Sunday, September 30, 2007

"Balkan Idols" by Vjekoslav Perica [9]


A Symbolic Revolution: The Great Novena

After the freeze of the "Croatian Spring," the Catholic Church resumed the "Great Novena" which had been interrupted by World War II.

This section details many of the activities, publications, meetings, and public events led by the Croatian Catholic church over the following years. The response was enormous--there were usually tens of thousands, and sometimes hundreds of thousands, of participants at many of the public events and commemorations. The church sought to explicitly link the history of the church to that of the Croatian people. Pope John Paul II was receptive to many overtures as the Croatian Church sought to emphasize the shared Catholic heritage of Croats and Poles, extending this to a sense of being on the frontier of the Catholic world. This was extended to a sense of being defenders of Catholicism and the Western world from Orthodoxy and Islam coming from the East.

The history of Croatia was increasingly whitewashed, as atrocities from WW II were ignored, Orthodoxy was portrayed as a sinister force that divided the South Slavs, and sometimes controversial figures from Croatia's past were elevated and celebrated, often explicitly for their anti-Orthodox and anti-Serb words and deeds.

Birth of the Catholic Nation

The Great Novena was extremely popular and extremely successful--politically. It took the form of a religious movement, but in essence it was nationalist. The Church had succeeded in creating a new national consciousness, one which was explicitly Catholic and defined itself largely in oppositional terms--Croats were a separate people from the Serbs; they were Catholic not Orthodox; they were Western, not Balkan or Eastern. A similar religio-nationalist movement was taking shape at the same time in the Serbian Church, leading to what Perica terms a "war of the churches."

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