Police Prevent Catholic Clashes in Bosnia

Local police deployed strong special police forces in Bosnia’s southern town of Capljina, to prevent clashes between supporters of rival wings of the local Roman Catholic Church.

The incident took place on Sunday, as the regional Roman Catholic Bishop Ratko Peric came to Capljina to consecrate the construction of a local pastoral center. More than 300 local believers, who support local friars previously dismissed from the church, tried to stop the ceremony.

The clash was averted by the special police forces who protected Peric and his procession, and later escorted them out of the town.

The incident reflects the tensions which strain relations within the local Roman Catholic church and community since 1996. The problem dates back to nineteenth century when local communities in the Herzegovina region were divided among Roman Catholic Church and its Franciscan order.

After several Papal orders went unimplemented, the Church in 1996 tried to take over several church facilities in Capljina but was physically prevented by three local Franciscan priests and their followers. The three priests were officially dismissed from the Roman Catholic order in 1998, but they continued performing their duties in the local church. The Church decided to ignore the problem, reluctant to further exacerbate the divisions within its own ranks and believers.

New tensions flared recently after the local administration first allowed and then halted the construction of a new pastoral center.

The tensions have regularly been disruptive to local residents. Just a week ago, supporters of the ‘renegade’ Franciscans blocked other local priests from holding a ceremony for a deceased parishioner.

Despite the withdrawal of construction permit, Bishop Peric still decided to hold the consecration ceremony, which infuriated supporters of dismissed Franciscans.

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