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.