letter dated 3 August 1998. Even though I thought that my letter would have concluded our exchange of letters, I cannot but reply to your latest letter, as this may be misinterpreted.

1. - In the very beginning you accuse me without any foundation or explanation that I have been attacking you because of "your persistence to implement the papal 'Romanis Pontificibus' Decree of 1975.

Firstly, I must mention that it is incorrect, what is more, malevolent to refer to this decree as a papal one. It was actually adopted by the Congretation for the Evangelisation of Peoples or for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church and the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes. This is noted in the decree itself. This is easy to confirm. As such this is a decree issued by the Holy See. Yet you persistently call it the papal decree. Please explain why you keep doing this, if for no other reason than to give the decree more weight (which is not at all necessary for being a decree issued by the Holy See is weight enough), than there to be a need to transfer the entire odium to the Pope himself (which is not entirely in keeping with the Church).

Secondly, I would ask that you note the place - in my booklet "The Truth About the Herzegovinian Affair", in this series of letters (or better said: replies) to you or in any of my verbal or written accounts of this topic - where I accuse you for the actual "insistence to implement" the said decree. On my behalf, I would like to once again remind you what I think about the implementation of that decree and what it is (without any verbal accusation) that I charge your with. As such I will note just one place from each of my two previous letters to you:

a) - "the Holy See's Romanis Pontificibus Decree of 1975 whose formal legal validity -which does not admit to its not being founded on falsehood, injustice and harmfulness to the good of souls and the reputation of the Church - I never doubted needs to be implemented by the letter and the spirit of the Canon Law Code (cf. Can 1752), into reality in such a way that the goodness (salvation) of souls does not suffer irreparable damage", (my letter dated 7 July 1998, p.1).

b) - "I just wanted to motivate you to requestion you attitudes and procedures with regard to the implementation of the Holy See's Romanis Pontificibus Decree of 1975, or to be direct, for you to withdraw from trying to realise your rights (interests) which is ensured by that - largely founded on falsehood, unjust towards the Franciscans, damaging to the good (salvation of souls) of God's people and towards the reputation of the Holy See and the Pope himself - decree at any cost, even at the cost of irreparable damage to the good (salvation of souls) of God's people in Herzegovina", (my letter dated 3 August 1998).

In the aforementioned texts three things are quite unambiguously evident:- 1) that regardless of pointing out serious objectives to the internal goodness and justice of the decree, I recognise its legal validity and execution; 2) that I represent the legal and moral thinking that the implementation of a decree by the Holy See should take into account the salvation (good) of souls as the supreme law of the Church; 3) that I do not charge you with insisting to implement the Romanis Pontificibus Decree, but rather the non-respect of the said supreme law of the Church in your attempts to implement that decree, or rather, your readiness to accept the irreparable damage to the good (salvation) of souls, just so that you may exact the implementation of the decree. If my claim - that you are prepared (that is directly allow) irreparable damage to the salvation (good) of souls for the purpose of effectively implementing the decree - is not true, tell me so unambiguously and clearly and show me by your deeds, and I will apologise.

2. - There was no need for you to entirely cite Pope John Paull II's speech in the Sarajevo Cathedral in which he just repeats the advise, reminder and inspiration by St. Francis to his brothers who travel the world, nor the text of the decision adopted by our General Definitorium and General Capitulate of 1997, about the necessity to entirely and urgently implement the Romanis Pontificibus Decree of 1975, nor about the suspension of our Novitiate in Hum. I am quite familiar with these texts. As such, it would have been sufficient to just remind me of them. Nevertheless, I took you advice and once again seriously pondered over these texts. I would like to relay some of my most significant thoughts.

a) - Can it be truly concluded from the Pope's speech in the Sarajevo Cathedral that the Pope considers the Franciscans as "modern arguers with the Holy See and the local Church", as you claim? Taking the St. Francis' text and the context in which it was said, it was quite clear that he is speaking about the behaviour of his brothers "when they travel the world", that is when they are outside their monasteries (communities), and not their relations towards the Church hierarchy, either in general or the particular Church, what is more, the local Church as you would like to interpret it (he speaks about this in another place).

