History of the Catholic Church in Niš is rooted in the earliest Christian times. Here are some of the most significant moments: Roman Emperor Constantine the Great who issued the famous Edict of Milan on the freedom of the Christian faith in 313, was born in Niš. Bishop Niceta wrote the Te Deum laudeamus, a hymn which is still sang throughout the whole Catholic world in Remizijana, today Bela Palanka, near Niš. There are clues that a Catholic parish existed here in the XVII century. Immediately after the end of Ottoman rule, there were people coming from all over Europe – from Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and elsewhere – who worked on the organization of life. Niš became the first city in Serbia where Catholic missions, Catholic parishes were established. Before Belgrade, in the late nineteenth century Catholic parish was established in Niš. Catholic settlements have been mentioned in this region since the Middle Ages. In the Ottoman era Niš and Skopje bishops cared for a tiny minority of Catholic immigrants. The famous missionary and martyr Kosovo Antun Maroević visited the Catholics of Niš in the first half of the XIX century. Catholics in Niš and elsewhere were mostly workers employed on the construction of the Belgrade-Thessaloniki and Niš-Constantinople railway, which was to be built according to the provisions of the Congress of Berlin in 1878. There were also miners, as well as many professional workers employed in mines and industrial enterprises, permanent residents at the time. On 7 October 1884 a private house near the Marger inn was rented – chapel was temporarily placed in it, along with a permanent priest in Niš who cared for all Catholics in the territory of the former Serbia, which is the base of today’s parish of Niš. That year, Cesare Tondini de Quarenghi a missionary-barnabit based in Kragujevac spent 30 days in Niš and on 30 October he blessed the newly built chapel.
The history of Niš parish is associated with the name of Prof. Willibald Czock, missionary of the order of the Benedictines, who led the Catholic mission in Niš and in general in Serbia from 1884 to 1903. Chzock organized the parish community (which covered the entire southern and eastern Serbia) and in 1887 started the construction of the church of the Sacred Heart and the parish house. Two years later he opened a Catholic school where he was almost the only teacher, but the Serbian government closed it after three years. In addition, he persistently went to visit Catholics scattered in various mines, construction sites … which accounted for around 3000. Czock advocated the independence of the Church from political authorities, particularly from the tutelage of the Austrian consul in Niš. But due to a conflict with his bishop, J. J. Strossmayer had he had to leave Niš in 1897. He was succeeded by Julius Biljan, who remained there until 1918. Czock, however, returns in 1901 but he did not take over the parish. He died there in 1903. His other successors were Hubert Karthaus for two years, and from 1920 to 1927 Ferdinand Hrdy, a native of the Czech Republic, who arrived in Niš as an Istrian refugee. In 1921 he was appointed the apostolic administrator and in that capacity he organized the parish in Kragujevac and founded the parish in Bor. In Niš he expanded and in 1925 renovated the old church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, decorating it with a tower with three bells. Soon, handing the duty of the Apostolic administrator to the Belgrade Archbishop Rodic, he left Niš and in 1927 he went to the Czech Republic. In 1927 the parish was entrusted to the Bosnian Franciscans. In the month of May Fr. Srecko Peric, came to the parish and he remained there until 25 March 1937. During that time in the territory of Niš parish new parishes were established, but it did not lose the number of new believers because they were coming from all over Europe (Hungarians, Poles, Austrians and others). Fra Srećko was replaced in the normal course of alternation by Brother Julian Jurković, who stayed in Niš until 29 August 1940. Then, unfortunately, the Franciscans left Niš and Serbia. The Franciscans stayed only in Belgrade, in the monastery of St. Ante at the Red Cross. With constant helpers, the parish priest at the time was often aided by the teachers of the Franciscan Classical Gymnasium in Visoko and the Franciscan Theology in Sarajevo. Niš parish now has a branch with its chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen – a space which was purchased in 1967 and converted into a chapel. Masses were held every Sunday; and although upon the establishment it was Franciscan parish, it was also led by the Salesians and diocesan priests. In 1940 a new pastor of Niš, Dr Milorad Avramović was appointed. Ordinary sent him chaplain Đuro Nemeth priest of Banatska administration as help. He was appointed administrator of the parish in Niš by the decree of thearchdiocesan curia no. 42/41 of 13 January 1941, and by the decree of 13 May 1941 no. 43/41 Viktor Zakrajšek, former consultor to the Skopje diocese and the priest of the diocese of Ljubljana was appointed dean of the deanery of Niš. Immediately the following day (14 January 1941) he took over the administration of the parish in the presence of the delegates of the Curia Rev. Sandri Ivot, the Secretary of the Curia. During the Second World War events in the parish were very turbulent. All this made pastoral work difficult. Believers were scattered all over the world. Many returned to their home countries. Many got killed. The parish priest and the chaplain also had a lot of problems with subsequent government, the Communists, because they were not members of the local people, and also because during the war German soldiers regularly came to the church to the Holy Mass. The parish chronicle hides many interesting and amazing events. The territory of the Parish of Niš was: Niš, Vranje, Caribrog, Svrljig, Soko Banja, Aleksinac, Prokuplje, Kuršumlija. In this area in those years more than 5,000 Catholics lived. They arrived from all over, and they were different nationalities, different professions, such as engineers, workers, military officers. Some were coming and others going! In the year of our Lord 1983, at the request of Archbishop Mons. Alojzije Turk, Franciscan Province of Bosnia Srebrena in Sarajevo takes over the care of the parish of Niš. In a letter dated 12 August 1983, inter alia, the father Archbishop writes to the father provincial in Sarajevo: “There is an urgent need to find two priests, capable and apostolically talkative, with the ecumenical dimensions forour most important parish in the inner Serbia, in Niš … Please much respected father Provincial to … jump to the aid, at least for a few years (at least two or three!)!” Province Definitory meeting in Sarajevo on 5 and 7 October 1983 decided that Franciscan province of Bosnia Srebrena, at the request of the Archbishop of Belgrade, take over the parish in Niš and proposes Fr. Elijah Piplica for the pastor. The parish was taken over “ad experimentum” until further notice. Thus, the Franciscan were present againin Niš after 43 years.
