History of Diocese
Early Christian Beginnings
The seat of The Diocese of Srijem (lat. Dioecesis Sirmiensis) used to be in Sirmium, modern Sremska Mitrovica. The Diocese was founded there very early, in 2nd century. The diocese of Cibalia (Vinkovci), Mursa (Osijek), Siscia (Sisak), Poetovia (Ptuj), Emona (Ljubljana) and Singidunum (Belgade) were subjected to Archdiocese of Srijem.
Apart from being metropolis of Panonia and Ilirika, Sirmium became the early Christian center with bishops and martyrs who are the part of the history. During Diocletian’s persecution (303-304) many Christians were tortured and killed (Martyrs of Srijem). In the period of fiercest persecution of Christians in 304, St. Irenaeus, the first historically validated Metropolitan, was killed on one of the Bridges over The Sava River, as well as his deacon St. Demetrius few days later.
After The Edict of Milan was issued in 313, The Diocese of Srijem became one of the most important dioceses in Christian world at the time. Despite occasional disagreements about jurisdiction of Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch over Illyricum, Christianity developed rapidly. However, at the same time Arian movement was developing. Their supporters (such as bishops Valent and Ursache) affected Sirmium as well. As a result, during the 4th century many synods were held in Sirmium (351, 357, and 358 AD). In this period some of the bishops were Domnius, Euterius, and Anemius.
The Great Migration began by the invasion of the Huns in 375 AD and Goths’ transfer from Dacia to Balkan peninsula. Attila the Hun, along with his people and Goths, made a great state which stretched to the River Rhine, and in 441 AD he broke into Illyric. The Huns conquered Slavonia and the Plain Srijem along with Sirmium, and as the Metropolitan fled to Thessaloniki, the Archdiocesan’s Seat left drained until 535 AD.
After the arrival of Slavs to Pannonia
After the fall of the Gothic State and annexation of Pannonia and East Dalmatia by East Roman Empire, the Slavic peoples came to this area. In the new circumstances, the Ecclesiastical Provinces were restructured. Pope Hadrian II (867-872 AD) rose Metod (812-885 AD) to the Archdiocesan Seat in Srijem, as St. Andronicus regent. After the death of St. Metod (885 AD) the archdiocese was extinguished and the area of The Diocese of Srijem came under Kalocsa Archdiocese. Around 900 AD Bulgarians, Byzantium and Ugrians reigned over Srijem, so Bulgarians re-established The Diocese of Srijem, and Greeks built the priory of St. Dimitrius in Srijemska Mitrovica. Byzantium reigned again from 1167 to 1180, and after that, Hungarian-Croatian kings.
After many centuries spent in historic darkness, passing from hand to hand, Srijem and the town of Sirmium were joined to Hungary in 1180. Sirmium was named after the medieval priory of st. Dimitrius: The Town of St. Dimitrius (lat. Civitas Sancti Demetrii)-Dimitrovica-Dmitrovica and finally Mitrovica. Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241) re-established The Diocese of Srijem on February 1st 1229 at the request of Ugrin, the Archbishop of Kalocsa (1218-1241). It is possible that the former seat of the diocese was located on the Danube, east of Ilok, in Benedictine Monastery of St. Stephen, the Protomartyr, which used to be foundation of the Croatian Ban Beloš Vukanović (1135-1145). The monastery and the village were named after the Ban, Banoštor.
Although it was small, the area of The Diocese of Srijem consisted of 4 archdeaconries: Morović (Bilin, Banoštor, Irig), Polje (Manđelos, Srijemska Mitrovica), Obona (Petrovaradin, Slankamen) and Posavlje (Nikinci, Zemun). A large number of parishes were located along The Fruška Gora Hill, because the majority of people lived there. Around the lower border of the former Roman Empire there were 7 parishes, and the same number of parishes was along the Danube, from Slankamen to Batajnica. The estates of the Bishop of Srijem were in Banoštor, near Mitrovica and Dubovac (today’s Dumbovo near Beočin). The diocese comprised the area between The Danube and Sava, from Banoštor and Mitrovica to Zemun.
