Esther Gitman – Rebuttal To Serb Accusations Against Blessed Alojzije Stepinac

Blessed Alojzije Stepinac (L) Dr Esther Gitman (R) Darko Tanaskovic (Top C) Porfirije Peric (Bottom C)

The new head of the Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Peric, like his predecessors, is not wasting time when it comes to attacking Blessed Alojzije Stepinac by introducing new, evidently maliciously twisted spanners into the canonisation works within the Catholic Church. Pope Francis, it would seem, is, when it comes to the canonisation of Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, pursuing a road that abandons the declarations of the Catholic Church’s Pope John Paull II, now Saint, regarding Alojzije Stepinac and is looking to compromise the will and the truth of Catholics of Croatia in order to achieve some kind of unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church that has for decades persistently and politically used lies and half-truths to blacken Croatia and its Archbishop and Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac. A few days ago Darko Tanaskovic, a member of the first mixed commission of Catholic and Orthodox representatives regarding the canonisation of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, said for Sputnik news in Serbia, among other things, that Patriarch Peric has some Stepinac letters for which he says that Stepinac should not be made a saint for Christian community! And this evidently personal interpretation and defilement of historical truth, for obviously political reasons, comes from a head of the church, Serbian Orthodox Church, that still to this day refuse to accept and acknowledge the leading role it played in Serbia becoming one of the first WWII a Judernfrei (Jew free) states in Europe!

New York based Dr Esther Gitman, a reputable historian specialising in Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac and the rescue and survival of Jews and others in the WWII Croatia has sent me her written response and reaction, a rebuttal to the above public statements made by Darko Tanaskovic and Patriarch Peric. Here is what Dr Gitman wrote.(Ina Vukic)  

Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac in the Historical Context by Esther Gitman, April 2021:

In face of one of the vilest attacks against Blessed Stepinac that is taking place only days after the new Serbian Bishop Porfirije Perić was chosen to become the successor to the Patriarch Irinej. To make his presence known, influential, and acknowledged as a true Serbian religious leader, he chose, as his predecessors did, to attack the memory of Dr. Alojzije Viktor Stepinac, the former Archbishop, and Cardinal of Zagreb who had passed away in Krasić, a place of his birth, of his house arrest, on February 10, 1960, 61 years ago. 

The question one may ask: Why Porfirije (Patriarch), so soon after his being promoted to succeed Patriarch Irinej, has elected, as one of his first tasks, to attack the memory of Alojzije Stepinac, with a hope to nullify the elevation of Stepinac to sainthood. The issue of Stepinac’s canonization was raised when Dr. Darko Tanasković, one of the participants, in the joint meeting in the Vatican, between Serbs and Croats re Stepinac’s conduct during the war years. Dr. Darko Tanaskovic, one of the Serbian participants,  reported to Sputnik- news that Stepinac’s chances of being elevated to sainthood are diminishing! Tanasković asserts that Pope Francis will not bring a resolution in favor of the Croatian side which would splinter the Christian world even further.

Tanasković, and I assume other Serbs, argues that it is absolutely clear that Stepinac supported the Ustashe. Tanasković further argues that Stepinac was a problematic figure and thus under no circumstances and under no criteria he can become a saint! He explains that it was important for the Serbian side to prove this point! He goes on to state that it is not clear yet to what measure Stepinac was a criminal and that he must have been aware of all the crimes that were committed against Serbs, Roma, and Jews, and although at some instances he was helpful, he never raised the issue of cleansing the Serbs via conversions to Catholicism.

After the war, Stepinac was indicted under the laws, on crimes against the people and the State, approved on August I5, 1945, and amended July 9, 1946. These laws were entirely the product of the new popular democracy in the process of formation in Yugoslavia. They constituted a complete break from the traditional past and rejected outright the usual procedures and guarantees contained in previous legislation. Moreover, the new laws, conceived along strictly political and communist lines, were drafted and put into effect after the alleged crimes committed by the Archbishop. In this way, the prelate was arrested and tried ex post facto, for offenses that were not criminal in the code in existence at the time of their supposed commission. 

