Sunday, 21 April 2019

Cardinal Bozanić Leads Easter Sunday Mass in Zagreb Cathedral

ZAGREB, April 21, 2019 - The Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, led Easter Sunday Mass at St Stephen's Cathedral in Zagreb, saying that people today needed the strength of determination and wishing everyone was always accompanied by the joy of Easter.

Among those attending were Apostolic Nuncio Giuseppe Pinto, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and his ministers, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and MPs.

In his homily, Cardinal Bozanić referred to the shipyard workers in Pula and Rijeka who "have been coming to work for months without being paid," noting that this was happening in a part of the country that was described as most developed.

"How is this possible? Politicians, both local and those at the highest level, are certainly aware of this. Problems that have been long kept under the carpet in the interest of power-wielders need to be dealt with, but it is the little man that gets hurt in such games and calculations," Bozanić said, urging those in charge not to lose sight of the unprotected little man in addressing difficult issues.

He called for prayer for the victims of war and destruction, for peace in the world, for the sick and abandoned, for the lonely, for those troubled by various physical and spiritual hardships, and especially for young people to be ensured a decent future, wishing everyone a blessed Easter.

Easter was celebrated throughout the country as well as in Croatian communities in neighbouring countries and elsewhere.

More news about Easter can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Catholic Church Leader Wishes Happy Easter

ZAGREB, April 20 (Hina) - The president of the Croatian Bishop Conference (HBK), Zadar Archbishop Želimir Puljić, has sent messages wishing a happy Easter to President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, urging them to promote kindness, understanding and solidarity among people and nations.

"I use this opportunity to extend best wishes for Easter, the resurrection of Christ, which is the source of human hope and the strength and joy of the Church...The resurrected Christ is calling on us to promote kindness, understanding and solidarity among people and nation. And we must continue doing that despite temptation and numerous obstacles," Puljić said in his message.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković issued a message on Saturday, wishing a happy Easter to all Christian believers in Croatia.

Stressing that Easter is the foundation of the Christian faith, Jandroković said it was also urging people to promote unity and show care for those in need, as it was the only way to find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness.

More Easter news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Ministers Comment on War Criminal's Lecture to Students in Zagreb

ZAGREB, April 4, 2019 - A lecture given by convicted war criminal Dario Kordić to students in Zagreb earlier this week has met with criticism and condemnation from activists in Zagreb and Bosnia and Herzegovina's Party of Democratic Action (SDA), and when asked for a comment, Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević said on Thursday that Kordić had served his prison term for war crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"There is a legal rule saying that no one has the right to judge a person for committing a crime after they have served a prison term for it,” Kuščević told reporters before a cabinet meeting.

"Kordić made his contribution to the war, and he obviously made mistakes. He served his time for the mistakes he made," Kuščević said.

Education and Science Minister Blaženka Divjak said that, having served his sentence, Kordić was rehabilitated in legal terms. "However, a message is sent not only through words but also through what someone does through their whole life," Divjak said, calling for more caution in such cases.

Kordić, a Bosnian Croat wartime official who was sentenced by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to 25 years in prison for war crimes against Bosniaks in central Bosnia, was released in 2014 after serving two-thirds of his prison term. In 2001, the trial chamber found him guilty of war crimes, including the Ahmići massacre and atrocities in the Lašva valley, giving him 25 years. The appeals chamber upheld the ruling in December 2004. On 8 June 2006, Kordić was transferred to Austria to serve his sentence there. He and another nine Bosnian Croat political and military officials surrendered to the ICTY on 6 October 1997, and the time he spent in detention was credited to his sentence.

His lecture in a Zagreb student dormitory was organised by student chaplain Damir Stojić. Kordić's speech was interrupted by a group of students who booed him shouting that he was a war criminal.

More news about war crimes can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Catholic Church of Carinthia Refuses to Enter into Debate with Croatian Bishops Conference

ZAGREB, March 11, 2019 - The Catholic Church in the southern Austrian region of Carinthia has no intention of getting into a debate with the Croatian Bishops Conference over the denial of permission for this year's Mass in Loibach near Bleiburg, the Gurk-Klagenfurt Dioecese said on Monday.

"We will not react to the reaction and will not get into a ping pong with statements. We will not react to the reaction of the Croatian Bishops Conference to the denial of permission to celebrate a Holy Mass as part of the commemoration at Bleiburg," spokesman for the Gurk-Klagenfurt Diocese Matthias Kapeller told Hina.

He said that the Catholic Church of Carinthia had nothing more to add to its statement of last week, noting that they were surprised by the tone of the statement by the Croatian Bishops' Conference (HBK).

"There were also different reactions from the HBK's. I would not describe them as positive, but they were certainly different," Kapeller said.

Asked if despite the ban a memorial service could still be held in the Loibach field, Kapeller said: "It is a private property and in Austria anyone can invite a priest to say a Mass on their private property."

Austrian news agency APA said that the Mass ban concerned only senior clergy such as bishops while a private liturgy could not be banned.

The Catholic Church of Carinthia, or rather the Gurk-Klagenfurt Diocese, on Friday denied permission for this year's Mass in the Loibach field near Bleiburg as part of a ceremony commemorating members of Nazi-allied Croatian forces killed there at the end of World War II.

