Catholic Church Responds to Serbian Orthodox Church’s Allegations on Stepinac

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Catholic Church claims that the Orthodox Synod is deliberately distorting the image of Cardinal Stepinac in Serbia.

The Catholic Church in Croatia sent a fierce response to the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), in which the SPC and its Bishop of Bačka Irinej are accused of spreading lies and misinformation about Croatian Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac. Although the answer, at least formally, was not sent by the Croatian Bishops’ Conference, but in an article written by Ivan Miklenić, the editor-in-chief of the Glas Koncila, the official journal of the Zagreb Archdiocese, in reality it is a message of the local Catholic Church to the SPC leadership, reports Jutarnji List on November 17, 2016.

The introduction of the article, which has also been published on the Zagreb Archdiocese website, states that “the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church on 3 November published a press release”, signed by the Bishop of Bačka Irinej, “which falsifies the words of Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac”.

As reported earlier, the dispute between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church escalated again after the Catholic Archbishop of Belgrade Stanislav Hočevar supported the canonization of Stepinac, adding that Catholics were really surprised that an investigation of Stepinac was being demanded, when the SPC did not react in the same way when it canonized its own saints, like Nikolaj Velimirović, who was an anti-Semite and for a while a supporter of Hitler.

The Serbian Orthodox Church reacted from the highest level, with a written public disapproval from the Holy Synod. While Archbishop Hočevar reacted conciliatory with a hope that the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue will continue, Glas Kincila was much more critical, and decided to be much more open in its criticism of the SPC.

Miklenić wrote that he “may agree with the Bishop Irinej that the two church dignitaries cannot be compared and that Velimirović truly cannot be considered a Serbian equivalent of Stepinac”. Then he quoted Velimirović’s statements such as: “Serbian nationalism in the oldest in Europe and is 600 years older than the European nationalism”, and “One must still show respect for the present German leader Hitler, who as a man of the people realized that nationalism without religion is an anomaly and a cold and insecure mechanism.”

After describing Velimirović, Glas Koncila quotes two Stepinac’s statements from 1938 and 1942, in which he denounced nationalism and warned that “the Catholic Church has always condemned and still condemns all injustices and violence committed in the name of class, race or national theories”.

In the end, Miklenić sent a clear message to the Serbian Orthodox Church: “One cannot help think that last week’s statement by the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church was just an expression of a well thought out strategy to use every opportunity to continue to create a distorted image of Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac in Serbia, instead of objectively and truthfully presenting his life and work”.

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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