The Diocese of Srijem during the Ottoman invasion
After the Ottoman invasion, The Diocese of Srijem had its non-residential bishops. The Ottoman invasions in Slavonija, Srijem and Hungary ended in mid 16th century. The new government changed not only the political and administrative character, but also social, cultural, economic, religious, ecclesiastical, and to some extent ethnic physiognomy of the area. When we look at the religious situation of the Catholic population in those provinces, it can be concluded that the Ottoman Empire, although based on the assumptions of theocratic Islam, legally guaranteed religious freedom to some non-Muslim populations. However, the fact is that it caused a crisis of many elements of the Catholic Church existence and functioning.
Liberation from the Turks and union with the Diocese of Đakovo
Immediately after the liberation from the Turks, the restoration of the Catholic church organization and religious life started. Even though that process of restoration did not progressed smoothly, it can be concluded that the position of the church was stable from the thirties of the 18th century, and that it continually strengthened in the material and social aspects. The evidence to that was the increasing number of Catholic population as well as parishes, and the intensification of religious life at all levels. By its work, the church penetrated into the everyday life of ordinary believers to a large extent. It referred people to desirable behavior, included them in the obligatory religious rituals, cared for their education, and marked important events in the life of individuals, such as birth, marriage and death, by its rituals.
In 1773. The Diocese of Srijem united with the
Diocese of Bosnia or Đakovo, creating The Diocese of Bosnia, Đakovo and Srijem, centred in Đakovo. The dioceses were territorially separated, because there was a part of the Diocese of Pečuh in between. For this reason, The Holy See (lat. Sancta Sedes) included parishes of the Diocese of Pečuh, from north-east Slavonia and west Srijem, in the newly formed diocese (The Diocese of Bosnia, Đakovo and Srijem). In this way, the whole territory among the Rivers Sava, Denube and Drava, from Brod and Osijek to Zemun (i.e. the whole north-east Croatia) was ecclesiastically and legally united in two, but practically one diocese - The Diocese of Bosnia, Đakovo and Srijem, centred in Đakovo. The new diocese remained a part of Kalocsa Archdiocese, just like the Diocese of Zagreb.
Establishment of the Diocese of Srijem in 2008
As the needs of the Church dictated the unification of the two dioceses in 1773 (The Diocese of Bosnia, Đakovo and Srijem), the new circumstances required their separation and dismissal of the personal union without violating the integrity of each. In the Bishop’s residence in Đakovo, on June 18th 2008, Monsignor Mario Roberto Cassari, the Apostolic Nuncio to Croatia, announced that the Pope Benedict XVI has re-established the Diocese of Srijem (until then united in persona episcope with the Diocese of Bosnia and Đakovo) in the presence of Cardinal Josip Bozanić, bishop of the Croatian-Slavonian ecclesiastical province, canons, deans, members of the counsellors, priests, teachers, monks, nuns and seminarians. Titular Bishop of Mattiano, an Auxiliary Bishop of Đakovo and Srijem, and Vicar General for Srijem, Monsignor Đuro Gašparović was appointed a Bishop of Srijem. He also became a member of International Bishops’ Conference of Cyril and Methodius by the Pope’s decision. After that, the Diocese of Srijem and he, as a Bishop, are not under the jurisdiction of the Croatian Bishops’ Conference any more, and former Diocese of Đakovo and Srijem has been attained to the rank of archdiocese and renamed the Archdiocese of Đakovo and Osijek.
Borders of The Diocese of Srijem have preserved the integrity of Srijem in Vojvodina, naturally bounded by the Rivers Danube and Sava on the east, north and south, and by the national borders between The Republic of Croatia and The Republic of Serbia on the west. This territory, which used to be lower part of Archdeaconry in the former division of the Diocese, covers an area of about 4500km2 with the population of 800 000 inhabitants, of whom approximately 50 000 are Catholics.
From the book Surčin kroz povijest (Surčin Through History) by Reverend Marko Kljajić, a priest in Novi Beograd and Surčin