Friday, 8 March 2019

Catholic Church in Austria Bans Bleiburg Mass

ZAGREB, March 8, 2019 - The Roman Catholic Church in the Austrian federal state of Carinthia has turned down a request by the Croatian Bishops Conference (HBK) to hold a mass at Loibach, a field near Bleiburg because the event is used for political purposes, the local church said on Friday.

"The mass held in the field near Bleiburg has become part of an event that is used for political purposes and is part of a political and national ritual that serves for the selective perception and interpretation of history," reads a statement signed by the secretary of the Klagenfurt Diocese, Msgr. Engelbert Guggenberger.

The statement further notes that the event in Loibach harms the reputation of the Catholic Church. "... if permission for Mass is granted, the overall perception of the event could rightfully be used as a basis to accuse the Catholic Church in Carinthia of instrumentalising a religious service for political purposes and not distancing itself from the Fascist worldview," the statement said.

The decision to withhold permission for the religious service, which was planned for May 18 this year, was made after a thorough analysis of the 2018 gathering at Bleiburg as well as numerous conversations between representatives of the Austrian and Croatian bishops conferences, which also included believers of the Croat community in Carinthia and representatives of Austrian security authorities.

Even though the Bleiburg gathering is held on a private property, holding a religious service there requires permission from the Catholic Church in Carinthia.

Since last year Austria has been treating the Bleiburg commemoration more critically, at the initiative of several Austrian members of the European Parliament. Recently, a law went into force banning the display of Ustasha symbols, dating back to the time of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

The Bleiburg commemorations are held in tribute to tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated Nazi-allied NDH who surrendered to allied forces there in May 1945, but were handed over by British troops to Yugoslav forces. Many were executed on the spot, while many perished during so-called death marches back to Yugoslavia.

Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković has been informed of the news that the Roman Catholic Church in the Austrian federal state of Carinthia has rejected the Croatian Bishops Conference's (HBK) request to hold a religious service at Bleiburg, and since the Bleiburg commemoration is held under the parliament's auspices, he plans first to hold talks with the organisers of the event and then decide how to proceed and coordinate future actions.

According to sources close to Parliament Speaker Jandroković, talks will first be held with the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon and the Croatian Bishops Conference, which are the organisers of the commemoration, after which a decision will be made as to what to do next.

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić would not comment on the decision of the Catholic Church in Austria either, saying only that a mass was the most appropriate way to commemorate victims of World War II. "One should not comment on other countries' actions... for us Bleiburg is a place of remembrance and commemoration of the victims," Pejčinović Burić told reporters.

More news on the Bleiburg commemorations can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Catholic Church Should Make Its Financial Reports Public

ZAGREB, February 11, 2019 - By refusing a review of the treaties signed with the Holy See, the Croatian government has missed the opportunity to raise again the issue of the financing of the Catholic Church, the nongovernmental organisation GONG said on Monday, asking that the Church's financial reports be made available to the public, an obligation honoured by other non-profit organisations.

"There are no precise data on the financing of the Church with money from the state budget. According to figures provided by the government, the Church receives around 600 million kuna annually from the state budget while data at local level are not available. When money the Church receives from believers and allocations from abroad are added to this, the total amount is much higher, but it is not specified anywhere," GONG said in a statement.

The Finance Ministry keeps a register of annual financial reports of non-profit organisations such as GONG. On the other hand, religious communities do not have to make annual financial plans or keep business books and store them in line with regulations defined by law, nor are they subject to audits, the NGO says.

"All of that are obligations of non-profit organisations that should also apply to the Catholic Church and all other religious communities in Croatia," GONG said.

It noted that the Bishop of Dubrovnik, Mate Uzinić, who publishes financial reports for his diocese, bears proof that there are Church members who support transparency.

More news on the Catholic Church in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Catholic, Orthodox, Islam and Jewish Leaders to Pray Together at Jasenovac?

The Catholic Church leadership in Croatia is continuing with the initiative to bring various religious communities together in paying respects to the victims of World War II. After the recent commemorative prayer event for Holocaust victims held in front of the Zagreb cathedral, led by Cardinal Josip Bozanić, the archbishop of Zagreb, there is now a new initiative for the organisation of the first joint prayer meeting at the site of the Jasenovac concentration camp, which should bring together Orthodox episcopes, Catholic bishops, rabbis and muftis from Croatia, and was launched by the Bishop of Požega, Antun Škvorčević, reports Večernji List on February 11, 2019.

Bishop Škvorčević visited recently the rabbi of the Bet Israel Jewish Religious Community, Kotel Da Don, with whom he spoke about the issue of remembering the victims of the Jasenovac camp and the participation in the commemorations organised by the Croatian government. The bishop informed the rabbi about the programme that the Požega Diocese organises each year at Jasenovac. He suggested the possibility of the joint participation of several religious communities in the event at Jasenovac. Rabbi Kotel Da-Don accepted this proposal, according to a report by the Catholic Information Agency.