The objective of this response is to rebut the accusations made against by Archbishop Stepinac for more than seven decades. And reached a crescendo with the rise to power of Bishop Porfirije Perić, I will begin with three memorable quotes uttered by Stepinac during his trial. He stated: 

“You accuse me of being an enemy of the government of the state and of the people of Yugoslavia. Please tell me what was my government in the year 1941? Was it that of the instigator Simović in Belgrade – the traitor, as you call him – the one in London, or was it You in the forests or the one in Zagreb? …We were not able to ignore the government here, even if it was a Ustaša regime.  Only since May 8, 1945, have you had the right to interrogate me and to hold me responsible. In summary, he declared…My conscience is clear and I’m not going to say any more about it. You can bring a thousand proofs, but you will never be able to prove a single crime against me! His motto was:  

“Only one race really exists and that is the Divine race. Its birth certificate is found in the book of Genesis. All of them without one exception, whether they belong to the race of Gypsies or to another, whether they Are Negroes or civilized Europeans, whether they are detested Jews or proud Aryans, have the same right to say ‘our Father who Art in Heaven.”   

The second quote: Hundreds of times during the trial I have been called “the defendant Stepinac.“ There is no one so naïve as not to know that with the defendant Stepinac” here on the bench sits the Archbishop of Zagreb, the Metropolitan and the head of the Catholic Church in Yugoslavia. 

The final quote: I was not persona grata to either the Germans or the Ustashe; I was not an Ustasha nor did I take their oath as did some of the officials of this court whom I see here. 

The question posed is one of the most delicate and serious nature, connected not only with modern warfare but with the entire problem of post-war Europe. Collaborationism has been used as a term of reprobation with incredible largesse. In most of the western European countries that knew the tragedy of occupation by Nazi Germany and their collaborators, hundreds of citizens have been accused, indicted, and sometimes imprisoned for collaboration, whose acts were very different from those of out and out collaborators or participants in the governments imposed by the invaders. What really constitutes collaboration in the case of the ordinary inhabitants is not always easily proved. Many post-war lawyers, including Ivo Politeo, Stepinac’s post-war lawyer argued that simply because one was not a resistance hero, does not make him ipso facto a traitor.

In this final segment, by no means all-encompassing, I will discuss briefly, the rules and regulations imposed upon Alojzije Stepinac while serving as an Archbishop of Zagreb during World War II (WWII). Some of these rules were imposed on him by the Roman Catholic Church and by the decisions of the European League of Nations. By understanding what was required of Stepinac during the war, many accusations levelled against him will have to be reconsidered. 

During the war the Archbishop of Zagreb was bound by the Church Constitution, “Solicitude Ecclesiarum; issued by Pope Gregory XVI in l831. This document was consistent with provisions of the 1907 Hague and 1929 Geneva conventions, which affirmed that: 

During a state of war, all legal power passes into the hands of the occupier, who is authorized and obligated to maintain public order and public life by demanding obedience of the inhabitants, with specified exceptions.”  

The Church’s Constitution directed the highest religious authority to enter into discussion with the occupiers commanded that in order to ensure the spiritual welfare and rights of its parishioners, church representatives should enter into relation and a conversation, with those persons who actually exercise power, in other words with the occupiers. These representatives, of the likes of Archbishop Stepinac, also had a duty to defend the rights of the Roman Catholic Church as they existed prior to the occupation. Under these obligations, Stepinac acted as his vows and the Vatican expected of him. He chastised the regime for daily violations of church ordinances, such as forced conversions of Serbs who had already been baptized, although he approved of conversions that were voluntary and undergone in order to save human lives. Stepinac also raised his voice against violations of human rights and insisted on preserving human dignity.

Historians who questioned his visits to Slavko Kvaternik and Ante Pavelic and, in fact, accused him of treason, did it either out of ignorance of what his duties vis-à-vis the occupiers were or wished maliciously to accuse him of cooperating with the enemy. But, in fact, they failed to consider the constraints under which Stepinac was obliged to act in his official role as archbishop.  Stepinac always abided by the Laws of the Church which coincided with his own conscience. 

The Vatican instructed Stepinac to be mindful of his words and conduct, in the interest of saving lives. He also raised his voice against violations of human rights and requested conduct that would preserve human dignity. Historians of the likes of Ivo Goldstein and many other Serbian historians and politicians questioned his visits to Kvaternik and Pavelic accusing him of helping the enemy while in essence, he was acting exactly as he was supposed to act in order to keep law and order and save lives. performing as was requested of him to act in his official role as an archbishop.  

