Thursday, 19 March 2020

President Milanović Receives Apostolic Nuncio Lingua

ZAGREB, March 19, 2020 - President Zoran Milanović on Thursday received the newly-appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Croatia, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, his office said in a press release.

Lingua is the doyen of the diplomatic corps in Croatia. He was appointed by Pope Francis in July 2019 and presented his credentials in October.

Lingua is the sixth papal envoy to Zagreb. He previously served as Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq, Jordan and Cuba. He had also worked in the papal representations in Ivory Coast and the United States as well as in the apostolic nunciatures in Italy and Serbia.

The meeting was attended by presidential foreign policy adviser Orsat Miljenić and the nuncio's adviser Janusz Stanislaw Blachowiak.

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

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Plenković Again Invites Pope Francis to Visit Croatia

ZAGREB, February 6, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday invited Pope Francis to visit Croatia, expressing hope the visit would happen at the right time even though the pope usually visits smaller European countries without a Catholic majority, and as for the canonization of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, the pope's key message was "patience".

"I'm glad that we were received by Pope Francis today... I hope that he will visit Croatia at the right time," Plenković told reporters after meeting with the pontiff and the Holy See's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

After the audience, which lasted about 20 minutes, the Croatian PM and the pope exchanged gifts, with Plenković giving the pope the crucifix "The Crucifixion of Jesus" by Damir Mataušić and the second volume of the Beram Breviary in the Glagolitic script. He received from the pope a medal with key messages of solidarity and cooperation and several books authored by him.

Asked by reporters if today they had again discussed the canonization of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, Plenković said that during their brief meeting they mentioned that topic as well.

"The position of the government and, I can say, the entire Croatian people, is that our expectations and wishes are well-known, there is nothing new about that. We expect the entire procedure to be completed within the Catholic Church, as it should. The message we received is 'patience'," said Plenković.

One of the topics of the meeting between the Croatian PM and Pope Francis was ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, notably in the context of two important events held as part of Croatia's EU presidency - a meeting with representatives of the Council of Bishops' Conferences of the EU and the Conference of European Churches, and the international conference "Human Fraternity - the Foundation of Security and Peace in the World", organised by the Muslim World League, the leadership of the Islamic Community in Croatia and the Croatian Bishops' Conference.

"I think that the message we have sent through our presidency is that we are not only using the very good model of relations between the Croatian authorities and the Islamic community in Croatia but that that model can serve as an example to other European countries," said Plenković.

Pope Francis also gave Plenković a copy of a document he signed a year ago with Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, the Secretary General of the Muslim World League who visited Zagreb earlier this week, with important messages on interreligious dialogue sent out in February 2019.

PM Plenković and Pope Francis also discussed topics related to Croatia's EU presidency and the pope's global role, given that Plenković today visited the Vatican, for the second time during his term, also in his capacity as the prime minister of the country chairing the EU.

Among those topics were the topic of migrations, ways of preventing illegal migrations and regulating legal ones, the fight against poverty and social exclusion, demographic challenges in Europe and joint efforts in fighting climate change.

Asked if they had discussed EU enlargement considering that the pope had visited Albania and North Macedonia, Plenković said that that topic had been mentioned as well, notably during the meeting with Cardinal Parolin, and that he had told them that the EU-Western Balkan summit, to be held in Zagreb in May, would send a strong message to neighbouring countries regarding the prospect of their EU membership.

This has been met with approval because we share the view that reform processes and the process of fulfilling the necessary standards can be encouraged only with a proactive policy and involvement, said Plenković.

He said that he expected the issue of opening accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania to be resolved ahead of the summit, notably after yesterday's report and proposal by the European Commission for a reform of the methodology of accession talks.

As regards Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was also discussed during the meeting, Croatia attaches great importance to relations with that country, notably with regard to the status of Croats as an equal, constituent ethnic group, he said.

"We have the Holy See's understanding regarding that topic," he said.

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

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, 13 November 2019

Croatian Foreign Minister Visits Italy, Vatican

ZAGREB, November 13, 2019 - Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on Wednesday had a brief audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican, and he discussed the status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States, Paul Richard Gallagher.

Grlić Radman and Gallagher confirmed the traditionally excellent relations between Croatia and the Holy See, based on their historical partnership and mutual understanding, as evidenced by reciprocal visits by high-ranking officials in the last two years.

Grlić Radman informed Gallagher of Croatia's coming presidency of the EU, and they also discussed Southeast Europe and Western Balkan countries as well as the status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

They agreed on the need to appoint the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina as soon as possible, with Grlić Radman saying that ethnic Croats had to have the right to elect their own representatives at all levels of government.

