Croatian Catholic officials chided Croatia’s president for saying the Church sided with the Ustasha government.
President Stjepan Mesic, speaking Sunday at commemoration for those killed at the Jasenovac concentration camp in northern Croatia, said “it is sad but true that the Ustasha had a considerable help from the majority of the Catholic Church clerics, who even today, as the last bastion, defends that regime.”
The Nazi puppet regime ran the state during World War II.
Following the ceremony, Mesic also said that “because there were Catholic priests who bloodied their hands in the NDH,” a reference to the Croatian fascist state, ”it would be good that the Catholic Church’s top clerics come to Jasenovac for the sake of other priests who were on the side of justice and democracy.”
In response to Mesic’s comments, the Zagreb Archbishop’s office issued a statement that said “a number of severe slanders have been thrown at the Church and its past and present position.” The statement compared the president’s critIcism to the previous communist regime’s anti-Church rhetoric.
Mesic, a former communist, has been at odds with the Church over myriad issues.
Officials from the Croatian Catholic Church have never attended commemorations at Jasenovac. Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, estimates that 500,000 victims, mostly Serbs, perished there. The Croatian estimate is 80,000 victims.
Along with the Serbs, Jews, gypsies and anti-fascists were among the victims at Jasenovac.