The work of the Plenary Assembly of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference is underway in Sarajevo. This is the first time that the bishops have met in Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the Mass celebrated in the Cathedral yesterday evening, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna thanked the faithful because “during the siege, they had experienced the cross” and since “peace is not yet complete”, he assured those present of his prayer “that peace and justice may be achieved and that the Church may experience a resurrection in this land”. “The folly of the message of the Cross”, the cardinal pointed out, stands “at the centre of the Christian faith and is the way to overcome violence”. The Plenary started this morning with a joint meeting of the Bishops of Austria and of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the situation in the country, the dramatic plight of Catholics and the prospects for their future. According to Kathpress news agency, Secretary General Ivo Tomasevic presented some data: between 1991 and 2017, the number of Catholics in Bosnia and Herzegovina fell by 53%. They were 812,256 in 1991 compared to 376,134 in 2017. Particularly dramatic is the situation in the Republic of Serbia, where Catholics fell from 152,856 in 1991 to 8,369 in 2017 – a drop of almost 95%. In the Archdiocese of Sarajevo, there were 529,049 Catholics in 1991, compared to 154,263 in 2017 (-70%). The work will continue until Thursday, 8 March. On Wednesday, the bishops will meet with political and religious representatives. The Assembly was also an occasion to bless the new rooms that house the Archbishop of Sarajevo.