Moreover, the Vatican instructed Stepinac to be mindful of his words and conduct in the interest of saving lives. This was especially of the essence after the Vigorous efforts to defend Jews by the Catholic hierarchy in the Netherlands, when in 1942 the Nazis rounded up all Jews, even long-time converts, including priests and nuns, and ended their lives. The Dutch bishops demonstrated great courage, but 79 percent of the country’s Jews, 110.000 individuals, were murdered. The Nazis were determined to prevent similar attempts of rebellion against them and attempts to rescue Jews elsewhere.

Both Croatian and German officials viewed Stepinac as Judenfreundlich-friendly toward Jews. Stepinac acknowledged that the Ustashe would be a liability to the humanitarian fabric of the Croatian society for years to come, and he detested the Nazis, Ustashe and the communists in equal measure. Stepinac emphasized the Christian principles of justice and freedom of the individual and nations…

With great sorrow, he wrote: The Croatian government would have to bear full responsibility for the growth of the Communist partisan movement. Because of severe and unlawful measures employed against Orthodox Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies in imitation of German methods! 

I just cannot imagine that Pope Francis will ignore all the goodness Archbishop Stepinac has done during the war years! Yesterday was a Remembrance Day for all the Jews that have perished at the hand of Nazi Germany and their European collaborator. At some point during the memorial, my thoughts drifted to Archbishop Stepinac who, in 1942. prevented a major catastrophe when he heard that the governor of the Italian zones of occupation, Giuseppe Bastianini wished to send all the Jews, around 6000, back to the NDH (WWII Independent State of Croatia). Stepinac, jointly with Abbot Marcone obtained a permit, with the help of the Vatican, for all Jews to remain under the protection of the Italian Second Armata. My mother and I were among thousands of other Jews who survived. I owe gratitude and acknowledgment to Archbishop Stepinac and the Vatican! The documents and the testimonies of survivors demonstrate his unstoppable battle against the perpetrators’ devious plans. Stepinac’s generosity and kindness towards all those who sought his assistance, and received it regardless of religion, ethnicity, or political affiliation is documented in factual history! Thank you! Esther Gitman

Tito’s Pioneers Keep Sharpening Their Axes Of Hate Against Croatia’s Blessed Alojzije Stepinac

A communist narrative in Marie-Janine Calic interview about Croatia’s Blessed Alojzije Stepinac

On 8 December 2020 the widely read Catholic portal from Germany (Katolische.de) published an interview with German historian Marie-Janine Calic, daughter of Croatian-born Eduard Calic (1910-2003) – historian and Yugoslav (read communist) journalist who was a Berlin-based correspondent for a Yugoslav newspaper during WWII, when Croatia itself fought for independence away from Yugoslavia. This fact alone can throw a spotlight on the mental aura Marie-Janine Calic was, more likely than not, brought up with and that would include a profound intolerance and bias against any patriotic feelings away from the failed experiment of Yogoslavia (e.g. of Croatian patriotism). The interview was published under the title “Figure of hate: a historian warns of Cardinal Stepinac’s canonisation” ( Hassfigur: Historikerin warnt vor Heiligsprechung Kardinal Stepinacs” ). Blessed Alojzije Stepinac’s canonisation by the Vatican (Pope Francis) has been thwarted by political twists, lies and biases of the Serbian Orthodox Church and former communists. My recent open letter to Pope Francis delves into some of the issues pertaining to this.

This is the same Marie-Janine Calic who in her 2014 book “A History of Yugoslavia” strongly rejects the fact that Yugoslavia was an artificial state and still attempts to present the ludicrous idea that a common Yugoslavia made of the states was conceived in the mid-19th century as an attempt by elites to overcome underdevelopment in that region, secure progress and assert the right to self-determination for their people! Facts of history have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Serb domination and oppression, whether in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (that disintegrated at dawn of WWII) or the post-WWII Yugoslavia (that disintegrated in 1990/1991), suffocated the self-determination of their peoples Calic is shamelessly bandying around in this interview. The only self-determination right during the hundred years Calic is talking about was usurped by Serbs and Serbs alone, oppressing all other nations (Croat, Slovene, Bosnian, Macedonian) within that forced concoction of united Yugoslavia, which saw or represented not even the “u” in the true meaning unity; it was a forced union maintained either by the Serb Monarchy’s dictatorship or the Tito communist one.  

