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.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Islamic Encyclopaedic Almanac Launched in Zagreb

ZAGREB, October 11, 2019 - The Islamic Encyclopaedic Almanac was launched in Zagreb on Thursday evening, with speakers at the event describing it as a very successful publication about the Muslim community in Croatia that has made an exceptional contribution to the development of the Croatian society.

The Islamic Encyclopaedic Almanac was published by the Islamic Community in Croatia, with assistance from the Miroslav Krleža Institute of Lexicography. The 431-page publication consists of about 1,200 entries, of which 500 refer to persons and the rest to terms from the history of Islam, notably in Croatia.

The book was published on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the recognition of Islam as a religion in Croatia, marked three years ago.

The head of the Islamic Community and the publication's editor, Aziz Hasanović, said that he was proud of the Muslim community because there was not a single area of activity where its members did not leave a visible mark, from science and culture and the struggle in the 1991-95 Homeland War, in which 1,170 Muslims were killed.

He recalled that at the time when Islam was made equal to other religions in Croatia 103 years ago, the Muslim community had 204 members whereas today it has more than 63,000 members.

Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek said that the purpose of the Almanac was to set in time and space the most important events in the Islamic community in the past 100 years as well as events in its rich history before that, and make them part of the collective memory, not just of the Islamic community but of the entire Croatian culture.

She warned that the date when Islam was recognised as an official religion must not be forgotten or its importance disregarded as there were, also today, few European states that had made such a step.

The head of the Miroslav Krleža Institute of Lexicography, Antun Vujić, spoke about the most important sections of the Almanac, including the one on the recognition of Islam in Croatia.

The Almanac was made by 57 members of the Islamic Community and the Institute of Lexicography, and its publication was supported by Ankara's Yunus Emre and Sarajevo's Ibn Sina institutes.

More news about Islam in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle 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, 11 August 2019

Croatia's Officials Offer Best Wishes to Muslim Faithful for Kurban Bayram

ZAGREB, August 11, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković have extended their best wishes to the head of the Islamic community in Croatia, Mufti Aziz Hasanović, and the Muslim faithful on the occasion of the Muslim holiday of Kurban Bayram.

The officials wish them to spend the holiday together with their loved ones and families in a joyful atmosphere.

"May this feast day be an inspiration for all Muslim believers to think about their own contribution to common good. Bayram Sherif Mubarek Olsun," said the president's message.

"May this feast day be an inspiration for all Muslim believers for new reflections and sacrifice for the benefit of their community and faith" said the message issued by the office of Prime Minister, which also underscores the premier's wish for the further development of good relations.

The Islamic community in Croatia started celebrating the four-day feast of Kurban Bayram on Sunday morning.

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

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Zagreb to Financially Support Renovation of Religious Buildings

ZAGREB, August 8, 2019 - The Zagreb city authorities are willing to financially support the renovation of facades and roofs of religious communities' places of worship, with Mayor Milan Bandić having invited religious communities to apply for project-specific grants in the next three months.

Grants are to be allocated for the renovation of six capital buildings - the Zagreb Cathedral, St. Mark's Church, the Serb Orthodox Church of the Holy Transfiguration, the Islamic Centre, the Evangelical Church of Christ the King and the Co-Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

The city will provide grants in the amount of 50% of the total value of renovation work, with the maximum annual grant amounting to one million kuna including VAT (approx. 135,000 euro) per building. The remaining funds are expected to be secured by religious communities applying for the grants.

The city will also provide financial assistance for the renovation of roofs and facades of other religious buildings in the amount of 50% of the total value of renovation work, but with annual grants amounting to a maximum 250,000 kuna including VAT (approx. 33,800 euro) per building.

More Zagreb news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

State Department: Croatia Faced with Rise in Religious Intolerance

ZAGREB, June 25, 2019 - The U.S. State Department says in its annual report on religious freedoms worldwide that an increase in religious intolerance, particularly online was perceived in Croatia in 2018.

"The Council of Europe and the national ombudsperson reported an increase in religious intolerance, particularly online," reads the report's section on Croatia.