Apart from that, an argument requires at least two parties. If in the Pope's speech in the Sarajevo Cathedral he truly targeted our conflict over the parishes, and I believe that to a certain degree he did, then are you entirely sure that his implied objection was directed to only one party to the conflict - us Franciscans? Do you truly believe that the Pope's intention was to sanify and sanctify all your actions as the second party to this conflict, to effectively implement the Romanis Pontificibus Decree and especially your disrespect of the salvation (good) of souls as the supreme law of the Church? Can the Pope even release you of your obligation to respect that Godly (and not absolutely the Church's) law?

b) - The sense of the decision adopted by the General Capitulate of our Order of May 1997, is not that the General Minister and Definitorium must apply all measures which would be effective, but all those measures which would at the same time be "appropriate (my underline) and effective", towards implementing the Romanis Pontificibus Decree.

Is the measure which our General Definitorium (under who knows whose pressure) applied in June 1997 - when two of our Franciscans acted in opposition to the decision and order by our Provincial Administration, and did not withdraw from the apljina parish and did not cease to conduct pastoral activities without the prior approval of the diocesan bishop - to penalise the entire Province as such, forbidding it to admit candidates to the Postulate and Novitiate?

Is it an appropriate measure when you - after excluding these two Franciscans from the Province and the Order - insist on the further implementation of the aforementioned collective sanctions against the Province, even though you admit that the majority of the Province's members have not done any wrong with regard to the aforementioned decision by our General Capitulate and General Definitorium (cf. your letter dated 2 May 1998, p.2)?

Is it an appropriate measure when you - for the purpose of exorting the urgent, effective and complete implementation of the decree - limit jurisdicitions and canon missions from all members of the Province including the vast majority who have not committed any wrong against the decision by the General Capitulate and General Definitorium of our Order, even they who did not have the opportunity to do wrong against these decisions - that is novices who were admitted to the Province following the events in apljina?

Is it an appropriate measure when you - for the purpose of achieving the said aim - apply Simonism: when for the benefit of material goods, that is, parishes which were established by the Franciscans, parish residencies and churches which were built too, by the Franciscans and the income tied to serving these parish, you offer spiritual goods - jurisdiction and canon mission?

After all, have all the measures applied which to my deepest and founded belief - are in the least - inappropriate, have not exactly shown to be effective towards achieving the said aim? I believe that you would have to agree with me, that they have not.

Which measures then are at all appropriate and effective towards implementing the Holy See's decree? It is probably easier to state which applied measures were not appropriate rather than those that are, because appropriate measures have not yet been applied. However, I believe that appropriate measures would be those applied in keeping with the modified model of the implementation of the decree which was promised to us and announced by the Holy See via its official emissary - the Apostolic Visitator - following the initial non-success of the speedy, effective and complete execution of the decree. I spoke about this a little more in detail in my booklet "The Truth About the 'Herzegovinian Affair'", (pp. 41-44).

However, we waited in vain for years for this type of implementation of the decree. It is true that the Holy See has shown a certain degree of patience, but the diocesan side; Bishop ule and yourself persistently insisted on the speedy, effective and complete implementation of the decree - without the modified model, and what is more, higher than that (I will refer to this late in more detail). It is not a wonder then that attempts to implement this type of decree in the Mostar and apljina cases ended the way they did.

As such I once again repeat that "I remain of the firm belief that entrusting one of these newly established parishes in Mostar to the Franciscans and to allow the Franciscans to keep their residency in apljina even without a parish or in some other house would be your great chance to introduce a turnabout to the situation", (cf. my letter to you dated 25 April 1998, pp. 6-7). These measures would be entirely in keeping with the promised modified model to implement the decree. I believe that in the current circumstances these measures would at the same time be effective.

Nevertheless, not only did you not wish to hear about the modified model to implement the decree, but instead you persistently insisted and still insist upon even sharpening these measures. The decree in no way mentions that the Franciscans cannot remain as a religious community without a parish in apljina or perhaps some other places which they are required to hand over the parishes to the Bishop for his use. However, you never wished and still do not wish, to hear of any such possibility. In the given circumstances this is surely not an appropriate model to implement the decree and to date have not proven to be exactly effective. In this regard, I stated that I considered that you had given up a perhaps unrepeatable chance.