"If permission for Mass were granted, the overall perception of the event could rightfully be used as a basis to accuse the Catholic Church of Carinthia of instrumentalising a religious service for political purposes and not distancing itself from the Fascist worldview," the diocese said in a statement on Friday.

The Bleiburg commemorations are held in tribute to tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated pro-Nazi Independent State of Croatia (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.

Asked by reporters in Zagreb to comment on the Mass ban, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that the matter was on the agenda of the Croatian Bishops Conference, the Gurk-Klagenfurt Dioece and the Austrian Bishops' Conference. "This is a matter for the two churches. If there's anything we can do to help, we are willing to do so," Plenković said. He added that the idea floated by "far-right circles" that the Croatian government and he himself had lobbied for the ban was malicious. He declined to say whether the Croatian Embassy in Austria had done enough to prevent such a development.

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

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Croatian President Says She Is Sorry About Bleiburg Mass Ban

ZAGREB, March 10, 2019 - Following a decision of the Roman Catholic Church in the Austrian federal state of Carinthia to withhold permission for a mass at Loibach, a field near Bleiburg in May this year, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Saturday that she could not interfere in the relations between the authorities of the Catholic Church, however, being a Croat and a Catholic believer, she deeply regretted for such decision of the Gurk-Klagenfurt Diocese.

The president also expressed her confidence that the Croatian Bishops' Conference will find a solution enabling Catholic faithful to commemorate at religious service the victims killed in the Loibach field and Bleiburg and death marches in the wake of the Second World War.

The Croatian Bishops Conference (HBK) already expressed its deep disagreement with the decision by the Roman Catholic Church in Carinthia to reject permission for this year's memorial mass at Loibach.

The HBK believes that "not allowing the possibility to pray for the victims of that great tragedy of the Croat people means disrespect for the victims and lack of sensitivity for the suffering of the innocent", dismissing the reasons for the refusal of permission in their entirety.

The Bleiburg commemorations are held in tribute to tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia 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.

The Roman Catholic Church in Carinthia has turned down the HBK's request to hold a mass at Loibach 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.

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

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Parliament Speaker Supports Croatian Bishops' Statement on Bleiburg Ban

ZAGREB, March 9, 2019 - Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković has told reporters he fully supported a statement by the Croatian Bishops Conference (HBK) which expressed its deep disagreement with the decision by the Roman Catholic Church in the Austrian federal state of Carinthia to withhold permission for this year's memorial mass at Loibach, a field near Bleiburg.

The Croatian Bishops Conference believes that "not allowing the possibility to pray for the victims of that great tragedy of the Croat people means disrespect for the victims and lack of sensitivity for the suffering of the innocent," dismissing the reasons for the decision in their entirety.

I fully support the HBK statement, Jandroković told reporters on Friday evening in the central Croatian town of Gospić where the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) held an election rally for the Lika-Senj County Assembly.

Vladimir Šeks of the HDZ also addressed reporters in Gospić on Friday evening, saying that the Organisation Committee of the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon, the Croatian parliament under whose auspices the event is held, and the Austrian regional government had already taken all steps to prevent any display of Ustasha insignia at the commemoration in Bleiburg.

The Bleiburg commemorations are held in tribute to tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia 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.

The secretary of the Klagenfurt Diocese, Msgr. Guggenberger, said that 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."

In a statement that explains the decision not to grant permission for the religious service, planned for May 18 this year, the Catholic Church in Carinthia says that the decision 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 local church.

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 NDH.

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

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Croatian Bishops Conference Disagrees with Bleiburg Mass Ban

ZAGREB, March 9, 2019 - The Croatian Bishops Conference (HBK) on Friday expressed its deep disagreement with the decision by the Roman Catholic Church in the Austrian federal state of Carinthia to withhold permission for this year's memorial mass at Loibach, a field near Bleiburg, dismissing the reasons for the decision in their entirety.

"The secretary of the Gurk Klagenfurt Diocese, Msgr Engelbert Guggenberger, has decided not to allow this year's memorial mass in the Bleiburg field. The Croatian Bishops Conference regrets that decision and expresses its deep disagreement with the reasons he stated and dismisses them in their entirety," the HBK Press Office said in a statement.

It believes that "not allowing the possibility to pray for the victims of that great tragedy of the Croat people means disrespect for the victims and lack of sensitivity for the suffering of the innocent."

The HBK recalls that its representatives and representatives of the Austrian Bishops Conference conducted talks on the commemoration of the Bleiburg tragedy on several occasions. The HBK also says that it joined activities to hold masses in Bleiburg in 2003. "In all previous years, notably in 2018, the Eucharist was celebrated in dignity as befits the Church's most dignified prayer," the HBK says in its statement.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković has been informed of the news that the Roman Catholic Church in Carinthia has rejected the HBK's 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 Jandroković, talks will first be held with the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon and the HBK, which are the organisers of the commemoration, after which a decision will be made as to what to do next.

According to unofficial reports, the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon met on Friday to discuss the matter.

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić would not comment today 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.

The Bleiburg commemorations are held in tribute to tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia 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.

"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.

The secretary of the Klagenfurt Diocese, Msgr. Guggenberger, said that 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."

In a statement that explains the decision not to grant permission for the religious service, planned for May 18 this year, the Catholic Church in Carinthia says that the decision 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 local church.

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 NDH.

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.

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.

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