Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Presidential Candidate Katarina Peović Calls for Termination of Vatican Agreements

ZAGREB, December 18, 2019 - The presidential candidate of the Workers' Front and Socialist Workers' Party, Katarina Peović, on Wednesday called for termination of the Vatican agreements saying that they are in gross violation of Croatia's secularity.

She said that over 1 billion kuna (135 million euro) was allocated from the budget to the Catholic Church annually, while the government was claiming there was no money to increase nurses' wages.

"That amount is much higher than 1 billion kuna because there are also non-transparent allocations by local government. For example, Mayor Milan Bandić has set aside 500,000 kuna (67,500 euro) from the City of Zagreb budget to move a cross a few metres away at the Hipodrom (horse racing venue)," Peović told a press conference outside the Croatian Bishops' Conference building.

Peović said that the Vatican agreements had been signed without public consultation, which is against basic democratic standards. She said that terminating these agreements would not be easy, but that Croatia should start running a sovereign and autonomous policy for the benefit of the state, the national economy and the people.

"The actual amounts being allocated to the Church can only be speculated about because the Church does not submit any financial reports," Peović said.

More news about Katarina Peović can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

“There Would Be Money for Teachers If Less Money Had Been Given to Church”

ZAGREB, November 27, 2019 - Social Democrat Member of Parliament Nenad Stazić told Prime Minister Andrej Plenković during Question Time in parliament on Wednesday that there would probably have been enough money for striking teachers if the government had sent less money to Herzegovina and spent less on the Catholic Church, veterans' benefits and privileged pensions.

"Have you considered no longer giving billions (of kuna) to the Catholic Church, finally putting an end to an ever-growing number of war veterans and their privileges, making the president of the republic stop giving privileged pensions according to her liking and stop sending money to Herzegovina? Maybe then you would have enough money to meet the demands of those who teach children," said Stazić.

Plenković responded that it was unbelievable Stazić was mentioning war veterans in this context, stressing that his government had rectified numerous injustices done to veterans and shown respect for the dignity of the Homeland War.

He repeated that the latest offer to striking teachers was integral, adding that money for a wage increase existed because plans to lower the VAT rate had been given up.

"You evidently do not want to solve this problem and want to keep children uneducated because the more uneducated, stupid and primitive they are, the more easily they will vote for the HDZ," said Stazić.

Krešo Beljak of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) said Plenković had got lost in his political activity because he was assuming political responsibility for everything. "Problems in the school system should have been dealt with by the education minister or you should have fired her. You are not responsible for the arms smuggling incident, the defence minister is. A prime minister cannot be responsible for every problem in every department," said Beljak, to which Plenković repeated the government's offer to striking teachers' unions, claiming that there had been no arms smuggling incident in the army.

"Everyone responsible for non-compliance with discipline in the Croatian Army has been relieved of duty, new commanders have been appointed. An investigation is underway and the Zadar County Police Department has filed a report. There was no smuggling, there was unauthorised entry into the Zemunik air base," said Plenković.

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

Friday, 25 October 2019

Religious Instruction Should Be Taught in Church, Not in School

ZAGREB, October 25, 2019 - Opposition GLAS party leader and whip Anka Mrak Taritaš said on Friday that religious instruction should be taught in churches and not in schools as it was not in line with the principle of secularism, and that it was high time the state made it clear.

Addressing reporters in the parliament, Mrak Taritaš said that a year and a half ago GLAS had launched an initiative to have the agreements on relations between Croatia and the Holy See amended, with one of the amendments referring to education.

GLAS vice-president Goran Beus Richembergh, recalled last summer's debate between Bishop Vlado Košić and Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak about the education reform, stressing that after the minister said that the Church should stay away from the school system, the Church nonetheless carried out a campaign infringing on the content of some textbooks.

It was owing to public pressure that publishers subsequently removed certain content from textbooks, Richembergh claimed.

"The clerics will continue to exert pressure and the minister will continue to give concessions to the Catholic Church. The integral curricular reform is not as it was presented to be, it opened the back door to religious content. It is against secular education for any religious community to introduce such content into textbooks as religious propaganda," said the GLAS MP.

More news about religion in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Protesters Demand Revocation of Croatia's Treaties with Vatican

ZAGREB, October 20, 2019 - Several nongovernmental associations and non-parliamentary parties on Saturday staged a rally in Zagreb against Croatia's treaties with the Vatican which they labelled as detrimental.

Activist Sanja Sarnavka said that this was the seventh rally of this kind at which protesters criticised the treaties with Vatican as being in contravention with the interests of Croatia.

She called on both believers and non-believers to read the texts of those treaties more carefully.

The organisers also accused the Croatian authorities of non-transparent allocation of tax payers' money to Church institutions and organisations.

Vesna Puhovski of the Protagora association said that the revision of the Croatia-Vatican treaties can be solved only through dialogue.