It seems to me that with this interview for the Catholics of Germany portal Calic is working in concert with those from the Serbian Orthodox Church and with former communist “dignitaries” to hammer in yet another nail into Blessed Alojzije Stepinac (who died at the brutal hands of Yugoslav communist regime) canonisation coffin. Why else would she in the interview call him a “figure of hate” and call his beatification by Pope John Paull II in 1998 controversial! It seems to me that if she has never been a Communist Party operative, a Yugoslav thug, she certainly demonstrates its modus operandi on quests of assassinating characters of decent people, with omitted and/or twisted details and half-truths. She fails to clarify in her interview that the only people who “hate” Stepinac are and were the former Yugoslav communists and the Serbian Orthodox Church, to multitudes of others he was a figure of human compassion and love, a saviour and rescuer to the endangered in WWII. We have the historical facts on that presented in research of New York based dr Esther Gitman and the writings of British dr Robin Harris, among others, as irrefutable evidence of that, not the claptrap promulgated by Calic, an evident stalwart of Serbia’s eternal lies and fabrications against Blessed Stepinac and WWII Croatia.

In the above interview Calic is asked: “In a biography published in 2017, lawyer Claudia Stahl writes that Stepinac supported those in need and persecuted?” Calic responded: “He occasionally led a campaign to save Jews, baptised as Catholics, especially children. But he never raised his voice against the planned extermination of Jews and other ethnic groups. He also never publicly distanced himself from the Ustasha regime.”

“Would that do any good?”, the question followed. Calic replied: “Stepinac was the Archbishop of Zagreb, chairman of the Bishops’ Conference and was in charge of the entire Catholic military pastoral care. As the highest representative of the Church in Croatia, he could at least stop the systematic persecution of Serbs by members of the Catholic Church.”

I find it sickening that Calic in this interview generally talks about persecution of Serbs and Jews in Croatia during WWII and fails to mention, in the same breath, that Serbian Orthodox Church and Serbia’s WWII Milan Nedic government were utter persecutors and exterminators of the Jews – historical facts are that by May 1942 Serbia had exterminated 94% of its Jews and boasted of becoming one of the first European states to be “Free of Jews” (Judenfrei)!  

How twisted and full of hate against Croats would one need to be to come up with such a reply as Calic did above! She completely ignores the realities of WWII and especially the fact that Serbs persecuted and murdered Croatians by thousands upon thousands and Stepinac still did all in his power to save as many Serbs as possible, even though most deserved persecution for their previous crimes and oppression, if we’re to be frank on a human motives’ levels. She completely ignores the historical findings of past twenty years that show and demonstrate the good deeds of Cardinal Stepinac towards Jews, Serbs, Roma – towards anyone faced with life-danger amidst the WWII political brutal divisions and animosities from all sides. Calic completely bypasses and ignores or underplays the public truth about Blessed Stepinac, published by historians and I will only present a small part here.

In 1934, Pius XI named Stepinac as coadjutor to Bauer. Not long after being made a bishop, as early as 1936, Stepinac knew of the threat facing the Jewish people in Europe and sought to raise funds to help those who were fleeing Nazi Germany and Austria.

He appealed to wealthy Croatian Catholics for their help: “Dear Sir, due to violent and inhumane persecution, a large number of people have had to leave their homeland. Left without means for a normal life, they wander throughout the world…Every day, a large number of emigrants contact us asking for intervention…It is our Christian duty to help them…I am free to address you, as a member of our Church, to ask for support for our fund in favour of emigrants. I ask you to write your free monthly allotment on the enclosed leaflet,” he wrote to them.

In an address to students in 1938, Stepinac condemned the racist ideologies of the Third Reich: “Love toward one’s nation cannot turn a man into a wild animal, which destroys everything and calls for reprisal, but it must ennoble him, so that his own nation secures respect and love of other nations.”

In 1939, he launched another fundraising campaign to help Jews and other persecuted migrants fleeing their countries because of the war, again emphasizing the Christian’s duty to help those in need regardless of their race or creed.

War officially came to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (which was comprised of modern-day Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia) on April 6, 1941, when German forces invaded the region.

Stepinac, as head of the Catholic Church in the majority-Catholic Croatia that had declared itself an independent state in April 1941 as the Serb-led Kingdom of Yugoslavia fell apart, had the difficult task of opposing the racial laws that were brought into practice in Croatia (as they were brought about in Serbia also).

Stepinac organised hiding places for an unknown number of Jews using Croatian Catholic connections he had throughout the country or raised funds to help them escape to a safer place. When Stepinac’s own life was in danger, he warned all those that he had helped hide, and told them to find a different hiding place so that they would not be found out.

