On Saturday, a protest of about 400 people was held in Zagreb with participants demanding the annulment of what they describe as damaging agreements between Croatia and the Vatican, which negate the provisions of the Croatian Constitution about secularity and separation of religious communities and the state, reports Index.hr on October 22, 2016.
Representatives of organizers pointed out that it was necessary to send a clear and loud message to the authorities that Croatian citizens want to be citizens with full civil rights, and not a suppressed mass about whom politicians and Catholic hierarchy make decisions out of public view and contrary to their interests.
They said that it was time to annul “harmful contracts with the Holy See” which cost Croatian citizens more than a billion kuna a year. The majority of Croatian citizens, they claim, have been turned into second-class citizens. Due to the agreements, we are not all equal before the law because they allow clergy a privileged position at the courts and public institutions, and allow systematic discrimination of groups which Catholic hierarchy also discriminates – women and LGBT people, and all non-Catholics, said the organizers.
The Republic of Croatia is a secular state in which all citizens should have the same rights and obligations, and religious institutions must respect the laws, it was pointed out at the protest. “We do not want the continuation of non-transparent funding of church institutions with funds from the state budget and the money of all citizens. We do not want education in the service of religious indoctrination. We do not want discrimination of citizens based on their worldviews” – these were just some of the message sent during the protest.
The issue of religion is a personal matter and a choice of each individual citizen, and we unreservedly support that right, but that choice should remain in the private sphere, and no faith or belief should be favoured and “nationalized” at the expense of other Croatian citizens, said the organizers. “All of us love our country and we want to live in a socially and economically just and prosperous society in which ideological pluralism will be specially protected, as a prerequisite for democracy”, it was said at the protest.
Alan Sorić said that more and more political parties were starting to recognize this problem. He said that particularly problematic were “interference and pressures” by the Catholic Church as the dominant religious community on issues of abortion and education, including compulsory prayers in kindergartens. Marijana Bijelić said that the agreements with the Vatican do not bring anything good to Croatian citizens, just huge obligations. “We think that the work of the Church in the political field is harmful and represents the abuse of religion to gain political power”, she said.
Protesters carried banners "The Church has too much and it still takes away from the people”, “Vatican contracts = high treason of Croatia”, “Religion to churches – knowledge to schools”, “There is not money for the poor, but there is always money for rich priests”, “Workers do not get wages – Church gets billions from the budget”, “One hand in our pocket and other hand in pants of our children”, and others.
The agreements between Croatia and the Holy See were signed in 1997 and 1998.