This means that leaders of religious communities would hold a separate gathering, i.e. they would not participate in the traditional political commemoration of Jasenovac victims. The Catholic and Orthodox sides also support such an initiative. As soon as he became the Orthodox bishop of Pakrac, Jovan Ćulibrk made it clear that the Jasenovac liturgy should not have anything to do with the politics. "When we approach Jasenovac with sincere respect for the victims, without ideological, national or political exclusivity or manipulation, with openness to the truth, then it can become the place of our encounter.”

“I am glad that Jovan is acting in this way, giving hope that it will not be long before we start remembering not just the victims who belonged to own people but also the victims belonging to other peoples killed under any flag and because of any reason,” said Bishop Škvorčević. “The Požega diocese tries to serve this goal”, said Škvorčević, who has built excellent relationships with the Pakrac bishop Jovan.

The first gathering of religious leaders at Jasenovac, also involving leaders of the Islamic and Jewish community, would send a joint message to their faithful and the world.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Darko Pavičić).

More news about Jasenovac can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Croatia-Vatican Agreements Will Not Be Amended

ZAGREB, February 7, 2019 - Prime Minister and president of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Andrej Plenković, said on Wednesday the government was against a revision of the Croatia-Vatican agreements, stressing that the treaties would not be amendment.

"As far as our government is concerned, there will be no amendments to the Vatican agreements," Plenković told the press after a meeting of the HDZ parliamentary group when asked to comment on a motion by the GLAS and HSU opposition parties that a conclusion should be adopted to commit the government to initiate a review of the Vatican agreements given that circumstances in Croatia had changed since the treaties were signed in 1996.

The opposition's claims that some countries which, just like Croatia are pre-dominantly Catholic, have different models of financing the Church, Plenković said: "Everyone chooses their own path."

The Croatian parliament on Wednesday discussed the proposal by the GLAS and HSU group that a conclusion should be adopted to commit the government to initiate a review of the Vatican agreements given that about 900 million kuna (121 million euro) was annually allocated from the state budget for the purposes of the Catholic Church in Croatia.

The opposition group noted that this amount was higher than the 2016 budgets of the ministries of foreign affairs and tourism combined. They demanded a review of all four agreements with the Holy See: on legal affairs, economic affairs, cooperation in education and culture, and spiritual guidance.

The five-member group of the Civic and Liberal Alliance (GLAS) and the Croatian Pensioners' Party (HSU) formally requested a parliamentary debate on the matter last April, and the issue was put up for debate today thanks to signatures of members of other opposition parties. Under the parliamentary rules of procedure, any item included on the agenda for more than 60 days should be discussed within eight days based on the signatures of at least 30 MPs.

"It is a great success for us that we have come to a plenary session and opened the possibility of discussing these four agreements," GLAS leader Anka Mrak Taritaš said, stressing that her party did not want to discuss the issue of religion and that this was not against churches or religious denominations. "A review requires the support of two-thirds of MPs, as well as the support of the other side, but we should discuss this," Mrak Taritaš said.

Under the agreement regulating cooperation in education and culture, and spiritual guidance, all public elementary and high schools as well as pre-schools have Catholic religious education and the education system must take into account the values of Christian ethics which is contrary to the Croatian Constitution and the fundamental idea that a pluralist, civic society cannot be submitted to demands and sanctions of a religious group, the GLAS and HSU groups said.

We believe that Catholic religious education belongs in the Church, Mrak Taritaš said.

Hungary is the only country that allocated more money to the Church than Croatia, she said adding that different countries have different models for Church financing – from Germany which has the so-called Church tax to the Netherlands where Church financing is on a voluntary basis.

More news on the Catholic Church in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Will Croatia-Vatican Treaties Be Revised?

ZAGREB, February 6, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Wednesday she was not for revising the Croatia-Vatican treaties. A revision could set dangerous precedents in international law, unless both parties have decided that a revision should be made for certain practical reasons, she told reporters in Sisak before attending a prayer meeting.

The president said this was her first prayer meeting in Croatia and that she had attended many in the US. She said her address at the meeting would focus on the role of women in politics and the Church, adding that faith was "an important component of my life and a sort of moral compass."

"That's why I'll talk about the role of faith in the life of politicians and about ecumenical dialogue, which can be an example to us politicians of how to resolve issues through dialogue," the president said.

Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardić said in parliament on Wednesday that for Croatia to become a modern and progressive country, it needed to revise its agreements with the Holy See, adding that there was a need for a clearly defined model under which the Church receives money from the state budget.