She said that the treaties imposed the obligations also on non-believers to finance spiritual needs of the faithful.

Academic Vlatko Silobrčić of the Pametno party said that the Vatican treaties were against secularism in society.

The rally brought together an estimated 300 protesters, including two presidential hopefuls: Katarina Peović and Dalija Orešković.

More news about the status of Catholic Church in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Zagreb Archbishop: Croatian Christian Identity Marked by Marian Devotion

ZAGREB, August 15, 2019 - The Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, on Thursday served Mass in the Marian shrine of Marija Bistrica on the occasion of the Feast of the Assumption, saying that the feast was a holiday of Christian joy, hope and future and that the Croatian Christian identity was deeply marked by Marian devotion.

The archbishop conducted the religious service, the central event celebrating the Feast of the Assumption, in front of several thousand believers who came to Marija Bistrica for the occasion.

"By (coming here) we live and confirm the centuries-old tradition of Croatian believers. This calm, holy nation, as Pope Francis described it, has its face, its history, its identity and mission," Bozanić said, stressing that Marian devotion had deeply marked the identity of Croatian Christianity.

In his sermon, Bozanić also spoke about the importance of promoting the family as a holy institution as well as the importance of Christian patriotism.

"Christian patriotism... includes full responsibility for the well-being of the people and every citizen, for stronger institutions, for cultural heritage and language," he said, adding that Christian patriotism also encouraged unity, mutual respect and forgiveness, and sympathy with those in need.

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Wednesday visited the Marian shrine near Teslić in central Bosnia, where she attended Mass as a believer along with a large number of other pilgrims.

The religious service was conducted by the Archbishop of Sarajevo, Cardinal Vinko Puljić, who before the service held talks with Grabar-Kitarović behind closed doors.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday participated in a procession on the occasion of the Feast of the Assumption in the Marian shrine of Sinj, where around 100,000 pilgrims were expected to arrive during the day.

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

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Pope Francis Talks about Visiting Croatia, Says President is “General”

Pope Francis would like to visit Croatia, but he first wants to visit smaller countries. He praised Croatia and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. He received about 400 journalists (members of the Stampa Estera) from 50 countries with their families in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican, and gave a significant speech about the journalistic profession and shook hands with everybody present, reports Večernji List on May 19, 2019.

Silvije Tomašević, a reporter with Večernji List, used the opportunity to ask the pope whether he would visit Croatia. “I would be thrilled to do that, but before, as you know, I must visit smaller countries," Francis said. "But Croatia is not a large country," the journalist remarked. “But your country is strong, very strong, and you have a strong president, a real general," Francis replied.

The Pope was welcomed by the former president of Stampa Estera, Turkish journalist Esma Cakir, and current president Patricia Thomas from the United States.

“I want to tell you first of all, how much I appreciate your profession. The church appreciates you even when you put your fingers into its wounds because the wound is located in the church community. Your job is precious because it contributes to the search for truth, and only the truth can make us free. Your role is indispensable, and it gives you a great deal of responsibility: it demands from you to take special care with the words you use in your articles,” Francis said, adding that it was essential to choose words on social networks carefully as well.

He called on journalists to act so that "communication would really be a tool for construction rather than destruction, encounters rather than confrontations, dialogue rather than monologue, orientation rather than disorientation, understanding rather than misunderstanding, for giving voice to those who do not have it, rather than being a spokesperson for those who shout.”

“In times of fake news and hostile words, humility is the key turning point in the journalistic profession, although one might say that the foundations of the profession are competence, ability to write, the speed of synthesis, the ability to ask the right questions. Search for the truth requires humility. A humble journalist does not feed exaggeration with slogans that destroy thoughts, does not create stereotypes, but looks for facts before commenting on them.”

“It is necessary to choose words carefully, especially now, in the social network era, when many use violent and humiliating vocabulary. It should be borne in mind that every person has untouchable dignity.”

The Pope also mentioned the so-called forgotten wars and called on journalists to be careful not to forget the reality. "Please continue talking about this reality, do not give way to indifference," he said. He urged journalists not to forget those who are escaping from wars and said that the Mediterranean Sea was turning into a cemetery.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Silvije Tomašević).

More news about Pope Francis and Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Bishops Conference Head Says Pope's Stepinac Statement Has Agitated Public

ZAGREB, May 9, 2019 - Croatian Bishops' Conference (HBK) president Želimir Puljić said on Thursday that in Pope Francis's recent statement regarding the canonisation of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac "there is nothing contentious about the search for the truth" or anything "that would bring into question his sainthood and canonisation," but conceded that the statement "has agitated the public and challenged believers."

