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News / Bosnia-Herzegovina: PRO ORIENTE Conference was an important Contribution on the Road to Reconciliation

Bosnia-Herzegovina: PRO ORIENTE Conference was an important Contribution on the Road to Reconciliation

Positive Summary of the latest PRO ORIENTE Peace Conference in Trebinje (Bosnia-Herzegovina)

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Foto: Bohdan Mostovyi

Vienna/Trebinje, 11.06.24 (poi) The recent PRO ORIENTE peace conference in Trebinje in Bosnia-Herzegovina could be an important step towards a reconciliation process between Catholic and Orthodox Christians in the region. This was emphasized by PRO ORIENTE Secretary General Bernd Mussinghoff. In an interview with the PRO ORIENTE Information Service, he gave a very positive summary of the conference.

The foundation organized a high-level workshop in Trebinje from 29 May to 1 June. The theme of the conference was “Bridging the Divide - Processes of Healing Wounded Memories in Former Yugoslavia”. It was part of the PRO ORIENTE project “Healing of Wounded Memories”. A video with insights from the event is available on the PRO ORIENTE YouTube channel (

Mussinghoff was convinced that the event was an impetus for further reconciliatory networking efforts, especially due to the many personal encounters between the participants, “in the academic, church and civil society sectors”.

A trip to Dubrovnik was also particularly moving - to the place where, for the first time, the then Orthodox and Catholic Bishops had publicly asked each other for forgiveness for the suffering and injustice inflicted by believers of their church on believers of the other church, during an ecumenical prayer in the Catholic cathedral in 2012. The Orthodox Bishop Grigorije (Duric), who had made the request for forgiveness at the time, was one of the conference participants. He quoted the most important passages from his speech at the time in Dubrovnik Cathedral in the presence of the Catholic Bishop. Excerpts can be seen in the video.

The conference was opened by the Orthodox Bishop of Zahumlje and Herzegovina, Dimitrije (Radenovic), and the Catholic Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, Petar Palic. The participants discussed theological and practical aspects of repentance, reconciliation and conflict transformation in Catholic-Orthodox contexts. Interreligious initiatives on these topics were also presented and discussed. In a public panel discussion with 120 visitors, the Mufti of Mostar, Salem ef. Dedovic, the Serbian Orthodox Bishop Grigorije (Duric), who is now responsible for Germany, and the retired Catholic Archbishop of Belgrade, Stanislav Hocevar, discussed ecumenical and interreligious relations in the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

The conference clearly demonstrated, through practical examples and initiatives, that reconciliation is also possible in a region so badly shaken by violence and injustice. According to the conference participants, the relationship between church and state or church and nation is also a key topic that needs to be explored in greater depth in this context.

Julija Naett Vidovic, member of the Steering Committee of PRO ORIENTE, commented that the outcome of this conference was more than positive. She noted that the atmosphere was very engaging and the desire to continue the work together through the creation of a common network at different levels: academic, spiritual, pastoral, humanitarian, was something for which they had hoped before coming to Trebinje.

The participants were convinced that common challenges such as migration or responsibility for creation could or should be starting points for closer cooperation in the future. There was also agreement that the anniversary of the 1,700th anniversary of the Council of Nicea in the coming year should be used to deepen ecumenical contacts. It also became clear during the discussions that there is a need for dialogue not only between the churches, but sometimes also within the churches.

The conference was organized by the PRO ORIENTE Steering Committee for Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue in cooperation with the Centre for Philosophy and Theology in Trebinje (CEFIT). The conference was held on the premises of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Zahumlje and Herzegovina, which also provided logistical support for the conference. The conference was made possible thanks to the financial support of Renovabis (Aid Organization of the Catholic Church in Germany for Eastern Europe), the Foundation “Living together in Europe”, CEFIT and the UNESCO Chair for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue in Southeastern Europe at the University of Graz.

The PRO ORIENTE project “Healing of Wounded Memories” began in November 2023 with an international conference in Vienna. Around 50 participants from Europe, the USA and the Middle East reflected on aspects of a theology of reconciliation, while also looking at specific geopolitical areas of conflict in Ukraine, South-Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The topics of the kick-off conference will now be explored in greater depth in regional workshops in these regions in 2024 and 2025. The next workshop is planned for fall 2024 in the Middle East.