"In May, the Council of Europe released a report saying religious intolerance, including pro-Ustasha graffiti and online speech, were on the rise in the country.

"Minority religious communities reported occasional instances of verbal harassment and physical assault, including of religious workers.

"The ombudsperson’s report said comments on various online portals accused Jews of undermining democracy, freedom, and financial institutions," reads the report.

The paper also notes that Croatia's Constitution provides for freedom of religious thought and expression and prohibits incitement of religious hatred. All religious communities have the same religious protections under the law, and are free to worship, proselytize, own property, and import religious literature."

The U.S. government estimates the country's total population to be 4.3 million (July 2018 estimate). According to the 2011 census, 86.3 percent of the population is Catholic, 4.4 percent Serbian Orthodox, and 1.5 percent Muslim. Nearly 4 percent self-identify as nonreligious or atheist. Other religious groups include Jews, Protestants, and other Christians. According to the Coordination of Jewish Communities in Croatia, there are between 2,000 and 2,500 Jews.

There are 54 registered religious communities. Besides the Catholic Church, 19 religious communities have agreements with the state.

"Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations reported instances of border police subjecting migrants to treatment inconsistent with their religious beliefs. The government denied these reports."

Atheist and Jewish organizations complained that non-Catholic children were discriminated against in public schools.

On the other hand, leaders of the Islamic community reported overall good relations with the government.

"Following an April meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Metropolitan Porfirije Perić, leader of the SOC (Serb Orthodox Church), publicly stated he was satisfied with the legal status of the Church.

"According to the Office of the Commission for Relations with Religious Communities, the government budgeted 288.2 million kuna (45.67 million dollars) during the year for the Catholic Church for salaries, pensions, and other purposes, compared with 299.5 million kuna (47.46 million dollars) in 2017.

"The government offered funding to other religious communities that had concluded agreements with the state, a portion of which was based on their size, in addition to funds provided to support religious education in public schools, as well as the operation of private religious schools. The government provided 21.4 million kuna (3.39 million dollars) to these groups," reads the report.

The State Department released its annual report on religious freedoms across the world last week.

This annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom – the International Religious Freedom Report – describes the status of religious freedom in every country.

The paper covers government policies violating religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals, and U.S. policies to promote religious freedom around the world. The U.S. Department of State submits the reports in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

U.S. embassies prepare the initial drafts of country chapters based on information from government officials, religious groups, nongovernmental organizations, journalists, human rights monitors, academics, media, and others.

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

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Iftar Dinner Points to Excellent Relations Between Islamic Community and State

ZAGREB, June 4, 2019 - The role of the Islamic community in Croatia is particularly important in the establishment of interreligious dialogue, and its relationship with the state can serve as an example to other countries, it was said at an iftar dinner held in Zagreb on Monday to mark the end of the Ramadan month of fasting and celebrate Ramadan Bayram.

Those attending the event were welcomed by the head of the Islamic Community, Zagreb Mufti Aziz Hasanović, who said that Islam "teaches that all people are brothers and come from the same father, Adam, and the same mother, Hawa/Eve, and that they are connected by humanity."

He said that those who gathered for the event showed mutual respect and readiness to share the universal values of faith "which makes our society recognisable and open to all its citizens regardless of their religion, ethnicity, skin colour, sex or any other status."

"We are recognised in Europe and the rest of the world as a well-organised community and a community with a hundred-year-old institutional tradition many European countries aspire to. On the other hand, we enjoy the reputation of a community whose programmes prevent all forms of deviation in faith and our experience on that path is necessary both to the East and to the West. We have become recognisable for how relations within our community are regulated and for well-regulated relations with the state," Hasanović said, expressing gratitude in his address to President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić and noting that Croatia had high standards in the protection of minority and religious rights.

The iftar dinner was attended by President Grabar-Kitarović, Prime Minister Plenković, Deputy Parliament Speaker Željko Reiner, Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević and Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković, Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, as well as representatives of the diplomatic corps and other religious and ethnic minority communities in Croatia.

Addressing those attending the event, President Grabar-Kitarović said, among other things, that "We in Croatia rightfully stress that it is possible to establish interreligious dialogue and respect those who share with us our present and look forward with us to our future."

The role of the Islamic community and each of its members is especially important in that process, she said, thanking the Islamic community for recognising the wish for true togetherness. "The well-being of our Croatia and all its residents is what we have been building our mutual respect, tolerance and joint success on," she said.

Addressing the event, Prime Minister Plenković said that Croatia was one of the few countries in Europe and beyond that had recognised Islam as an official religion a hundred years ago. "By doing so, the state guaranteed all human and religious rights to Muslims in Croatia, which the Croatian society can be especially proud of because we were among the first in Europe to do so," he said.

The current model of relations between the government and the Islamic community in Croatia serves as an example to all, he said. "It shows that an open dialogue and mutual respect... can lead to a consensus on respect for the freedom of conscience and religion, a fundamental human right for all our citizens. We have achieved all of that through cooperation and commitment," he said, citing as an example a government decision to co-fund the construction of an Islamic cultural centre in Sisak.

The prime minister also recalled the numerous Muslims who defended Croatia in the 1991-95 Homeland War and of whom many were killed. "To them we are eternally grateful," he said.

Deputy Parliament Speaker Reiner said that Muslims in Croatia had been contributing to the country's economic, scientific, cultural and sports life for centuries, "making the country better and more prosperous."

He especially thanked Croatian Islamic religious leaders "who teach Islam as a faith of peace, cooperation, dialogue and tolerance, opposing any kind of extremism, exclusiveness and fundamentalism."

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

Monday, 15 April 2019

Hvar’s Za Križen Procession, Major Religious Event Protected by UNESCO

Maundy Thursday is a special day on the island of Hvar due to the traditional Za Križen procession, which has been held every year for more than 500 years. This year, the traditional procession will take place in the central part of the island of Hvar on Thursday, April 18. The event has been included on the UNESCO World List of Intangible Heritage since 2009, reports on April 15, 2019.

The procession begins every year at exactly 10 pm, starting simultaneously from Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirče, Vrbanj, Vrboska and Jelsa, returning to their starting points at 7 in the morning. Overnight, the participants cover about 25 kilometres. Cross-bearers apply for the role years in advance, sometimes even 10 to 20 years before.

This year, the cross-bearers are: Krišto Barbić in Pitve, Božen Grgičević in Vrisnik, Frane Carić in Svirče, Josip Bojanić in Vrbanj, Robert Čagalj in Vrboska, and Petar Bunčuga in Jelsa.

The cross-bearers are accompanied by a group comprising of two candlesticks (kandeliri) bearers, 6 to 12 heavy wax candles (torci) bearers, up to 30 lanterns (ferali) bearers, two companions which take care of the cross-bearers safety, two lead singers of Gospin Plač, and another 3-4 singers who sing the responses.

The preparations for the event start long before. The festivities begin on Ash Wednesday, when the 40 days of Lent begin, which include the singing rehearsals and the selection of bearers of kandeliri, torci, and ferali. It is customary that every person that the cross-bearer selects for his procession is visited personally by him at their houses. Cross-bearers wear shoes or woollen socks or walk barefoot, depending on their personal vows. It is customary that, at the very start of the procession, their family members pray for them and kiss the bearer and the cross.

Maundy Thursday includes a dinner for the cross-bearer and the party before they start, while on Friday morning there is the so-called “jutrina” for everybody who accompanied the bearer overnight. Also, most families from the cross-bearer’s town give them symbolic presents, such as cakes. After Easter, the cross-bearer’s helpers distribute cakes to houses in the parish.

The procession in Jelsa is different from the others since the cross-bearer concludes his procession by running over the local square after the procession returns to Jelsa. He is welcomed at the very end by the Jelsa priest. The bearer kneels with the cross, before returning to the church. Each parish has its unique features. For example, the cross from Pitve always visits another church located above Jelsa, while in other parishes this is left to the cross-bearers’ decision.