Stepinac also told his priests in no uncertain terms that they were to accept any requests from people who wanted to convert to the Catholic Church in order to try to save their lives – whether they were Jewish, Serbian, Gypsies, or other persecuted groups.

Based on dr Esther Gitman’s research into historical documents she found that Stepinac had a policy he passed on as instruction to all priests in Croatia: when a priest is approached by a Jew or a Serb whose life is in danger and they wished to convert, convert them, because the Christian duty is in the first place to save lives.

“When you are visited by people of the Jewish or Eastern Orthodox faith, whose lives are in danger and who express the wish to convert to Catholicism, accept them in order to save human lives. Do not require any special religious knowledge from them, because the Eastern Orthodox are Christians like us, and the Jewish faith is the faith from which Christianity draws its roots. The role and duty of Christians is in the first place to save people. When this time of madness and savagery has passed, those who would convert out of conviction will remain in our church, while others, after the danger passes, will return to their church,” read a note from Alojzije Stepinac distributed to parishes in Croatia during the war.

In the interview Calic claims that 250,000 Orthodox Serbs were converted to Catholicism in WWII Croatia! She provides no verifiable source for her claim, and journalist interviewing her does not ask for one (!) and we are tempted with good reason to conclude that she made it up, just like communists and Serbs have been making up stories and numbers of others’ victims for decades! This communist Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia lover, Calic, does not even bother in this interview mentioning that Tito mounted a persecutory court process (a show trial) against Stepinac in 1946, charging him with Nazi-collaboration and denying him any right of defence, conveying of life sentence by house arrest where he died a harsh death in 1960. It was only after Stepinac rejected Tito’s proposal and insistence to take the Catholic Church in Croatia away from Rome, to abandon Roman Catholic Church and establish Croatian Catholic Church that Stepinac was charged, tried and convicted of treason by Tito’s communist Yugoslavia! Calic in her above interview even tries to justify the staged process against Stepinac by saying that the process “also involved dealing with mass crimes in which the representatives of the Catholic Church took part.” What an appalling and tendentious claim by Calic! Reading it one could easily conclude that the Catholic bishops in Croatia carried out mass murders of people and that Cardinal Stepinac was their leader.

Outrageous!

Calic’s presentation of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac in this interview as a “figure of hate” goes in the same direction as similar bashings against Stepinac by the Serbian Orthodox Church that have persisted since WWII. This is evidently another attempt to damage a representative of the Croatian Church, which was so strongly persecuted by the Communists in the media. Furthermore, with this interview, Calic appears to have hopped onto the Serbian wagon of continued persecution of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac to perhaps remind the German nation of its own dark WWII past and thus get them on the side like hers, which hates Stepinac. If they didn’t hate him they would need to take a look at themselves and admit to Serbia’s sins and genocidal past!

How dare she call Stepinac a Nazi sympathiser in a country that is still trying to forget its Nazi past! Furthermore, why is the German Catholic portal (Katolische.de) publishing such defamation and persecution of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac when other worldly renowned Catholic newspapers and portals such as the Catholic Weekly (Australia and USA), Catholic News Agency, etc. have been publishing research findings about Stepinac’s deeds of numerous rescues of Jews and other endangered groups during and before WWII for at least a decade!

If you want to remind yourself of, or learn about communist narratives simply visit the katolische.de interview with Marie-Janine Calic dated 8 December 2020 and all will be crystal clear to you.

And if you want to visit a place of absolute truth about the works and good deeds of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac during WWII, in particular, read the book by the American author, a Holocaust survivor from Sarajevo, dr. Esther Gitman, “Stepinac: A Pillar of Human Rights” or “When Courage Prevailed: The Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia 1941–1945” or the book by British author dr Robin Harris: “Stepinac: His Life and Times”, or Zvonimir Gavranovic’s books “In Search of Cardinal Stepinac”, among multitudes of other most credible works about Stepinac. Ina Vukic

Open Letter To Pope Francis On Canonisation Of Croatia’s Blessed Alojzije Stepinac

25 September 2020

Dear Pope Francis, Servant of the Servants of God,

It is with a heavy heart that I must write to Your Holiness that your ongoing pursuit of dialogue regarding the canonisation of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac with the Serbian Orthodox Church and former communists of former Yugoslavia is causing moral chaos within the Croatian congregation of the Roman Catholic Church and wider.

