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.