In an interview with the Croatian Catholic Network, Archbishop Puljić called on the faithful to be patient and calm. "The pope said he cared about the truth and that, together with the patriarch, he wants to arrive at the truth... However, regarding Stepinac and what the Congregation has already done and concluded, there is nothing contentious that would... bring into question his sainthood and canonisation."

According to religion sociologist Ivan Markešić, the pope said that Stepinac, who was the Archbishop of Zagreb during World War II, had been a virtuous person, that he was beatified and could be prayed to, and that he said nothing bad about him.

But when he saw that there were doubts regarding some historical truths and undefined historical gaps, the pope asked the Serb Orthodox Church (SPC) and Patriarch Irinej for help as he cares about Irinej's opinion, said Markešić.

The pope did not find out about those doubts from the Catholic clergy but the SPC, and his statement is in line with his aspiration to bring Christians closer, as evidenced by his attitude to the Russian, Serb, Bulgarian and Macedonian churches, Markešić added.

He does not believe that the pope's statement is a sign that Stepinac will not be canonised or that work on that has been halted. The commission will continue to look for common ground, which is a path towards the reconciliation of churches, he said.

"If we listen to statements by Metropolitan Porfirije or Episcope Ćulibrk, we can see that tensions are slowly being defused. Talking about Croatian WWII death camp Jasenovac, Porfirije says it's not the number of victims that's important but how to arrive at forgiveness and reconciliation. I think the next stage is to find common ground on which the Catholic Church and the SPC can talk about declaring Stepinac saint," said Markešić.

Archbishop Puljić said the pope's decision to consult the SPC regarding Stepinac was a precedent and that the SPC wanted to use this precedent to block the canonisation.

Markešić said the SPC was not interfering and that the pope had requested its participation. "He could have declared Stepinac saint regardless of the SPC, but he is responsible and consistent in his pushing for reconciliation."

Puljić recalled that the HBK sent a letter to Patriarch Irinej last November which said that his statements elicited distrust of the SPC and Serbs in Croatia as well as deepening war wounds and inciting hate.

"We care about ecumenism. We too are trying to cultivate good relations with Orthodox believers. But we don't like it when Stepinac is put in a political context. Stepinac did what he could in those times. Stepinac was such a critic of the NDH (WWII Independent State of Croatia) that perhaps not even the Serbs were so critical of (NDH leader Ante Pavelić). And Stepinac, poor man, suffered because of that," said Puljić.

Markešić does not believe the HBK letter is conducive to the pope's rapprochement with the Orthodox brothers, saying it "makes the reconciliation process harder." The pope wants to be a Christian beyond any one church and sees Patriarch Irinej as a great and holy man, he added.

Stepinac can play a special role in connecting churches, but one should admit it if "there was something that should be admitted" about him as a man who could have made mistakes, said Markešić.

One should accept Pope Francis's path towards reconciliation and "those waiting for the day when a new pope will arrive should not look forward to it too much" because the Vatican's policy would not change much, he added.

What the church in Austria says about Bleiburg, that's what Pope Francis stands for, he said, adding that the Catholic Church supported the magnificent celebration of Victory Day in Paris, yet in Zagreb church bells did not toll.

More news about the canonisation of Stepinac can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Pope Francis Discusses Canonisation of Alojzije Stepinac, Praises Serbian Patriarch

On Tuesday, Pope Francis said that history still has to be being studied before Croatian Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac can be declared a saint. In reply to a question by Večernji List reporter Silvije Tomašević while returning from visits to Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia, the Pope commented on the discussions with the Serbian Orthodox Church regarding the canonisation process, reports Večernji List on May 8, 2019.

“There are historical issues between our churches. Some of them are old. For example, President of Northern Macedonia Ivanov told me today that the schism began in Macedonia. And now the Pope is coming for the first time to bring the schism together? I do not know,” said the Pope at the start of the conversation.

“The historical case is the canonisation of Stepinac. Stepinac is a man of virtues. The Church has announced this with his beatification. People can pray to him. He has been beatified. But at a certain moment in the process of canonisation unclear points appeared. These are historical points. And I, who needs to sign on the canonisation, have prayed, contemplated, sought advice and then realised that I needed to seek the help of Irinej (patriarch of Serbian Orthodox Church). Irinej is a great patriarch. And Irinej helped me. We established a historical commission together. We worked together. Because both Irinej and I are interested only in the truth, we must not make a mistake. What purpose would a statement of holiness serve if the truth is not clear? It would serve nobody. We know that Stepinac is a good man, but to make this step, I have asked Irinej for his help to do the truth. We are studying it. First, a commission was established to give its opinion. But now other points are being studied. Some points are being deepened so that the truth would be clear. I am not afraid of the truth. I am not scared,” said Pope Francis. This was the answer of Pope Francis regarding the situation surrounding the Stepinac canonisation.

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 established a special commission of Croatian Catholic and Serbian Orthodox officials who investigated the case. In Croatia, it is widely expected that Cardinal Stepinac will eventually be canonised.