Many inhabitants of the island of Hvar mark Easter with this sacred tradition, and not just in the central part of the island since each town has its distinctive features. This cultural and religious event continues the tradition of songs which have been sung for five centuries with common melodies, but also with differences specific to each part of the island.

Translated from

More news about “Za Križen” procession can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Knights Templar Gather in Zagreb

Over the weekend, Zagreb hosted the 9th International Knights Templar Conference that brought together members of the Templar groups from all over Europe. "The Templars’ activity has always been mysterious; however, we are not a secret society, but a fraternity which studies medieval history,” said Vinko Lisec, the head of the Croatian Order of Knights Templar that was founded in 2006 at the Trakošćan Castle, reports Večernji List on April 10, 2019.

It is a secular Christian ecumenical organisation that brings together dozens of knights from all over the country, but also from the Croatian diaspora, and is entirely apolitical. “New members come when they hear their inner calling. The Grand Council considers their application. If the conditions are fulfilled, the candidate gets a mentor, trains for a year and then gives an honourable knight's oath with a hand placed on the Bible,” explains Lisec. With the oath, they confirm their affiliation to Christianity and their allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church and the Templar tradition.

“There are quasi-Templar associations that talk about the Holy Grail and so on, but our work is based solely on historical documents, and in its centre is ecumenism,” said Lisec, who became a knight in 2006 and was named the Templar commander a year later. He added that there are several different factions of Templars in the world, and the goal of their association is to bring various groups together. It is also one of the goals of the international conference that has been organised in Zagreb for the last four years. This year, it brought together knights from Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Slovenia and, for the first time, Serbia.

“We discussed the global Templar movement, the possibilities of rapprochement, possible problems, and we also exchanged experiences,” Lisec pointed out. This year, for the first time, the Croatian Order of Knights Templar organised an exhibition on the rich history of Templars in Croatia.

The first Templars in Croatia came from France and Italy after they received a papal order in the 12th century, and their task was to secure pilgrimage paths to the Holy Land. “Since they defended the secular authorities, they received estates where they built fortresses and churches. They were the intellectuals of their time,” said Lisec, adding that the Templar heritage can be found in almost all of Croatia: in the coastal areas, such as Senj, Šibenik, Split and Klis, but also in inland Croatia, in the region of Koprivnica, Psunj and Požega.

In Zagreb, they had their headquarters at Nova Ves, where the modern-day Knights Templar order is also located. “The Templars have returned to Nova Ves after seven centuries," concluded Lisec, adding that they plan to set up a memorial plaque in Nova Ves. It would be an excellent tourist attraction to link Nova Ves with its medieval history. They hope to cooperate with the ministries of culture and tourism on this project since the Templar heritage has a strong tourist potential.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Stela Lechpammer).

More history news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Conference on Religion and Nation Opens at Islamic Centre in Zagreb

ZAGREB, March 30, 2019 - A two-day international scientific conference entitled Religion and Nation opened at the Islamic Centre in Zagreb on Friday.

The conference was attended by senior religious figures, including the head of the Islamic community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Reis-ul-ulema Husein Kavazović, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, the Serb Orthodox Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana, Porfirije Perić, and the Chief Rabbi for Croatia and Montenegro of the Jewish community of Zagreb, Luciano Moše Prelević.

Reis-ul-ulema Kavazaović said in his opening remarks that "worshipping the nation ends up in a dead end" and that "man, being God's creation, can only realise himself in God."

The head of the Islamic community in Croatia, Mufti Aziz Hasanović, said that Islam gives priority to the faith without neglecting the nation, but is against nationalism because it excludes religious and humanist values.

Cardinal Bozanić highlighted the importance of social studies of relations between religion and the nation in Croatia and neighbouring countries which had experienced various forms of totalitarianism in the last century, noting that this should be done with due consideration and respect for the other.

Asim Kurjak, a member of the Scientific Committee, said that the main message of the conference should be that disputes between science and religion should be confined to the past because in that case it would be easier to deal with controversies between them.

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

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