3. - At the end of your latest letter, you accuse me that with my "attitudes of scandalous disobedience", I have detained the Province! Until now, you have only accused me of incensing "disobedience against the Pope and the Holy See", (cf. your letter to me dated 2 May 1998, p.1), and now you accuse me of personal "disobedience". Naturally, as usual, you do not even attempt to support this serious accusation with any evidence. This gives me full right to act according to the ancient and generally accepted principle: "Quod gratis affirmatur, gratis etiam negatur", (that which is claimed without evidence is negated), and I could simply negate your accusations without refuting them what so ever. Nevertheless, I would ask that you indicate some examples of my "scandalous disobedience", so that I can refute them and may anyone who considers your evidence and my counter arguments, judge my "scandalous disobedience".

Until then, I can just relay my position in the Province which can highlight my role towards the implementation of the decree. I assume that you referred to my apparent disobedience with regard to the implementation of the decree.

After the removal of the Administration of our Province from office in June 1976, for a year, I conducted the duties of the Vice Delegate that is the Deputy Delegate of the General Minister responsible for the administration of our Province which was seated in the General Curia of the Order in Rome. I de facto attended to undeferrable regular administrative activities for our Province. After that and until the end of November 1979, I was a councillor for the new Deputy Delegate to the General Minister. Throughout that entire time and until the beginning of March 1980, I was the Province's secretary. Since then to this day, I have remained outside any administrative structures in the Province, and for more than half of that time I have been outside the Province.

Based on the above details someone could easily conclude that I could have had a significant role towards the implementation of the Romanis Pontificibus Decree of 1975. However, the decree itself states that the exclusive executor of the decree on behalf of the Franciscans was determined to be the Minister-General of our Order. With that, our Provincial Administration, however it may be referred to, was stripped of its right and released of its obligation to undertake the business of implementing the decree. It was allowed to and obliged to execute only those orders which were issued by the Holy See and the Minister-General of the Order. That ruling is affective to this day. I personally never had any authority nor obligation with regard to implementing the decree. Apart from that, noone ever asked me, not on behalf of the Minister-General of the Order nor on behalf of the Holy See, to implement any ruling contained in the decree, so I could not actually refuse to that is I could not have shown "scandalous disobedience", as you have accused me.

4. - Finally, I am surprised at the ease that you utter such serious accusations and even insults (as you do at the beginning of you latest letter when you imputate me with "religious arguing"), where you do not feel any need to support these heavy words. Thinking about it, I noticed something in your letters: in the letterhead stands the full title of two dioceses and one bishop's ordinary as well as the Protocol number. At the end are two crosses (one in front of the hand-written signature, the other before the type-written), following the type-written signature stands that obligatory "Bishop", and the official seal of the Bishop's ordinary in Mostar (the first letter does not have the seal as you probably forgot it). Seeing that these were not to be official documents, this was odd. And then it dawned on me: that huge apparatus is intended to cover up the lack of evidence! I instinctively uttered the words, "Whose strength lies in the mace…" (his traces smells of fiendishness - translator's note) and then bit my tongue (I think you will agree that it is not proper for me to say this old folk saying as Njegoš immortalised it, in its entirety).

With due respects.

Friar V. Nui

THE MOSTAR-DUVNO & TREBINJE MRKANJ DIOCESES

DIOCESAN CHANCERY OFFICE OF MOSTAR

(Tel: + + 387/88/323-944; fax: + + 387/88/324-328)

Ulica biskupa ule bb - 88000 Mostar

Mostar, 29 August 1998

Prot. no.: 876/98

Friar Viktor,

I confirm receipt of your four-page letter dated 17 August this year.

The two of us are travelling down a road. All at once a rabbit jumps in front of us, twitching his ears. Look at the rabbit! You soon say, that isn't a rabbit, it's a fox! Even though the same rabbit was seen by hunters and shepherds and school children and the parish priest and a lot of other people and even though everyone knows "in which bush the rabbit is," you answer, "It's true that it is a rabbit but I will nevertheless prove that it is a "sly fox"! However, Friar Viktor, continue to prove this to those who wish to listen to your inverted logic!

