Representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church and Serbian historians came to the last session of the joint commission on Croatian Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac last week with new accusations against Stepinac. However, the State Secretariat of the Holy See prepared a joint statement, which was presented to both sides and ultimately adopted, reports Večernji List on 17 July 2017.
The joint commission of the Catholic Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) was formed by Pope Francis after he received a letter by SPC Patriarch Irinej. The goal was to discuss the role and work of Cardinal Stepinac before, during and after the Second World War.
The conclusion and the statement with which the Orthodox Church’s representatives came were even more negative towards Stepinac than the Patriarch’s letter to Pope Francis, in which he strongly opposed the canonization of the cardinal. The Serbian side almost accused Stepinac of directly taking part in crimes committed by the Independent State of Croatia.
The final statement was mostly written by Bernardo Ardura, the president of the Commission appointed by Pope Franjo. “The participants have recognised the generosity of Pope Francis, who kindly accepted the petition of the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church and decided to establish the commission. All members are grateful for the cordial atmosphere in which, with full freedom of expression, they could fulfil the task entrusted to the commission, namely to approach the common consideration of the life of Cardinal Stepinac. From the commencement of the commission's work, the members were aware that the process of canonization of Cardinal Stepinac was in the exclusive competence of the Pope. They also admit that each Church has its own criteria for the canonization process,” says the joint statement.
The Holy See's State Secretariat is satisfied with this outcome and the path to the canonization of Cardinal Stepinac is now fully open. The next step is an official papal statement on the completion of the process and the announcement of the date when Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac will become a saint. Some believe that could happen late next year.
Alojzije Stepinac was the Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 to 1960. While the Serbian authorities claim that during the Second World War he cooperated with the Ustasha regime in the Independent State of Croatia, the majority of Croats consider him to be a saint who helped those who were persecuted at the time. After the Second World War, Stepinac was imprisoned by the communist regime. Pope Francis has established the special commission of Croatian Catholic and Serbian Orthodox officials who are investigating his case. In Croatia, it is widely expected that Cardinal Stepinac will eventually be canonised.