"Hear the right, o Lord,
attend unto my cry;
give ear unto my prayer,
that goeth not out of feigned lips."
Diocese of Banja Luka, which comprises the Northwestern area of Bosnia, was founded
as a Metropolitanate in 1900.
Until that year, this Serbian territory fell within the
Metropolitanate of Dabar-Bosnia. The first Bishop of the Diocese was
Metropolitan Evgenije Letica (1990–1907), followed by: Vasilije Popovic
(1908–1938), Platon Jovanovic (1940–1941), Dr Vasilije Kostic (1941–1961), Dr
Andrej Frusic (1961–1980), and the present Bishop Jefrem Milutinovic.
The main spiritual
centers of this Diocese are Monasteries Gomionica, Mostanica and Liplje.
Monastery Gomionica, with its church dedicated to the Presentation of the
Most Holy Theotokos, was renovated by monks from Monastery Milesevo in 1595,
who had fled there after the Turkish invasion. Monastery Mostanica, with the
church of the Holy Archangel Michael, was founded by Serbian King Dragutin in
the 14th century. It was ravaged by the Turks several times. In the 17th
century, the monks again had to abandon this Monastery, fleeing from Turkish
violence to Slavonia, where they restored Monastery Lepavina. A monk and
brother of this Monastery was Deacon Avakum, until 1811 when, because of
Turkish oppression, he was forced to leave the Monastery for Serbia, together
with Genadije, Abbot of Monastery Mostanica, where he ended his life as a
martyr. Monastery Liplje, also founded by King Dragutin, was a significant
center of manuscript copying in the Middle Ages. One of the first mentions of
this Monastery is preserved in the "Diptych of Krusevo", dating
from the 15th century.
During World War II
(1941–1945), 64 churches were destroyed and 21 damaged in the Diocese of
Banja Luka. One monastery was also destroyed, while three monasteries were
underwent considerable devastation. Moreover, 38 parish homes were demolished
and 12 were damaged. On the territory of this Diocese, 94 church archives were
ravaged, and one looted in the last war. No less than 98 church and monastery
libraries have been lost forever, and two were plundered. Above all, the
Bishop of Banja Luka Platon Jovanovic was martyred in the Second World War.
On April 27, 1941, Ustasha authorities ordered Arch-Hierarch Platon to leave
his Diocese for Serbia. His answer to the order of Ustasha Chief-of-Staff
Victor Gutic, from 2 May, was: "I have been canonically and legally
elected by the competent authorities to be Bishop of Banja Luka, and as such
I have sworn to God, the Church, and my People, at all times and with dignity
to care for my spiritual flock, no matter what the circumstances or events
might be, and to inseparably bind myself with the life and destiny of my
spiritual flock." The following day, Gutic issued a new order that
Metropolitan Platon at once vacate Banja Luka. The Metropolitan requested the
Roman Catholic Bishop of Banja Luka, Josip Garic, to intervene with the
authorities, for a few days’ prolongation. The Bishop so promised, assuring
him of no need to worry. At three in the morning that same night, however,
six Ustashas led by the Ustasha criminal Celic arrived. They took the
Metropolitan to their headquarters, where Protopresbyter Dusan Subotic was
already interned. Both were then taken outside town, and at the sixth
kilometer on the road leading to Kotor Varos, in the village of Vrbanja, they
were subjected to ruthless torturing, then murdered and their bodies thrown
into the Vrbanja River. Before being put to death, the Ustashas shaved their
beards with a blunt knife, plucked out their eyes, cut off their noses and
ears, and lit a fire on their chests. On 23 May, after seventeen days, the
Metropolitan’s mutilated body was found in the mud at the mouth of the Vrbanja
where it flows into the Vrbas River. Metropolitan Platon Jovanovic was buried
on May 24, 1941, in the Military Cemetery in Banja Luka.
On the night between 10
and 11 October, 1992, in Jajce (on the territory of the Diocese of Banja
Luka) the Church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos was dynamited.
Immediately following the Croatian aggression on the Republic of Serbian
Krajina, in May and August 1995, i. e., the Croation war operations
"Lightning" and "Storm", the Church in Jezero was set
afire. The same fate befell the parish homes of Mrkonjic Grad and Jezero.
During the war years (1991–1995), two churches on the territory of this
Diocese were destroyed, and three seriously damaged, while two parish homes
were set afire.