The point of argument in this written communication between us is the "Romanis Pontificibus" Decree which your Franciscan community has still not begun to implement in reality and yet which in your letter you said that I "malevolently", referred to it as a "papal" decree. I wish to reflect on this point. I truly have no "ill intentions." I refer to it as "papal", because the Pope explicitly and verbally and in writing, approved it and it was supported by the then Pope and is now supported by the current Pope despite your "disapproval, non-acceptance and non implementation" (your "Truth" p. 37)!

1) In the decree it says that the decision which "determines and confirms" (decernit et statuit) the Holy Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples or for the Doctrine of the Faith, and after "hearing all those it related to, it was approved by the Council for Public Affairs of the Church and the Holy Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life" (auditis omnibus iis quorum interest, de consensu etian Consilii pro Publicis Ecclesiae Negotiis, necnon Sacrae Congreagtionis pro Religiosis et Institutis Saecularibus"). It is well known that the "Acta Romani Pontificis" includes decrees which are generally announced via any of the Congregations, what is more when all three of the aforementioned Papal dikasterions (offices) are involved!

2) If I was to somehow write that itluk or Kongora, Klobuk or Izbino should according to the Decision of 1899, belong to the diocesan clergy, you would probably reply or note how the Holy See's "Romanis Pontificibus" Decree ends with the most solemn formula and clause with regard to the Pope:

OUR MOST HOLY LORD, POPE PAUL VI, IN THE AUDIENCE OF THE CARDINAL PREFECTS ON THE DATE NOTED BELOW, 5 JUNE 1975, APPROVED THIS DECREE IN ITS ENTIRETY, CONFIRMED IT AND ORDERED THAT IT BE RELEASED "CONTRARIIS QUIBUSVIS MINIME OBTANTIBUS ETIAM SPECIALISSIMA MENTIONE DIGNIS."

SANCTISSIMUS DOMINUS NOSTER PAULUS PP. VI IN AUDIENTIA DIE V MENSIS JUNII, A.D. 1975 INFRASCRIPTO CARDINALI PRAEFECTO IMPERTITA PRAESENS DECRETUM IN OMNIBUS RATUM HABUIT, CONFIRMAVIT ET PUBLICI JURIS FIERI JUSSIT, CONTRARUS QUIBUSVIS MINIME OBSTANTIBUS ETRIAM SPECIALISSIMA MENTIONE DIGNIS.

And now that:-

- a decree which is issued by the Pope, Apostolic or Holy See, or rather, its office - the Congregation for the Evangelisation of the Peoples or for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of the remaining two most important papal dikatorions quoad casum - "the Herzegovinian affair";

- a decree which states that the Holy Father, the Pope EXPLICITLY, during a special audience on the day before it was actually signed by the Congregation itself on 5 June 1975, "APPROVED IT IN ITS ENTIRETY, CONFIRMED IT AND ORDERED THAT IT BE RELEASED!" (in omnibus ratum habuit, confirmavit et publici juris fieri jussit);

- a decree in which it solemnly states "contrariis quibusvis minime obstantibus etiam specialissima mentione dignis" with regard to everything that preceded, even those decisions made and approved by preceding popes;

- a decree where the clause noting the Pope's approval, confirmation and order to release it, is written in capital letters (official Croatian translation in the Official Herald of the Mostar-Duvno and Trebinje-Mrkanj Dioceses, III/1975, pp. 75-81 and in the GK 'Voice of the Council');

