Moments before Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s secretary of state, and President Zeljko Komsic ratified the agreement, Benedict XVI received in audience the Bosnian leader, who officially invited the Pontiff to visit his country.
The Vatican press office reported that during the meeting with the Pope, “consideration was given to questions concerning the implementation of the agreement itself, and in particular to the Church’s commitment in the fields of education, social and charitable activities, and pastoral assistance to the Catholic faithful.”
“The Catholic community’s contribution for the peaceful coexistence of the various ethnic and religious groups in the country was also stressed,” it said.
In the Apostolic Palace, Cardinal Bertone, and Komsic – each accompanied by their respective delegations – exchanged the instruments of ratification of the agreement and its additional protocol, signed last April 19 and Sept. 29, respectively.
Both documents have thus entered into effect today, leading Cardinal Bertone to affirm during his discourse, “Today is a historic day […] marking the end of one stage and the beginning of another characterized, we hope, by a long and fruitful collaboration.”
With the agreement, elements of the life and activity of the Catholic community in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be clarified, such as “the recognition of the juridical status of the Catholic Church and its institutions in civil society, its independence in worship and in apostolate, and of its specific contribution in the cultural, educational, pastoral, military, aid and charity fields, and in the press,” Cardinal Bertone said.
In effect, he continued, “The exercise of the religious liberty of each citizen and the religious communities in a legal framework is part of the undeniable presuppositions in today’s Western culture, and it is an indispensable condition for the protection of human rights in all parts of the planet.”
In a multi-ethnic and pluri-religious society such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, “the current agreement becomes the best juridical guarantee to ensure an ordered development of religious life, especially in its public implications,” the cardinal said. And the application of the agreement, “will contribute to overcoming the grave problems inherited from the past and constructing a better future.”