The healthy growth of the Church in Bosnia was blighted and stunted by Arianism and the disturbances caused by the wandering of the nations. Irreparable, however, was the damage inflicted by the Oriental Schism. To this day forty-three per cent of the population are Greek Orthodox, calling themselves Servians, and their religion and language Servian. From the earliest times the Church of Christ opposed the Bogomiles, a branch of the Manichæans, who, varying as to time and place, dress, and nomenclature, are well nigh a historical puzzle. They have been called Paulicians, Phundaites, Encratites, Marcionites, Christopolites, and, after a certain Bulgarian priest, Bogomiles. They were very numerous in Bosnia, as is proved by the great number of Bogomile graves. From 1292 onwards the Franciscan monks co-operated with the secular clergy in attending to the needs of the faithful.
When in 1463 Stephan Tomasevie, the last native sovereign of Bosnia, was taken prisoner by the Turks and decapitated, there were many Catholics, who in order to save their possessions, renounced their faith and became Mohammedans (now known as "Begs"). Nearly all the Bogomiles became Mohammedans at the same time, and the few who remained true to their faith were degraded to the position of "rayahs", i.e. serfs possessing no civil rights. The Catholic Church of Bosnia suffered the most severe of hardships during the succeeding four centuries. The faithful lost their possessions, and might not, without the Sultan's permission, build themselves a hut, let alone a church. From 1683 onwards, repeated inhuman oppressions drove them frequently to have recourse to arms, but each time only to make their position worse than before. The Franciscan Friars alone saved the Church in Bosnia. They disguised themselves as Turks and were addressed by the Catholics as ujaci (uncle). Often they were compelled to hold services and to bury their dead at night in the woods or in caves. They lived in the direst poverty and very many of them became martyrs. The old people instructed the younger generation during the winter months in the catechism, and during Lent the Franciscans examined the pupils. Nearly all Catholics in Bosnia bore a cross tattooed on breast or hand.
The subjection of the Bosnian people to the House of Habsburg marks the beginning of its growth in religion and in culture. In 1878 the European powers charged Austria-Hungary with the military government of Bosnia and Herzegovina , and in 1908 these two countries were declared part of the empire. In 1881 His Apostolic Majesty formed the ecclesiastical province of Serajevo, and appointed as archbishop J. Stadler, professor of theology at Agram. Native Franciscans were elevated to the sees of Mostar and Banjalika. The Society of Jesus took over and has retained charge of the seminary for priests in Serajevo, which supplies the entire province, and in Travnik conducts a seminary for boys, the gymnasium of which is frequented by pupils of all religions. The Franciscans maintain two schools of six classes each for the preparation of the young postulants of the order, while the Sisters of Charity conduct 32 Catholic primary schools.
The Archdiocese of Serajevo has 180,000 Catholics with 50 priests and 110 friars.
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