- a decree which once again, Pope Paul VI, wrote in a personal letter with his own signature, which is truly unusual, and forwarded to "All members of the Herzegovinian Province of the Order of Friars Minor" (Universis religiosis sodalibus Provinciae Herzegovinae Ordnins Fratrum Minorum), dated 25 June 1975, starting with the words, "You are probably aware, my beloved brothers, that the decree which was drafted by the Holy Congregation for the Evangelisation of the Peoples and which has our uttermost approval" (Novistis profecto, dilecti filii, Decretum a Sacra Congregatione pro Gentium Evangelizatione confectum, cui plena Nostra suffragatur approbatio), which was inspired by "fatherly love" (Paterna caritate) and "fervently ask you" (vos enixe) an isnpire you to "grateful obedience" (laudanda cum oboedientia) to accept the said decree which the Pope personally and entirely approved, confirmed and ordered to be released;

- a decree which the General Curia of the Franciscan Order only released fourteen years later in 1989 and whose introduction notes, "Decretum, a Congregatione anno 1975 latum et a Papa Paulo VI, approbatum et numquam in 'Acta Ordnins' editum…nun notum facimus ut fratres hoc aargumentum facilius congnoscere possint. Principia enim atqje praescripta, quae in hoc Decreto continuentur omnem vim obligatoriam servant et fratres, ad quos attinet, sese subicere debent,";

- a decree which for 23 years has yearned to be executed, yet due to the incomprehensible disobedience and scandalous rebellion by one religious Franciscan community has not been able to see the light, and now that such a decree which is supported by the Holy Father in his full authority and signature cannot be referred to as being a "papal" decree and that he who refers to it as such does so "malevolently", this formulation, Friar Viktor, could only be formulated in your head. Can it be that there is a little of this "ill intention" in you when, whenever you refer to the "the Holy See's decree", (p. 34), you do not with one letter mention that the Pope in a special audience "approved, confirmed and ordered it to be released", and then in writing confirmed that it had his "entire approval"?

I do not know what else I could possibly analize about this most sad "Herzegovinian affair"?! You yourself are aware of you use of Rabelaisian sophistication in order to justify your unconsecrated disobedience and non-implementation of the papal decree! The "residential" Franciscans in apljina can be especially grateful to you as they feed their "Live Church" with your logic and - fox!

Friar Viktor, perhaps one day you may even begin to argumentatively prove that it was in fact a - rabbit?

May the Holy Spirit bestow you with His enlightenment!

+ Bishop Ratko Peri

Friar Viktor Nui

Franciscan Monastery Herzegovina Province

Avenija izviaa 2, 10040 Zagreb (HR)

Zagreb, 9 September 1998

Most reverend Sir!

I received your reply dated 29 August 1998, or rather your reply - equipped with the letterhead of two dioceses and one ordinary and the protocol registry number, and concluded with a double (hand written and type-written) signature, double crosses (preceding the hand-written and then the type-written signatures), with the usual additive, "Bishop" after the type-written signature and the seal of the Bishop's Ordinary in Mostar - to my ordinary personal and private letter of 17 August 1998!

Nevertheless, I must immediately say that, that enormous apparatus (equipment) on your letter has once again not been able to replace the lack of evidence for the unexplained claims and unsupported accusations, what is more, insults stated in your letter, and that in fact I was not at all impressed, even less, frightened, so once again I will reply to your letter with complete frankness, sine ira et studio, with all due respects but without any fear before that enormous force, supportive equipment to your claims, accusations and insults.

1. - In my letter of 17 August 1998, replying to your accusations that I am attacking you "for insisting on the implementation of the papal "Romanis Pontificibus" Decree of 1975", I would ask you "to cite the place … where I attacked you simply for your 'insistence to implement' the said decree". I then, based on two of my citations from previous letters to you, reminded you of what I thought about the implementation of that decree and that is:-

- that regardless of the serious objections to the internal goodness and justice of the Romanis Pontificibus Decree - because of it being largely founded on falsehood, injustice towards us Franciscans and it being damaging to the good of souls and the reputation of the Church and the Pope himself - recognise its legal validity and execution (which does not sanitise its aforementioned insufficiencies);

- that I support the legal and moral thinking that the said decree needs to be implemented into reality according to the letter and spirit of the Canon Law Code, so that the good (salvation) of souls - which the Church must always consider as it supreme law (cf. Can. 1752) - does not suffer irreparable damage;

- that I am not charging you simply for your insistence to implement the Romanis Pontificibus Decree, but that in your efforts to implement the said decree you are not taking into consideration the supreme law of the Church and that you are prepared to accept irreparable damage to the good (salvation) of souls, just so that you can exort the implementation of the said decree; that in an effort to exort your final rights (summum ius) you are prepared to do the largest injustice (summam iniuariam).

