Culture minister tries to explain the latest controversy.
At the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Pakrac, the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Irinej, surrounded by a dozen bishops and numerous priests, led the prayer on Tuesday for the martyrs during which the remains of four local bishops were returned to the crypt of the church. The special envoy of Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović at the ceremony was Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegović, who again found himself the centre of attention after footage which showed him saying that the defeat of 1945 was the greatest national tragedy started circulating on social networks, reports tportal.hr on February 24, 2016.
“Peace, respect and tolerance should be the foundation of life in our common and only homeland Croatia”, said Hasanbegović, adding that for him “the only true victory in the 20th century which has been recognized by the whole Croatian people was the victory achieved during the Homeland War”.
Hasanbegović visited the baroque complex which includes the church and the Episcopal home together with the SPC leadership and said that the complex represented a sacred heritage of Croatia, whose restoration Croatia will continue to finance according to its capabilities.
The remains of Slavonian Bishops Emilijano, Kiril, Nikifor and Sofronije were removed several years ago, since the church had suffered war damage. One of the graves, which contained the bones of Bishop Emilijano, was mined which the Church unofficially considers an attempt at robbery.
Patriarch Irinej said a prayer for hundreds and hundreds of martyrs who were killed just because they were Serbs of Orthodox faith, and urged all people and especially Christians to never again kill each other. The Serbian Patriarch said that he heard that elements of “troubled times” are returning, which he thought were gone for good. He called for love among people and nations.
The ceremony was attended by numerous political representatives from Croatia and Serbia. In addition to Pakrac, Patriarch Irinej and members of the Holy Synod of Bishops visited Jasenovac as well.
Minister Hasanbegović again found himself in the spotlight yesterday after a Facebook page posted his speech given in August 2012 at the funeral of a lawyer and brigadier of the Croatian Army Mirsad Bakšić. At the time, Hasanbegović said that the defeat of 1945 was the greatest national tragedy. “Mirsad belonged to that Croatian generation which was able to witness and experience our greatest national tragedy and the defeat of 1945. For his post-war generation, the entry into public life meant a choice between adherence to Yugoslav communism and its fake anti-Croatian and anti-Islam values or staying outside of the Yugoslav communist caste.”
Hasanbegović was asked by journalists about those words, but the minister did not want to discuss the issue, saying that he spoke at a funeral which was open to the public and adding that there was no need to explain his words. “Mirsad Bakšić was my friend, what I said is similar to what I have said before. And that is that the only true victory which has been recognized by the whole Croatian nation was achieved in the Homeland War. The modern Croatian state is based on that victory.”
Asked why the defeat of 1945 was “our greatest national tragedy”, the culture minister briefly answered that not everybody enjoyed that victory. “The generation whose lives ended in pits and tank trenches and their descendants certainly were not able to enjoy the fruits of victory”, said Hasanbegović.