"It is unacceptable that that model is currently determined by the number of parishes, which encourages the Church to establish new parishes even though there is no real need for that, given that the country's population, including the number of believers, has been decreasing," Bernardić said.

The Church should submit reports on how it spends the hundreds of millions of kuna of budget funds, the SDP leader said.

"The Church definitely needs help, but politicians should not be giving away budget money as they find suitable and to the religious communities of their liking. If someone is a believer, they should contribute to the Church from their own salary and pension, as is the case in Germany," Bernardić said.

The purpose of the SDP-sponsored motion to change the Treaties with the Holy See is to prevent discrimination against children based on religion, save money, make church spending transparent and ensure adequate payment for Sunday work, Bernardić said.

Commenting on a recent statement by the Bishop of Hvar, Petar Palić, about a growing religious illiteracy of young generations and his claim that "unlike in the apostolic times, when paganism was something outside of and opposed to religious communities, nowadays secularism has entered families and become a part of our lives."

"It is wrong to equate secularism with atheism because secularism does not mean a lack of or a ban on religion. Quite the contrary, a precondition for secularism is the existence of freedom of conscience and religion, the right to belong to a religious community, the right to change or leave a religious community, as well as the right not to believe and not to belong to any religious community," said Bernardić.

He also said that Religious Education in schools must be reorganised in such a way to make it the first or the last period so that children not attending RE classes are not discriminated against. "But, ultimately, we believe that religious education belongs to the church and not the school," he added.

Bernardić added that given that Sunday work could not be banned, the reason being that Croatia is a tourist country, it should be better regulated and adequately paid for.

More news on the relations between Croatia and Vatican can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Pope Francis Names Croatian as New Apostolic Nuncio to Ivory Coast

ZAGREB, February 2, 2019 - Priest Ante Jozić of the Archdiocese of Split and Makarska has been named archbishop and Apostolic Nuncio to the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire by Pope francis, the press office of the Holy See reported on Saturday.

Ante Jozić, born on 16 January 1967 in the Dalmatian town of Trilj, was ordained a priest in June 1992.

He has been included in the Vatican's diplomatic services since 1999 and has been working in the top-level diplomatic missions of the Holy See in India, Russia and the Philippines to date.

Jozić speaks Italian, Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, German, Russian, Chinese and Polish.

More news on the Catholic Church can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Conservative Parties Worried about Christian Values

ZAGREB, February 2, 2019 - Representatives of the HRAST party and the Croatian Conservative Party (HKS), who organised the conference "The future of the Croatian and European societies" in Zagreb on Saturday, said that people in Croatia were banned from speaking about Christian values, which were treated as an ideology, as well as that politics currently prevailed over the Christian way of life but that European politics would change soon.

Noting that the conference focused on the importance of advocacy of Christian values, Ladislav Ilčić, leader of HRAST, which has one seat in the Croatian parliament, called for national unity, saying that it was necessary "given what we have achieved so far and given that we have seen that a large part of Croatia is against Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's taking a turn to the left, against marginalisation and attempts at manipulation regarding signatures collected in our referendum campaigns."

HKS president Ruža Tomašić, who serves as a member of the European Parliament, said that politics currently prevailed over the Christian way of life.

"The voice of the minority is winning; therefore, we must be a loud majority. We have become frightened, but we have nothing to be afraid of. We have our rights and will exercise them and show that we are not retrograde," said Tomašić.

Ilčić said that the coming elections for the European Parliament would reveal the real situation in Croatia and that European politics would change because the coalition between the European People's Party and the Socialists "has practically failed."

Tomašić said that she would not run in the elections for the European Parliament and would retire if the trialogue between the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament on fisheries was completed.

"But if the trialogue is not completed, I will have to go if people elect me. I want to finish the trialogue so that it does not end up in Italians' hands because that would spell doom for our fishermen," she said.

Attending the Zagreb conference was also Polish MEP Marek Jurek.

More news on the conservative movement in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

World Jewish Congress Welcomes Holocaust Comments by Zagreb Archbishop

ZAGREB, January 31, 2019 - The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has praised the Catholic Church in Croatia for having held the commemoration last Thursday in memory of the victims of the Holocaust and underscored that "is emboldened by the strong address delivered by Cardinal Josip Bozanić."

"The World Jewish Congress deeply welcomes the powerful commemoration held by the Catholic Church of Croatia last week in honour of the victims of the Holocaust and is emboldened by the strong address delivered by Cardinal Josip Bozanić, Archbishop of Zagreb, in which he declared it unacceptable to permit the re-emergence of antisemitism,” WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singerwas quoted as saying on the organisation's website.