2. - I then reflected on your interpretation of the Pope John Paul II's speech of 12 April 1997, in the Sarajevo Cathedral and the decision by our General Definitorium and General Capitulate of 1997, to which I posed the following questions:

- Is it possible to conclude for the Pope's speech in the Sarajevo Cathedral that the Pope considered us Franciscans as "the modern arguers with the Holy See and the local Church", as you claim?

- Do you believe that in his speech, the Pope directed this to just one side in the conflict - to us Franciscans, and that with that he wished to sanitise and consecrate your actions, as the other side to the conflict and your efforts to effectively implement the Romanis Pontificibus Decree, and most especially you non-respect of the salvation (good) of souls as the supreme law of the Church? Can the Pope even release you of your obligation to respect that Godly (and not absolutely the Church's) law?

- Is it an appropriate measure when you - after excluding these two Franciscans from the Province and the Order - insist on the further implementation of the aforementioned collective sanctions against the Province, even though you admit that the majority of the Province's members have not done any wrong with regard to the aforementioned decision by our General Capitulate and General Definitorium?

- Is it an appropriate measure when you - for the purpose of exorting the urgent, effective and complete implementation of the decree - limit jurisdicitions and canon missions from all members of the Province including the vast majority who have not committed any wrong against the decision by the General Capitulate and General Definitorium of our Order, even they who did not have the opportunity to do wrong against these decisions - that is novices who were admitted to the Province following the events in apljina?

- Is it an appropriate measure when you - for the purpose of achieving the said aim -apply Simonism: when for the benefit of material goods, that is, parishes which were established by the Franciscans, parish residencies and churches which were built too, by the Franciscans and the income tied to serving these parish, you offer spiritual goods - jurisdiction and canon mission?

- Are all these measures appropriate, when in my deep and founded belief, to say the least, they are inappropriate and have proven to be ineffective to achieving the said aim?

3. - After that I relayed my belief that appropriate and effective measures to implement the Holy See's Romanis Pontificibus Decree of 1975, would be those which are applied in keeping with the modified model of the implementation of the decree which was promised to us and announced by the Holy See via its official emissary - the Apostolic Visitator - following the initial non-success of the speedy, effective and complete execution of the decree. However, we waited in vain for years for this type of implementation of the decree as the diocesan side, from Bishop ule Bishop ule and yourself persistently insisted on the speedy, effective and complete implementation of the degree - without the modified model, and what is more, higher than that. The decree in no way mention that the Franciscans cannot remain as a monastic community without a parish in apljina or perhaps some other places which they are required to hand over the parishes to the Bishop for his use. However, you never wished and still do not wish, to hear of any such possibility. In the given circumstances this is surely not an appropriate model to implement the decree and to date have not proven to be exactly effective. In this regard, I stated that I considered that you had given up a perhaps unrepeatable chance.

Replying to your accusation that with "my attitude of scandalous disobedience" I detained the entire Province, I asked that you I would ask that you indicate some examples of my "scandalous disobedience", so that I can refute them and may anyone who considers your evidence and my counter arguments, judge my "scandalous disobedience".

4. - Instead of a reply to these vital questions, You, as usual, said, "I will just review one thing", that is just one of my comments about the malevolence of your persistent reference to the Romanis Pontificibus Decree as a "papal decree", which in no way holds the solution to the "Herzegovinian affair". For, as I claim, this in no way influences its implementation to reality as in both cases it carries the same weight and obligatory power.

You in fact are trying to avoid the unpleasant duty of replying to such a serious question in which does lie the solution to the "Herzegovinian affair". Hiding behind a fabricated tale about a rabbit and fox and your inverted (naopusum) logic(!), you attempt to show the truth of your claims that the decree was actually issued by the Congregation for the Evangelisation of the Peoples or the Doctrine of the Faith is nevertheless a "papal" decree and by this you think you have uncovered my "inverted logic" or "Rabelaisian sophistication", with which I apparently tried to prove your persistent reference to that decree as papal, as being "malevolent" and an attempt to justify my "unconsecrated disobedience to implement the papal decree".