More news on Alojzije Stepinac can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Fewer Croats Opting for Church Marriage

Ten years ago, something like this was utterly unthinkable. Croatia, as can be expected from a country in which 87 per cent of citizens declare themselves to be Catholics, was dominated by the church marriage. The bride and the groom would go to the altar and marry in the presence of parents, godparents, relatives, friends and a priest. Just like in movies, reports Slobodna Dalmacija on May 4, 2019.

At the time, two-thirds of marriages were concluded in churches, while a third of couples opted for a civil ceremony in town or municipal halls, where a registrar married them for 210 kuna.

But now the situation has changed completely. The number of church and civil marriages is practically the same. According to official records by the Ministry of Administration, in 2018, 10,230 couples married in a church, while 9,993 did in at a registrar office. Out of the total number of 20,223 marriages, church marriages represented just 50.59 per cent. The difference of only 237 marriages suggests that the current ranking of church and civil unions could soon change and that this year civil marriages could win over the ones concluded in a church.

According to Ivan Markešić, a sociologist of religion from the Ivo Pilar Institute, the reasons are mostly practical. “When a church marriage is concluded, if there is a split between the husband and the wife, the married person loses the right to receive sacraments, go to confession and enter into another marriage. They are completely excluded from the church life,” says Markešić. With civil marriages, the situation is entirely different. If the marriage breaks down and the spouses divorce, they can still go to the communion and receive other sacraments. And they can enter into a new civil marriage.

“Today, it is not a sin not to marry in the church or to have a divorce. So, why would people enter into a more complicated church marriage, when it is socially acceptable to be in a civil marriage and get a divorce. This is the logic that has obviously won. Marriages nowadays have something like a trial period, and civil marriages are more practical,” says Markešić.

He also points out another important element, which is part of the equation when the bride and the groom are persons of two different religions. “At the registrar, no one will ask you whether you are a Catholic, a Muslim or a Jew. But, when the church wedding is conducted in a Catholic church, the husband or the wife of another faith or atheist must sign a personal statement that the children will be brought up in the Catholic spirit. That is not the case with a registrar. Nobody demands that children must go to religion lessons or be baptised, and that certainly contributes to such a large share of civil marriages,” concludes Markešić.

There are substantial differences if we take a look at data by individual counties. Split-Dalmatia County is one of those in which church marriages still lead convincingly. Out of a total of 2,383 marriages in 2018, 1,394 were church marriages and 989 were civil. In this sense, the county is one of the fortresses of tradition.

In Zadar County, the number of civil marriages is very close to the number of church marriages. Out of a total of 738 weddings, 397 were done in churches, while 341 were civil. In Šibenik-Knin County, out of 475 marriages, church marriages lead by 270 to 205. In Dubrovnik-Neretva County, there were more civil marriages in 2018. Of the 812 weddings, 356 were church and 456 were civil.

Civil marriages also lead in Zagreb (2,007 vs 1,753), Istria County (557 vs 319) and Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (799 vs 460). Similar trends are also present in Sisak-Moslavina and Bjelovar-Bilogora counties.

Interestingly, the same is true for one of the most conservative parts of Croatia. In 2018, church marriages lost their battle against civil marriages in Lika-Senj County. Out of a total of 173 marriages, there were 86 church marriages and 87 civil marriages.

Translated from Slobodna Dalmacija (reported by Marina Karlović Sabolić).

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

Friday, 26 April 2019

Church Bans Referendum Signature Collection at Its Premises

ZAGREB, April 26, 2019 - The Archdiocese of Zagreb on Thursday stated that it was not able to give permission to three union federations to collect signatures for their retirement referendum petition at the premises owned by this Catholic archdiocese, underlining that it does not take sides with anybody in this case.

Explaining its refusal to permit unionists to collect signatures outside its churches and other buildings it owns, the Archdiocese says that in the processes aimed at achieving goals through referenda, the Church makes its premises available to civic initiatives that have no other possibilities for accomplishment of the values which they and the Church advocate.

On the other hand, trade unions can act within the regulated relations within the political life in Croatia and can in "a regular way and with certain financial support" achieve their objectives, the Archdiocese says.

The archdiocese says that the topic of pension system is definitely extremely important for the Croatian society and believes that this matter should be looked at from a broader framework than the issue of statutory pension age.

The three union federations have launched their "67 is too much" campaign to call a referendum which would bring back the full retirement age to 65 as it was prior to the pension reform. The signature collection campaign will run from April 27 to May 11.

The initiative proposes that an insured person be entitled to old age pension upon reaching 65 years of age and having completed 15 years of qualifying periods and to early age pension with 60 years of age and 35 years of qualifying periods, reducing penalisation for early retirement from 0.3% to 0.2%, and delaying the equation of the required pension age for men and women.

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

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