H/T: Serbian newspaper Politika (here), loose translation:
Two Controversial Statements in Croatia
The Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC), regarding the recent two-day visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Zagreb, noted that the First Hierarch of the Roman Catholic Church sent a series of universal messages but two were remembered as controversial and not only in the Serbian public.
The Pope made both statements in the plane before he arrived in Zagreb.
It was noted that in an interview with reporters he recalled how previous Archbishops of Zagreb, the late Cardinal Franjo Seper, Franjo Kuharic and Josip Bozanic always said that Croatia is not in the Balkans but in Central Europe, “it would be logical and fair and Croatia needs to join the European Union, which it has always historically and culturally belonged in. ”
The SOC, as it is noted, does not want to believe that the statement the Pope made had any intention of placing the Balkans somewhere outside of Europe. Nor to return to the beginning of the 16th century, when his predecessor Leo X marked Croatia as a “bulwark of Christianity”.
It should not go without being mentioned, as stated in the SOC, that in that “bulwark” during those times, in addition to the Zrinski and Frankopan, many Serbs were also guarding that border, and today, after five centuries of historical presence, all of the sudden there are either no more or the few are surviving ones serve as a remainder of a slaughtered and banished people.
“From our viewpoint, we in the Balkans, that is we Serbs, do not see Europe in a narrow horizon of Western and Central Europe, even in a broad range from the Atlantic to the Urals, but we see it as a civilized continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific, or from the Canaries to the Kuril Islands because it is a unique spiritual space, which has the same Christian roots and shares the same ideals of value,” was stated in the communique.
From the SOC it is pointed out that members of the Orthodox people in the Balkans not only love their homeland, but all the Balkans, the Byzantine-Slavic, but also the Western Christian, Muslim, its more broader – Romani – homeland, conscious of the fact that it gave Europe its two foundations of civilization, Christianity and Hellenism.
The statement signed by Bishop Irinej of Backa calls to mind the anthropological formulation of the late Pope John Paul II that there is no Europe without “both lungs, one of which is called Orthodox or Eastern Christian, mostly Greek-Slavic …”
According to the SOC the second controversial message of the Pope was related to Aloysius Stepinac, Archbishop of Zagreb during World War II regarding whom the Pope said that he “defended the right of humanity against the regime, defending Serbs, Jews, Gypsies.”
“Given the fact that Stepinac was the military vicar of the “Independent State” of Croatia – or, according to others, appointed the military vicar – and was a member of Parliament of the Independent State of Croatia, and, on the other hand, given the fact known worldwide of the Ustasha physical and spiritual genocide of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, we must point out that, in light of these historical facts, this dimension of the personality of Stepinac is, at the least, one-sidedly exaggerated or, more likely, it is forcibly fictitious…”, was stated in the communique.
Pope Benedict XVI visited Zagreb May 4-5 and during that time he, as was evaluated by the SOC, sent out messages that encourage Christians, especially Roman Catholic bishops and priests to be permanently committed to the reconciliation between divided Christians, as well as between Christians and Muslims.