"In the 74 years since the end of the Holocaust, the Jewish world has been duly concerned by the Catholic Church of Croatia’s glorification of Ustasha nationalists and the horrific crimes that they carried out in collaboration with the Nazis, and by its repeated tendencies to whitewash the tragedy endured by the Jewish community and other minorities during World War II," Singer was quoted as saying.

“In the current climate of rising antisemitism and Holocaust revisionism in Europe, it is essential that the Catholic Church of Croatia lead the way in coming to terms with the crimes of its countrymen and ensure that its perpetrators are not rehabilitated in anyway. It is also imperative that the Church work together with the government, hand-in-hand with the Jewish community, to stop the obfuscation of history and the glorification of Nazi collaborators."

"The official commemoration held on 24 January at the Cathedral of Zagreb is without a doubt an encouraging and almost miraculous step forward by the Church in addressing the darkest moments of its history, something that the Jewish community of Croatia has been waiting for more than seven decades," Singer added.

At the commemoration, Cardinal Bozanić paid tribute to victims of inhumane conduct in the past and condemned attempts aimed at annihilating the Jewish people, while representatives of the local Jewish community welcomed the cardinal's move as a historic event.

The dignitary said that the ideology of racism was directed against God and the human beings and was "created on the untruth about the man and about the Jewish people."

During the prayer, a 60-metre-long and 5-metre-wide banner was displayed on the cathedral's walls with the text from Biblical verses written by Isaiah about the remembrance of victims saying "I will give them – within the walls of my house – a memorial and a name far greater than sons and daughters could give. For the name I give them is an everlasting one. It will never disappear!".

"We thank the Catholic Church of Croatia for this unprecedented move, and hope that it is the start to a new era for Holocaust memory and the fight against antisemitism in the country," Singer added.

 More news on the Jewish issues in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Catholic and Orthodox Bishops Urge Faithful to Promote Unity

ZAGREB, January 18, 2019 - Five Roman Catholic and five Serb Orthodox bishops met in Požega on Thursday ahead of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and pushed for "joint statements in the Croatian public to encourage believers to promote unity above all national and political exclusiveness," the Croatian Bishops Conference said.

On Croatia's public scene, there are many negative views and ill-intentioned approaches as well as too much dealing with others' negativity while ignoring one's own, which divides people, creates mistrust and distances them from each other, the bishops said.

In a special statement, they mentioned the "grave plights of the Serbian and Croatian peoples and other citizens of Croatia in the recent past in wars, persecutions and killings caused by hate."

"We are aware that by accusing each other, manipulating the historical truth, interpreting wartime events for daily political purposes, insulting and humiliating on ethnic or religious grounds, we remain prisoners of the past and losers in the present.

We push for establishing the truth about the victims of World War II and of the 1991-1995 war in Croatia through scientific research and arguments, so as to stop speculation about the number of victims and giving them back the dignity they have as victims.

The dignitaries say, among other things, that they "deeply regret every innocent victim of any nation, faith or political view from our recent past."

More news on the religions in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Bishop Shoots a Man during Hunt

On Friday, the Bishop of Bjelovar-Križevci, Vjekoslav Huzjak, went hunting and wounded another member of the hunting party. The police have filed criminal charges against him for the criminal offence of endangering life and property by a dangerous act or means, reports Večernji List on January 15, 2019.

The hunting accident occurred on Friday morning at the Kraljeva Velika hunting site, in the area of Lipovljani. Bishop Huzjak (58), who is known to be a passionate hunter, participated in an organised and officially sanctioned hunt. According to a police statement about the incident, which did not identify the bishop, he and another hunter were some 90 metres from each other. At one point, the bishop fired a shot from his hunting carabine trying to hit a wild boar, but missed and instead hit the 64-year-old hunter in a thigh.

The wounded hunter was provided with medical assistance at the Dubrava Clinical Hospital, where he was diagnosed with severe bodily injuries that are not life-threatening. It was established that the bishop was not under the influence of alcohol. The police took the weapon which he used during the hunt.

Because of the criminal offence, criminal charges will be filed with the Sisak Municipal Prosecutor's Office.

Zvonimir Ancić, the spokesperson of the Croatian Bishop's Conference, confirmed that the incident had taken place.

After the news of an incident was published on the internet, the Bjelovar-Križevci Diocese said that the bishop was sorry about what happened and wished a quick recovery to the injured hunter.

“Bishop Vjekoslav Huzjak participated on Friday in a hunt where the incident took place. The competent state bodies are carrying out the legally prescribed procedure at the end of which we will issue another statement. The bishop expresses his deep regret over everything that has happened and wishes a quick recovery to the injured hunter,” the Bjelovar-Križevci Diocese said in the statement.

More news on the Catholic Church in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Danijel Prerad, Darko Pavičić).

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