It would be best to compare these two logical thoughts:

- My claim states, "I must mention that it is incorrect, what is more, malevolent to refer to this decree as a papal one. It was actually adopted by the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples or for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. This is noted in the decree itself. This is easy to confirm. As such this is a decree issued by the Holy See. Yet you persistently call it the papal decree. Please explain why you keep doing this, if for no other reason than to give the decree more weight (which is not at all necessary for being a decree issued by the Holy See is weight enough), than there to be a need to transfer the entire odium to the Pope himself (which is not entirely in keeping with the Church)", (my letter to you dated 17 August 1998, p.1).

- The essence of your reply states, "The point of argument in this written communication between us is the "Romanis Pontificibus" decree which your Franciscan community has still not begun to implement in reality and yet which in your letter you said that I "malevolently", referred to it as a "papal" decree. I wish to reflect on this point. I truly have no "ill intentions." I refer to it as "papal", because the Pope explicitly and verbally and in writing, approved it and it was supported by the then Pope and is now supported by the current Pope despite your "disapproval, non-acceptance and non implementation" (your "Truth" p. 37)!" (Your letter to me dated 29 August 1998, p.1).

- If these two claims are compared it is evident that I consider your reference to the said decree as being a papal decree as incorrect, what is more malevolent, while you concluded from this claim that I consider it malevolent. I ask you are you deliberately excluding the phrase incorrectly well meaningly? This is an essential qualification in my claim about your persistent reference to the said decree as being a papal decree, which then proves its possible malevolence. For, if your reference to the decree as being a papal decree is exact, then there can be no word of malevolence.

- It appears that this is clear to you too. I conclude this from the fact that even though you claim that you will only review my claim of malevolence in your reference to the decree as being a papal decree, all your further explanations and evidence that you truly do not have any ill intentions are brought down to showing that your reference to the decree in this way is in fact correct. You start with the completely unfounded claim that in the "Acta Romani Pontificis" includes decrees which are generally announced via any of the Congregations, what is more when all three of the aforementioned Papal dikasterions (offices) are involved" (your letter to me dated 29 August 1998, p.1), and you conclude with a rhetorical constatation that "a decree which is supported by the Holy Father in his full authority and signature cannot be referred to as being a "papal" decree and that he who refers to it as such does so "malevolently", this formulation, Friar Viktor, could only be formulated in your head" (Ibid, p.2).

- Firstly, in the text and the context it is written in, it is not evident what you mean by the "Acta Romani Pontifiicis", is this an official Vatican edition of the Holy See's document, or is this your collective title for all documents issued by the Holy See. Nevertheless, I am sure you are well aware that documents of the Holy See have been published since 1865 in a private journal (initiated by a Roman priest, Petar Avanzini and that it was printed in the Propaganda's press), which from its very beginning was entitled, Acta ex iis decerpta quae apud Sanctam Sedem geruntur in compendium opportune redacta et illustrata, and that form 1870 it was entitled, Acta Sanctae Sedis in compendium opportune redacta et illustrata (or better known under its shortened title, Acta Sanctae Sedis or abbreviated as ASS). On the 23 May 1904, the Propaganda proclaimed that journal as "authentic and official for the publication of documents of the Holy See". Upon the recommendation of the Commission for Compilation of the Canon Law, 1908, Pope Pius X decided to initiate the official commenatarium for the purpose of publishing the following documents; 1) papal, 2) congregational, 3) courts, 4) commissions, 5) offices of the Roman Curia. As such in 1908 the Acta Sanctae Sedis ceased to exist and its place in 1909 the Acta apostolicae Sedis (abbreviated to AAS) began to be released, which is published to this day.

