Belgrade Catholic Archbishop Advocates for Canonization of Stepinac

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Canonization of Croatian Cardinal Stepinac is a controversial issue in Serbia.

The issue of canonization of Croatian Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac has again stirred the relations between the Catholic Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC). This time, the cause is a statement by Catholic Archbishop of Belgrade Stanislav Hočevar, who in an interview with Serbian daily Politika supported the canonization of Stepinac which is vehemently opposed by the Serbian Orthodox Church. He added that Catholics were surprised by the fact that the canonization of Stepinac is being subjected to so such extensive investigations, while some of the SPC’s saints were canonized with such procedures, reports Jutarnji List on November 11, 2016.

“We know, for example, that even the Serbian public was not of a single mind about te canonization of bishop Nikolaj Velimirović, but he was nevertheless made a saint without deeper consideration of these complaints”, said Hočevar.

Nikolaj Velimirović was a SPC bishop, an anti-Semite and conservative, who threatened with expulsion from the Church all those Serbian politicians who supported the concordat with the Catholic Church. He was a supporter of Hitler for a while, and during the World War II he supported the Serbian nationalist Chetniks. He later emigrated and died in the United States.

Velimirović was a great admirer of Dimitrje Ljotić, a leading Serbian Nazi, for whom he said: “Ljotić belonged to the whole humanity, Europe, the world… He was not only a statesman, but a Christian statesman… He was a politician with a cross… and gave answers to all questions.” However, in 2003 he was canonized by the Serbian Orthodox Church, although there were plenty of people in Serbia who said that it perhaps should not be done.

The Serbian Orthodox Church reacted from the highest level – with a written public disapproval of the Holy Synod of Bishops – due to “inappropriate statement by Archbishop of Belgrade. Stanislav Hočevar, who has taken the liberty to question the sainthood of Velimirović, even comparing him to Cardinal Stepinac or declaring him a Serbian equivalent to Stepinac.”

“Holy Synod disputes Hočevar’s right to use his advocacy for the visit of pope Francis to Serbia as a bargaining tool in an unconscious – and possibly conscious – attempt to spoil relations between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Holy See. In this endeavour, we are convinced, he will not succeed.”

Alojzije Stepinac was the Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 to 1960. While the Serbian Orthodox Church claims that during the Second World War he cooperated with the Ustasha regime, 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 has established a special commission of Croatian Catholic and Serbian Orthodox officials who are investigating his case.


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