From Australia, I learn from various media sources across the world that you have placed the canonisation of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac on hold because, according to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Holy See State Secretary, your trusted and close associate who visited Croatia last week,  you claim that “the canonisation of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac must be a moment of togetherness for the entire Church, and not a reason for conflict or opposition…”. Furthermore, Cardinal Parolin said that in the matter of Stepinac canonisation you have chosen a methodology of trying to get closer to the Serbian Orthodox Church’s point of view on the matter, that dialogue with that Church is crucial for Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac to be canonised.  

The fact remains that you have completed one phase of that dialogue and did not achieve any particular result because the views did not converge between the Catholic and the Serbian Orthodox churches. This, of course is not surprising when it comes to the views of Serbian Orthodox Church, which I believe will never ever back down from its persistent lies and historical fabrications against WWII Croatia and Blessed Alojzije Stepinac. It is without any doubt in my mind that the Serbian Orthodox Church had armed itself with input of people like Predrag Ilic, who wrote the book of historical discussions (Stepinac and the Holocaust in NDH/WWII Croatia), a book of utter historical tripe and cosmetically filtered or adjusted interpretations of historic documentation. I also have no doubt that, should misfortune continue and a second round of talks with the Orthodox Church is held on Stepinac, the Serbian Church will arm itself with the likes of Gideon Greif, a historian evidently on Serbia’s payroll who also wrote books on WWII Croatia (e.g. Jasenovac – Auschwitz of the Balkans) filled with twisting the history against Croats by overwhelmingly avoiding pursuit of facts as they actually were and obviously giving a credence to politically fabricated numbers of victims since WWII.

I would like to think that among other factual historical evidence on Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, you have made yourself aware of the independent research of WWII Croatia conducted by Esther Gitman and her books that have been published in the past two decades (e.g. “When Courage Prevailed – the Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia 1941 – 1945” or “Alojzije Stepinac – Pillar of Human Rights”). Esther Gitman’s findings on Cardinal Stepinac require no historical discussions, they require no interpretations because they are represented as facts found; as the truth. Esther Gitman’s factual discoveries about Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac’s work during WWII are indeed an ample demonstration of the Servant of God that he was. Same may be said for Robin Harris’s book “Stepinac – His Life and Times”. Our Catholic Church needs nothing more and nothing else to take a look at the Servant of God that Stepinac was, although there are ample other books and research papers that corroborate Stepinac’s existence, sacrifice and courage of a true Servant of God that our Catholic Church has for centuries listed among its saints.

I strongly believe that I am not the only person in the world, far from it, who considers that your pursuit of dialogue with the Serbian Orthodox Church regarding the canonisation is fundamentally wrong on many fronts as far as the Roman Catholic congregation is concerned and as far as justice is concerned, including:

Firstly, it is wrong to place Pope John Paul II beatification in 1998 of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac on such degraded ground. Pope John Paul II, now Saint John Paul II, did not need to justify to any other than the Catholic Church his and Roman Catholic Church’s convictions at the time as to deserved merits for Cardinal Stepinac within his and our Church and faith! The “history”  Your Holiness pointed out existed at times of John Paul II only he was not as wealthy in the knowledge of facts as you are today; Pope John Paul II did not have the benefit of facts discovered about Blessed Alojzije Stepinac only after the communist Yugoslavia ceased to be and historical archives opened up and still knew the fact that Stepinac was truly a Servant of God.

Secondly, it is utterly wrong and cruel towards the Croatian people who fought for freedom and independence from the scourge of and aggression by Greater Serbia politics, always deeply rooted within the Serbian Orthdox Church, to decide upon the Sainthood of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac under a condition that Serbs might agree with that decision. No, Your Holiness, Croatians did not exchange moral or cultural values with the Serbian Orthodox Church – ever. Whenever Serbs invaded or attacked Croatia (whether by military or politically diplomatic manoeuvres) they destroyed parts of our culture, shook our faith in God, falsified our history, stole our lands…and the Serbian Orthodox Church stood right behind them, encouraging their aggression. It is far from even an inkling of possibility that a dialogue with the Serbian Orthodox Church will result in any consensus on matters where a member of the Croatian people, such as Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, will result in pointing a shining light upon Croats and to the benefit of Croatian people.

