WASHINGTON (February 19, 1997) — A key player in the efforts to build peace in the former Yugoslavia will make several public appearances and attend a number of private meetings in Washington over the weekend, discussing the current situation in the Balkan region and efforts to strengthen the fragile peace currently in effect.
Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, touring in the United States during February, will conclude his visit with an address at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Friday and with a liturgy concelebrated with Cardinal James Hickey of Washington on Sunday. He met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on February 13, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and will meet with State Department and National Security Council officials, representatives of the Bosnian embassy, and several members of Congress during his four days in Washington.
Cardinal Puljic is expected to address the continuing progress of implementing the Dayton Peace accords during his remarks at the Carnegie Endowment (2400 N Street NW, Washington) on Friday. As an outspoken advocate of building harmony among the region's three ethnic groups, and in view of the scheduled visit of Pope John Paul II to Sarajevo in April, Cardinal Puljic is also likely to speak on the role of religious leaders in promoting reconciliation among Croats, Muslims, and Serbs. On Sunday, February 23, he will concelebrate with Cardinal James Hickey of Washington the opening Mass of the Annual Conference on Social Ministry to be held at the Capitol Hill Holiday Inn, 415 New Jersey Ave. NW, Washington.
Cardinal Puljic is visiting the United States to seek aid in reviving a church devastated by war and to strengthen international support for full implementation of the Dayton Accords and restoration of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was invited to the United States by Bishop Thomas Welsh of Allentown (PA) and The Catholic Medical Foundation, which is helping to build a Catholic hospital in Sarajevo. The Croatian Catholic Union of the USA and Canada and the U.S. Catholic Conference are helping to coordinate the visit.
Before his arrival in Washington, the last stop on his 17-day trip, Cardinal Puljic will have visited New York; Newark, NJ; Allentown, PA; Philadelphia; Chicago; Hobart, IN; and St. Louis. On Saturday, he will travel to Cleveland to meet with Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/USCC, as well as with members of the Croatian community in Cleveland.
Sarajevo is the seat of the largest Roman Catholic diocese in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Of the 144 parishes in the archdiocese at the beginning of the war, 90 have ceased to function. Of 528,000 Catholics, only about 170,000 remain. Cardinal Puljic was named a bishop in January 1991 and was elevated to the College of Cardinals in November 1994. At 51, he is the youngest of the Cardinals, and the first from Bosnia.
Since the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in December 1995, Cardinal Puljic began to restore the life of the Catholic Church in his archdiocese. He has urged government officials to allow refugees and displaced persons to be permitted to return to their homes, has insisted on equal respect for the rights of religious and national minorities, and has continued to support efforts to restore a multi-ethnic, multi-religious Bosnia-Herzegovina.
For more information on Cardinal Puljic's itinerary, contact Gerard Powers at the Office for International Justice and Peace at the U.S. Catholic Conference at 202-541-3199.