"I also conveyed our interest and said that we are awaiting with full confidence the completion of the process of canonisation of the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac," said Grlić Radman.

The Croatian minister, accompanied by his family and associates, also had an audience with Pope Francis.

"He spoke nicely about Croats who have been cultivating the Croat Catholic identity throughout the centuries," said Grlić Radman.

The Holy See expressed concern about the failure to adopt a decision to launch talks with North Macedonia and Albania on the two countries' accession to the EU and supported Croatia's efforts to keep the enlargement policy in the focus of the EU's interest, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

Grlić Radman discussed this topic also with Italy's European Affairs Minister Vincenzo Amendola. The Croatian minister warned about the importance of the May 2020 summit of EU and Western Balkan countries, which, he said, would have to send a clear and encouraging message to those countries.

The two ministers confirmed their countries' very good relations, and the Italian minister expressed his country's full support to Croatia's accession to the Schengen area of passport-free travel, the euro area and the OECD, the statement said.

More news about relations between Croatia and Vatican can be found in the Politics 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, 12 September 2019

Holy See Very Important for Future Relations between Serbs and Croats, Says Vučić

ZAGREB, September 12, 2019 - Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said after an audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Thursday that the role of the Holy See in talks on future relations between Serbs and Croats was very important, stressing that as Serbia's president he would like the pope to visit Serbia but that his visit was a matter to be decided by the Serb Orthodox Church.

"It is clear to everyone that we are divided by history and by the past, that we have completely opposite views of past events... I fear that if we fail to be responsible and continue to talk about the past, we will strengthen all the others and weaken ourselves," Vučić said, adding "We must respect one another more."

"The role of the Holy See in talks between Serbs and Croats is very important," Vučić told Serbian reporters after talks with Pope Francis, noting that one of the topics of the talks was the need to improve relations between Serbs and Croats.

He would not reveal more details about the talks or about the official positions of Zagreb and Belgrade.

Vučić said he also talked with the pope about the status of the Roman Catholic community in Serbia, which accounts for about 5.1% of the population, and particularly underlined the status of the Belgrade Archdiocese and the respect enjoyed by Belgrade Archbishop Stanislav Hočevar.

Vučić said the Vatican wanted a peaceful solution between Kosovo and Serbia and would maintain its position in that regard since the Holy See had not recognised Kosovo's independence.

Commenting on the possibility of the pope visiting Serbia, Vučić said: "I would love it if the Pope visited Serbia, but that is a matter for our church to decide".

Vučić conveyed to the pope greetings from the head of the Serb Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, and noted that he would convey his to the Serb Orthodox dignitary.

More news about relations between Croatia and Serbia can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Pope Francis Allows Pilgrimages to Medjugorje

Pope Francis has allowed pilgrimages to Medjugorje, Msgr. Henryk Hoser announced on Sunday at a mass held in Medjugorje together with the Apostolic Nuncio in Bosnia and Herzegovina Msgr. Luigi Pezutto, reports on May 13, 2019.

“Pope Francis has determined that it is possible to organise pilgrimages in Medjugorje, always making sure that they are not interpreted as recognition of well-known events that still require further examination by the church, i.e. they should not create in any way ambiguousness in the doctrinal sense. The same criterion will be applied to the shepherds of every rank and degree who wish to go to Medjugorje and celebrate in a solemn way,” announced the church.

Translated into a more comprehensible language – the faithful are now officially allowed to make pilgrimages, but this does not mean that the church officially recognises the alleged apparitions and testimonies of the so-called “visionaries,” which the church is still investigating.

According to theologian Anna Maria Gruenfelder, this means that believers must come with the proper purpose. “This means that people should come to worship God, without coming to Medjugorje as an acknowledged sanctuary because it is not. This is actually a concession by Pope to the great number of believers coming there,” said the theologian.

This decision by Pope Francis does not actually change anything, says sociologist of religion Ivica Maštruko. Everything will stay as before. “The only thing that has changed is that now parishes, dioceses and Catholic associations may organise pilgrimages to Medjugorje, which has not been allowed so far because it was not an officially recognised sanctuary. The pilgrimages have hitherto been made exclusively as a private affair. Nothing changes. A large number of believers used to come and will continue to come to Medjugorje,” said Maštruko, while Gruenfelder added that the Vatican would continue to monitor that pilgrimages are not exploited for economic benefit.

Translated from (reported by Ivan Pavić).

More Medjugorje news can be found in the Lifestyle 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.

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