The first article is Sara Milosevic’s Global Post article “Why Pope Francis isn’t welcome in Serbia”, which connects the lack of a papal visit to Serbia to continuing Serbian resentment over the massacres committed by Catholic Croats of Serbs during the Second World War, and what Serbia and its national church see as a lack of specific repentance.
Balkan history considers Roman Catholic clergy responsible for the death of 700,000 Serbs, Jews and Roma killed in the concentration camp Jasenovac, given the church’s close relationship with the Nazi-affiliated Independent State of Croatia, as well as the forcible conversions of 240,000 Serbian Orthodox to Roman Catholicism.
”An apology would be a gesture that instills hope that something like that will never happen again,” said Patriarch Irinej, the current leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
On the Catholic side, Monsignor Stanislav Hocevar, the archbishop of Belgrade, cannot understand why Serbia insists on a special papal apology, citing John Paul II’s apology in 2000 “ for the sins of Catholics throughout the ages for violating the rights of ethnic groups and peoples.”
During his visit to Bosnia and Croatia in 2003, the pope also apologized for the crimes of Catholic Croats. He held a Mass at the Petrićevac Monastery in Banja Luka, a place where the Croatian Ustase massacred over 2,500 Serbs in February 1941.
However, Serbian Orthodox Metropolitan Jovan of Zagreb strictly demanded that the Pope Francis pay a tribute to the victims of Jasenovac before he visit Serbia, like Pope Benedict did during his visit to Poland where he paid a tribute to Jewish victims.
The second, Vesa Peric Zimonjic’s Inter Press Service article “At Political Rally, Serbian Church Crosses Sensitive Line” recounts how the Serbian Orthodox Church, which became enormously strong after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, is coming into conflict over its sustained nationalism.
The influential Serbian Orthodox Church publicly crossed a line recently when two of its top clergymen took part in a Belgrade rally with messages amounting to direct threats against the lives of government officials.
The rally [. . .] was organised by opponents of Serbia’s recent and historic agreement with Kosovo that essentially ceded authority over Kosovo’s Serb population to Pristina.
“We pray for the dead souls of government and parliament, and may all their sins be forgiven,” Archbishop Amfilohije told some 3,000 ultra nationalists who gathered at the central Republic Square.
Amfilohije’s words were followed by a warning from Bishop Atanasije to current Prime Minister Ivica Dacic. “The prime minister speaks about real politics only,” the bishop said. “That is how Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic [assassinated in 2003] used to speak, and we all know how he ended.”
[. . .]
“Nothing can justify the scandalous behaviour of two bishops at the rally,” religion analyst and author Mirko Djordjevic told IPS. “Speeches by two SPC [Serbian Orthodox Church] primates are unprecedented and will certainly bear influence on future relations between the government and the church.”
“It’s high time the SPC stopped meddling into affairs of state,” commented leading Belgrade daily Blic. “The reputation of this institution has now been burnt to the ground, and its hate speech should be sanctioned.”