Thirdly, in May of 2019 Your Holiness stated that “the canonisation of Stepinac is a historic case. He is a virtuous man for this Church, which has proclaimed him Blessed. But at a certain moment of the canonisation process there are unclear points, historic points, and I should sign the canonisation, it is my responsibility, I prayed, I reflected, I asked advice, and I saw that I should ask Irinej, a great patriarch (of Serbian Orthodox Church), for help…” and I would like to remind you, if you already are not aware that this “great” patriarch, like all of his predecessors in living memory, is a politician as much as he is a priest, most likely a politician more than a priest. Known for his nationalist statements justifying Serbian imperialism—a transgenerational project which underlies every 20th-century war on the territory of former Yugoslavia – Irinej’s wicked observations about Stepinac, that he “did not want to hear the children’s cry” in concentration camps, are a first-class manipulation and evil fabrication directed at the Croatian Roman Catholic congregation.

Fourthly, it may be a prudent pursuit by Your Holiness to pursue dialogue with non-Catholic Christian communities, to pursue and invigorate relations with the Russian Orthodox Church via the Serbian Orthodox Church as a link, but it is far from acceptable to judge the life of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, as a prerequisite for canonisation, with the information supplied by the Serbian Orthodox Church headed by Irinej, or any other Greater Serbia bandit.  

Fifthly, regarding any talks held with those that since year 2000 may have held or currently hold government power in Croatia or Serbia regarding the canonisation of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, please know this: you have more likely than not spoken with former communist party of Yugoslavia members (or their children) who persecuted Croatian practicing Catholics during the life of Former Yugoslavia either by degrading their value to society or taking away their human right to religion, they mass murdered Croatian Catholic priests during and after WWII as well as hundreds of thousands of innocent freedom loving civilians and disarmed soldiers … In short, know this please Your Holiness: these former communists or their offspring, brought up in the communist mindset, are of no value whatsoever when it comes to presenting the truth of Stepinac’s life and deeds, especially those of extraordinary courage and sacrifice in saving thousands of persecuted people of different races and ethnicity during WWII.

Sixthly, if it is true that you are seeking a moment of “togetherness” within the Catholic Church regarding the canonisation of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac and in that togetherness you count on those who have started attending Holy Mass after Croatia was victorious in its secession from Communist Yugoslavia, for personal gain in political careers, please abandon that trail to Stepinac’s Sainthood. These men and women will abandon the Church at a drop of a hat should political winds in their country so dictate, just like they did during the life of Former Yugoslavia, just like their fathers and mothers had as followers of the Communist Party. Your Holiness, these people or their parents persecuted Blessed Alojzije Stepinac in 1946 with trumped up charges, not alleging but stamping him falsely as a Nazi collaborator, when the truth was that at the threat to his own life he saved thousands. Do you truly believe that these people will now confess this horrid sin of theirs?

And so, it is with a Christian fortitude and knowledge of forces, particularly those belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church congregation, which have purposefully pursued the destruction of Blessed Stepinac’s good reputation that I write this Open Letter to Your Holiness today, 25th September, on St. Sergius of Radonezh’s Feast Day, the Patron Saint of Russia who worked not only to spread monasticism and the sanctity of monastic life, but also to become a messenger of Christian values in a country then threatened by various internal divisions and external tensions.

God’s commandments are a most welcome help for conscience to get to know the truth and hence to judge verily. God’s commandments are the expression of the truth about our good, about our very being, disclosing something crucial about how to live life well and to bear false witness against our neighbour is a grave sin committed against Blessed Alojzije Stepinac by the Serbian Orthodox Church including Patriarch Irinej.

Your Holiness, Blessed Alojzije Stepinac deserves to bask in the glory of the truth and his name to not endure false witness for a moment longer.

Please announce his canonisation!

So please, Your Holiness, find the courage to stop this impasse in faith and this moral chaos your pursuit of dialogue on the canonisation of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac is causing. As the supreme authority of the Catholic Church, it would be one of most important, courageous and Christian act of your entire mandate because it would represent standing firmly on truth and rejecting historical fabrications and falsehoods that have been devastatingly promoted for decades. While we all are desirous of and pray for peace and unity, the Croatian and multitudes of other Roman Catholics will thank you and so would the great soul of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac who perished from torture and false witness against him, saying: “When they take everything from you, you will be left with two hands; put them together in prayer and then you will be the strongest.”

Ina Vukic, Prof. Psych. (ZGB); B.A., M.A.Ps, (SYD)

Open letter to Pope Francis in the Croatian language/Please click the picture below.

Otvoreno pismo papi Franji na hrvatskom jeziku/ Molim pritisnite na sliku dolje.

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