"The trouble is that the last time this dream was glimpsed was in 1941 to 1945 under the Nazi puppet regime of the dictator Ante Pavelic, who was installed as leader following the Axis conquest of Yugoslavia. Jews and Orthodox Serbs were brutally oppressed under Pavelic and his Ustaci, a band of terrorists he had organized."
From ................. National Catholic Reporter
26 August, 1994 ................... page 11
PAPAL TRIP A DIPLOMATIC TRAP ?
POPE WANTS TO BOLSTER CROAT-BOSNIA ALLIANCE
By - Peter Hebblethwaite - Vatican affairs writer
At least one part of the on-off papal visit to ex-Yugoslavia has been settled following the visit to Zagreb Aug. 5 of Jesuit Fr. Roberto Tucci, the impresario of papal trips.
On Sunday, Sept. 11, Pope John Paul II is scheduled to celebrate Mass at a Zagreb racecourse for a crowd likely to number, according to Zagreb Auxiliary Bishop Marco Culej, more than 1 million people, nearly a quarter of the population, not counting refugees. The next day the pope will go to the Marian shrine of Marija Bistrica, 40 kilometers north of Zagreb. The ostensible purpose of the visit is to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the Zagreb diocese.
But it will be a great disappointment, and will send the wrong signals, if John Paul goes only to Croatia: President Franjo Tudjman will exploit the visit for all he is worth, claiming that Croatia has at last realized its "thousand-year-old dream" and attained true independence. Once again, in this scenario, it will be free to become "the rampart of Christendom," as medieval popes declared.
The trouble is that the last time this dream was glimpsed was in 1941 to 45 under the Nazi puppet regime of the dictator Ante Pavelic, who was installed as leader following the Axis conquest of Yugoslavia.
Jews and Orthodox Serbs were brutally oppressed under Pavelic and his Ustaci, a band of terrorists he had organized. Although Archbishop Alois Stepinac withheld his blessing and Pope Pius XII refused to receive Pavelic, the Serbs scorn such historical nuances and point to the speedy recognition of Slovenia and Croatia by the Holy See as evidence of a Catholic plot.
Diplomatic recognition came Jan. 10, 1992, two days before the European Community moved. However, the Vatican insisted as a precondition that Croatia respect the rights of its minorities.
But that was another soon-forgotten nuance.
The fact that Croatia has revived the flags, flag-waving and, to some extent the slogans of the Ustaci period tends to strengthen the impression that the anti-Serb Fascists are back in force.
Many Serbs see the present conflict as a rerun of bloody ethnic conflicts that divided the same peoples 50 years ago. That is why it is essential for John Paul to try his hardest to go elsewhere, at the very least to Bosnia and Sarajevo.
The pope desperately wants to go to Sarajevo, said Joaquin Navarro-Valls, his spokesperson, "as a messenger of hope for those martyred populations, with the aim of contributing to a true and lasting peace."
The unspoken thought is that a visit to Sarajevo would cement the Croatia-Bosnia alliance and fulfill the papal desire to extend the hand of friendship to Islam in Europe.
There are some grounds for taking this alliance seriously. At the vigil for "prayer and penance" called by the pope at Assisi Jan. 9, 1993, Ra'is ul Ulama Jakub Selimoski, religious leader of the Bosnian Muslims, delivered a powerful indictment of the Serbian onslaught on his people.
Standing alongside John Paul in the Basilica of St. Francis, beneath Giotto's frescoes of the life of the saint who tried to stop a crusade, Selimoski rehearsed the grim statistics of Serbian aggression: [-----------]