Friday, November 09, 2007

"Balkan Idols" by Vjekoslav Perica [21]


The Politics of Saint-Making

The Croatian Catholic Church never gave up on the campaign to legitimize and elevate Cardinal Stepinac. This section details various political moves made by members of the hierarchy to reinvent the Cardinal as a hero of the anti-fascist (and anti-Holocaust) cause. The Church attempted to reach out to Jews by simultaneously canonizing Edith Stein, a nun of Jewish descent who died at Auschwitz. However, the request to have Stepinac made a "righteous Gentile" was rejected.

In the meantime, the Serbian Church, in 1998, announced the canonization of new saints in response to the Stepanic campaign; these saints were from the World War II era and represented an effort to counter the Croat myth of Stepanic with a Serb myth of Jasenovac. The Tito-era of Brotherhood and Unity was recast by both churches as a historical aberration.

Religious Organizations and the International Peace Process

This section essentially documents one phenomena--attempts by religious leaders to play peacemakers and act as conciliatory actors in response to western pressure, especially peace activism by western (oftentimes Protestant) religious groups. A great deal of noise was made, and many leading clerics from all three of the main national churches said many of the "right" things. Yet, Perica concludes pessimistically that little came of such dialogue, and little should be expected in the immediate future. These proclamations were long on abstractions and short on concrete proposals. Lots of sweeping calls for "peace in the Balkans" without the specific language needed to promote such a peace.

Perica does note that many individual cleric from all three churches took early, principled stands against nationalist rhetoric and against the war itself; later, many others made sincere efforts towards reconciliation and ecumenical dialogue. However, they generally did so as individuals. The national churches as institutions, and groups within those churches (as well as the leaders of each church) either remained silent at best, or either actively supported nationalist politics or helped encourage fear and intolerance.

Perica concludes this chapter with the gloomy quote (from Sarajevo author Ivan Lovrenovic):

"The 1992-1995 Bosnian war may not have been a religious war. But the next one will be for sure."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In 1998 Pope John Paul II declared Cardinal Stepinac martyr and beatified him. In May 1941 he asked all parishes to welcome Slovenian priests exiled by Hitler's forces. Just a few days later he protested directly to the president of the NDH, Ante Pavelic, against the persecution of Orthodox Serbs. He wrote to all parish priests clarifying the regulations for conversions to the Catholic Church, since he strongly opposed forced or politically motivated conversions. At the end of the month he protested to the Minister of Interior yet again against the racial laws.