Franciscan Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
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in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Franciscan Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (officially Latin: Hercegovinae Assumptionis B.M.V. Provincia) is a province of the Franciscan order of the Catholic Church in Herzegovina. Its headquarters are currently in Mostar.
The Province includes monasteries in:
- Konjic – Samostan i župa sv. Ivana Krstitelja,
- Ljubuški / Humac – Samostan i župa sv. Ante,
- Mostar – Samostan i župa sv. Petra i Pavla,
- Franciscan monastery of Široki Brijeg – Samostan i župa Uznesenja BDM,
- Tomislavgrad – Samostan sv. Ćirila i Metoda, župa sv. Mihovila Arkanđela;
- Croatia at:
- Korčula / BADIJA – Samostan Uznesenja BDM,
- Slano – Samostan Sv. Jeronima,
- Zagreb – Samostan Bezgrješnog začeća BDM;
and priests of the province serve at 33 churches in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Franciscan friars came to the region of Bosnia in 1291 to help oppose the dualistic Bogomil sect, also called Patarenes, and the non-Catholic "Bosnian Christians". The first Franciscan vicariate in Bosnia was founded in 1339/40. In the 14th century, when the bishop of Bosnia (Vhrbosna) was forced to move to Djakovo (in modern-day Croatia), and the bishop of Trebinje moved to Dubrovnik, Franciscans took over a leadership role in the church in the region.
Under the Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire gained control of Bosnia in 1463 and Herzegovina in 1482. The Franciscan order was promised toleration by Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror in 1463. Friar Anđeo Zvizdović of the Monastery in Fojnica received the oath on 28 May 1463 at the camp of Milodraž.
The Ahdname of Milodraž stated:
"I, the Sultan Khan the Conqueror, hereby declare the whole world that, the Bosnian Franciscans granted with this sultanate ferman are under my protection. And I command that:
No one shall disturb or give harm to these people and their churches! They shall live in peace in my state. These people who have become emigrants, shall have security and liberty. They may return to their monasteries which are located in the borders of my state. No one from my empire notable, viziers, clerks or my maids will break their honour or give any harm to them!
No one shall insult, put in danger or attack these lives, properties, and churches of these people! Also, what and those these people have brought from their own countries have the same rights...
By declaring this ferman, I swear on my sword by the holy name of Allah who has created the ground and sky, Allah's prophet Mohammed, and seven prophets that; no one from my citizens will react or behave the opposite of this ferman!"
This ferman is one of the oldest documents on religious freedom, providing independence and tolerance to people of a differing religion, belief, and race. It was republished by the Ministry of Culture of Turkey for the 700th anniversary of the foundation of the Ottoman State. The original edict is still kept in the Franciscan Catholic Monastery in Fojnica. In 1971, the United Nations published a translation of the document in all the official U.N. languages.
Founding of the province
Without a regular hierarchy of bishops in place, the diocesan clergy fell into decline and disappeared by the mid-19th century. To support the local church which was functioning without resident bishops, the Holy See founded an Apostolic Vicariate for Bosnia in 1735, and assigned Franciscans as apostolic vicars to direct it. The Franciscan Province of Bosna Srebrena was restructured to correspond to the borders of Ottoman rule in 1757; it split in 1846, when friars from the Kresevo monastery broke off to found the monastery at Siroki Brijeg. A separate Franciscan jurisdiction (a "custody") was established for Herzegovina in 1852. Pope Leo XIII raised it to the status of a province (the Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) in 1892.
Restoration of the hierarchy and conflict with the dioceses
As part of re-establishing normal church structures, the bishops worked to transfer parishes from the Franciscans to the diocesan clergy, but friars resisted, and in the 1940s, the two Franciscan provinces still held 63 of 79 parishes in the dioceses of Vrhbosna and Mostar. Resistance to diocesan clergy continued through the following decades, despite papal support for the diocesan bishops. In the 1970s, friars in Herzegovina formed the "Mir i Dobro" association of priests, which encouraged popular support for local autonomy and opposition to diocesan parish takeovers.
A 1975 decree by Pope Paul VI, Romanis Pontificibus, ordered that Franciscans withdraw from a majority of the parishes in the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno, retaining 30 and leaving 52 to the diocesan clergy. Resistance continued, and in the 1980s the Franciscan Province held 40 parishes under the direction of 80 friars. The Holy See imposed restrictions on the Province, imposing a superior instead of allowing normal elections, and forbidding the admission of new candidates.
In the 1990s, the cases of seven parishes remained unresolved, and the Holy See brought the leadership of the worldwide Franciscan Order into the process to see that Romanis Pontificibus would be implemented. When visited by Franciscan superiors from Rome, most friars expressed their willingness to comply, and transfers of clergy were decreed in order to carry out the plan, but the newly appointed diocesan clergy were met with the physical occupation of churches, threats, and even some violence by occupiers. Several recalcitrant friars were expelled from the Order for disobedience but continued to engage in forbidden ministry.
In spite of these limitations, the Franciscan Minister General declared in 1999 that he had implemented the decree, and in 2001 the province conducted its first Provincial Chapter and elections in decades. In contrast, Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno responded in 2002 that the decree had not yet been implemented.
- Franciscan Province of Bosna Srebrena, the first Franciscan province in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Giacomo Bini
- "OFM Provinces". Ordo Fratrum Minorum. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
- "Franciscan Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Our Presence". Franciscan Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
- "Catholic Church in Bosnia-Herzegovina" (PDF). Sarajevo: Catholic News Agency, Bishops Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 2002.
- "Kronološki pregled događaja". Franciscan Province of Bosna Srebrena.
- "Croatia and Ottoman Empire, Ahdnama, Sultan Mehmet II".
- Light Millennium: A Culture of Peaceful Coexistence: The Ottoman Turkish Example; by Prof. Dr. Ekmeleddin IHSANOGLU
- Vjekoslav Perica (2004). Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States. Oxford University Press. pp. 117–118.
- "The decree "Romanis Pontificibus" definitively implemented". Ordo Fratrum Minorum. 25 February 1999. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
- Giacomo Bini, OFM (November 29, 2002). "Report to the General Chapter: Assisi 2003".
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