The Franciscan Sisters of the Slovenian province, who came in 1935 at the invitation of pastor Srećko Perić, at the time of the Belgrade Archbishop Rafael Rodić, also served in the parish. Up to 1947 they had a kindergarten, and from the very beginning, they worked in a hospital as well as in the parish. In recent times sisters of the Holy Cross, who stayed in Knez Selo and worked in a local sanatorium also left. Fra Ilija Piplica was the pastor until 13 September 1991, when due to illness he leaves the parish. Pastoral leadership of the parish was again handed over to the care of the Archdiocese of Belgrade. Fr. Antun Pečar was appointed the new pastor and he first celebrated Holy Mass on 16 September 1991 in the parish church of the Sacred Heart.
Land for this church was bought during the time of the Turk reign. Funds were raised by the Archbishop of Prizren, Bugareli. Turks did not allow building the Catholic church in Niš. It was built only after Niš was liberated from Turks, after the completion of the Belgrade-Niš railway in 1884 when the town had 200 permanent Catholic residents. Upon the arrival of the second Catholic priest, Willibald Czock to Niš in 1885, the first “Catholic little church, house and school” were built in town. Almost four decades later, in 1925, the church was renovated and expanded and a tower was built next to it. Some time later, in 1934, catholic church in Jug Bogdanova street got one more floor. This project was carried out by Julijan Djupon, an architect from Niš. In 1992 during the service of Rev. Antun Pečar, at the meeting of the Parish Council in the presence of the Belgrade Archbishop Franc Perko, decision was made to build a new and bigger church. The suggested architect was Mr. Zoran Marković. And so the construction began.
Thanks to the devotion of Rev.Antun, with various donations from the side a new church and parish house were built. The Franciscans of Bosnia Srebrena came back once again in 2007. In fact, on 21 October 2007 during the Holy Mass at 10.00 am, Fr. Niko Josić was appointed pastor of the church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Niš, which was consecrated on that occasion. The introduction of the parish was conducted by Belgrade Archbishop Msgr. Stanislav Hočevar himself in the presence of the Vicar General Fr. Leopold Rochmes as well as an envoy of the Franciscan Province of Bosnia Srebrena.Fra Kristijan Montina was appointed the parish chaplain and he will remain in the service until January 2008. At the branches there is only one house in Leskovac which was adapted for performing pastorals. This spiritual space (the filial house) is dedicated to the Blessed Queen Virgin Mary (celebrated on 22 August). Pastoral care for believers in Pirot is performed once a month and in a private home of Andrea family. The parish in Niš is large, occupying almost the entire southern Serbia – from Aleksinac to the border with Macedonia, Kosovo and Bulgaria. Currently, the pastoral work covers two branches: Leskovac and Pirot. The parish has about 700 believers scattered in this large area. Most of them are concentrated in Niš. Catholics in this area are minority, because the parish is located in two Orthodox Eparchies: Niš and Vranje! Catholicism of these communities can best be seen in the national diversity in mixed marriages and cultural characteristics. Croats, Slovenes, Hungarians, Poles, Albanians, Serbs, Gypsies, Italians and others are present in the parish. Everyone of them contributions to this rich mosaic of the parish.
Church of Exaltation of the Holy Cross
1 Jug Bogdanova street, Niš 18000
Rev. Pastor. Marko Trost
Phone. 018 / 4511-279
mob. 063 / 7060-269
Weekdays: 9am and 6pm
Sunday: 10am and 6pm (7pm in summer)