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Croatian Catholics and Serbian Orthodox are still divided about Cardinal Stepinac

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Allegations concerning Blessed Alojzije Stepanic's attitude toward Nazism remain unconfirmed but troubling.

Croatian Catholics and Serbian Orthodox still remain divided on the matter of the life of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia, from 1937 until his death in 1960.

That is what is expressed in a communiqué released July 13 by the mixed Commission of Croatian Catholic and Serbian Orthodox experts. The purpose of the Commission, which met in the Vatican on July 12-13, was for the members to re-examine together the figure of Cardinal Stepinac.

The members of the mixed Commission recognized that their work has made possible a deeper knowledge of the years between World War I and the year of his death. Still, “the prevailing interpretations held by Croatian Catholics and Serbian Orthodox regarding his life continue to be divergent.”

“The study of his life,” the communiqué goes on to say, “has shown that throughout history, all the Churches have suffered cruelly due to various persecutions, and all have their martyrs.” From this point of view, the members of the Commission have “agreed to collaborate again eventually in the future” to share the memory of their respective martyrs.

This sixth meeting was presided over by Fr. Bernard Ardura, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. Members of the Episcopal Conference of Croatia were present, including Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb, and Bishop Antun Skvorcevic, bishop of Požega. Members of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church were also present, such as the Metropolitan of Montenegro, Amfilohije Radović and the Metropolitan of Zagreg-Lubiana, Porfirije Perić.

“Clarify certain historical questions”

In July of 2016, Pope Francis had requested that this commission be assembled with the task of “clarifying certain historical questions” regarding the figure of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac (1898-1960), who has sometimes been suspected of passive collaboration with the pro-Nazi Ustasha regime, in power in Croatia from 1941 to 1945.

The Commission’s conclusions, as stipulated when the Commission was created, will not interfere in the process of canonization, which is the sole competence of the Holy See.

In October 1998, Cardinal Stepinac was beatified by John Paul II (1978-2005) at the shrine of Marija Bistrica, in northern Croatia. Cardinal Stepinac is the first martyr of the Yugoslavian Communist regime to have been elevated to the glory of the altar.

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