- If you look at the internal structure of the official edition, you will see that documents of the Holy See are categorised into five groups: 1. Acta Papae (always noting the name of the relevant Pope, for example: I. Acta Ioannis Pauli PP, II), II. Acta Congregationum, III. Acta Tribunalium, IV. Acta Secretariarum and V. Acta Commissionum. If you then open Part I, which contains papal documents you will find only the following sub-titles: adhortationes apostolicae, sacra consistoria, constitutiones apostolicae, conventiones, epistulae, allocutiones, nuntii… You will search in vain to find documents of the congregations, regardless of whether the Pope confirmed them in any specific form or not, and this is what you build your main point of argument on and charge me when I refer to the Romanis Pontificibus Decree that I do not mention this approval nor its autographically inspired letter by Pope Paul VI, Novistis profecto, directed to all members of our Province. I do not mention it because it does not change the nature of the Romanis Pontificibus Decree, which remains a decree by the Congregation or the Holy See and as such it has, as I have repeated on several occasions, its own specific weight and obligatory strength.

By the same token, when I wrote about the decision (better known under the title decizija) of the Holy See of 1899, I do not mention its confirmation by the Pope in its specific form. That is why your, if I may use your phrase, "Rabelaisian sophistication", is senseless with regard to the fact that I would in the case of raising the rights of the parishes of itluk or Kongora, Klobuk or Izbino founded on the decision of the Holy See of 1899, would refer to the Holy See's Romanis Pontificibus Decree of 1975 as the stronger because it "concludes with the most solemn formulation and clause with regard to the Pope". Is it possible that you have not read the Holy See's decision of 1899 and have not seen that it concludes with the same clause?

In that context, with a hint of reproachment you state that our General Curia only released the Romanis Pontificibus Decree in the Acta Ordinis Fratrum Minorum fourteen years later in 1989"! What would you say when you were to know that the Holy See to this date has not released the Acta Apostolicae Sedis? Why? Surely not because it is ashamed of it, but rather because in 1975 it was released (publici iuris factus) exactly the way it was ordered to: the simultaneous release in the Latin original to those it regarded with the Croatian translation which it approved which was published in the Glas Koncila (The Voice of the Council) on 25 June 1975 (there is no point for me to hold you a lecture in the methods of publication used by the Holy See in the past and present).

Finally, take a look at the official publications of the Council's documents and you will establish that at the end of each stands the personally signedapproval of the Pope in its specific form. They are nevertheless published as the Council's and not the Pope's documents. In theological and ecclesiastic law and in general Church literature they are cited only as being of the Council and never as papal documents. This is how they are officially treated by the Holy See itself.

Out of all this, it is undeniable that your reference to the Romanis Pontificibus Decree as a "papal" decree is incorrect or rather untrue.

- Only now can we discuss the possible (ill)intention of your persistent referral to the said decree as a papal one. You will have to agree with me that you refer to it in that way with some intention in mind. I firmly believe that your intention was to increase the weight and obligatory power of the said decree and that the entire odiousness of its actual implementation be placed on the Pope. I asked you to explain to me that if this was not so, then why do you refer to it in this way. Seeing that you did not reply, I remain in my firm belief. According to my understanding of Catholic moral, that intention in the second part, at least, was malevolent. Even if we were to not consider that second part of your intention so that only the first part, that is the (good?) part remained it still could not justify the false referral to the said decree as a papal one. A professor of Catholic moral taught me that I was not to tell lies (even though it in itself caused an even stronger lie) not even in circumstance where it could save the world (which is undeniably a good intention). I have not heard that this principle in Catholic morality has changed. Or perhaps you think that a possible partial good intention can consecrate an evil means (untruth)?

Instead of a conclusion, I will say just this, differing to you, I believe that we would have something "to analize with respect to the most sad 'Herzegovinian affair'", we could analize those vital questions which I posed to your or at least threw at you in passing in our correspondence to date, and in which lies the solution to the "Herzegovinian affair". Otherwise, I consider that there is truly no sense for us, instead of seeking true answers to questions we hunt rabbits and foxes. One thing is for sure: You will not get to taste a delicious rabbit. I was never even tempted to eat it and considering everything what tried to slaughter me, I am not afraid of the fiercest foxes.

With due respects.

Friar V. Nuic
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