Political tensions between Croatia and Serbia over the proposed canonization of Cardinal Stepinac.
Croatian leadership has decided to postpone the expected visit by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić to Zagreb where he was to meet with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. The main reason for the delay is the recent Nikolić’s request sent to Pope Francis to stop the process of canonization of Croatian Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, whom many in Serbia consider to be complicit in crimes against Serbs committed in the Independent State of Croatia during the Second World War, reports Jutarnji List on February 2, 2016.
Serbian President Nikolić met last autumn at the Vatican with Pope Francis, and a month later said that one of the main topics of discussion was the process of canonization of Stepinac and “the related pressure the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia for this process to be completed as quickly as possible”. “I have set out my opinion about the role of Cardinal Stepinac and the Catholic clergy in the Independent State of Croatia whom I consider to be responsible, if not for direct participation in the crimes, than for silence about what was happening”, said Nikolić and added that he named to the Pope “Catholic priests who directly killed Serbs, Jews and Roma”.
TCN has already pointed out the lengths to which the Serbian authorities have gone in the past to blacken Stepinac’s name. A prime example is their continued use, decades later, of an apocryphal letter written in 1941 as a propaganda tool against Stepinac and the Croatian Catholic Church.
The Croatian leadership has concluded that Nikolić had entered the sensitive area of religious politics and that he should not have done that. Stepinac’s canonization is not an issue for Serbia, but a matter for the Roman Catholic Church, and it also has great emotional significance for the majority of Catholics in Croatia. Obviously, it was concluded that the meeting at this time would not make any sense, although the relations between Croatia and Serbia should be normalized, since they have deteriorated after the outbreak of the refugee crisis when then Prime Minister Zoran Milanović accused the Serbian government of intentionally sending migrants to Croatia.
This means that the Croatian-Serbian summit will not happen anytime soon, although many in Belgrade expected that it could happen fairly quickly. The Croatian President’s Office said there was no agreement about a bilateral meeting which has been rumoured about for 12 months. However, Ivan Mrkić, former Serbian foreign minister and current adviser to the Serbian President, will visit Zagreb very soon. “It is just a regular visit, it has nothing to do with Nikolić’s possible arrival”, said a diplomatic source in Zagreb.
In addition to many unresolved issues between the two countries, it was suggested that Nikolić wanted to “open the question of the position of the Serbian minority in Croatia and the growing tensions”.
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Tomislav Nikolić met at a meeting of the Brdo-Brijuni Process in Zagreb, and before that they talked briefly in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting.