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Canonization of Aloysius Stepinac is a popular topic in the region by which the Roman Catholic Church both in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina wants to relativize the role of Stepinac and the Catholic Church in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), historian Aleksandar Rakovic told Srna.
“Should they succeed in giving Stepinac the status of a saint, that would mean that the committed crimes are relativized somehow and that the stigma that was rightly ascribed over the crimes committed against the Serbs, Jews and Roma during the Second World War would be removed,” said Rakovic.
That would also relativize the crimes and wrongdoings of other priests from the Roman Catholic Church in the then NDH, he said.
“If the Croats and those advocating the idea of canonizing Stepinac succeed, we may expect to see some new steps in the future that would further relativize what happened in the NDH,” said the historian of the Institute for Recent History of Serbia.
He recalled that certain Croatian politicians today “comfortably” interpreted the role of the NDH in the Serb pogrom and relativized what happened during the Second World War.
On the other hand, Rakovic recalled that the Franco-German TV channel Arte recently aired a film which claims that “Croatia is a quagmire of fascism in Europe today.”
Fortunately, attempts at canonizing Stepinac will not pass muster for now, and the decision to canonize Stepinac will not be signed as long as Pope Francis heads the Roman Catholic Church, added Rakovic.
“If Stepinec is ever canonized and declared a saint, that will disrupt and considerably damage the relations between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church,” asserted Rakovic.
He recalled that Stepinac’s role in the Ustasha regime had been proved, that the court of the People’s Republic of Croatia had tried him, that he had been convicted of converting the Serbs to Catholicism and found a war criminal, but that Stepinec had known that the “communists will not cut my head off because the political circumstances do not allow it.”
Commenting on the public debate “Aloysius Stepinac – Old Story, New Details,” which took place at the School of Law in Belgrade on Tuesday, Rakovic told Srna that the goal of the debate was to show how pointless and insane the initiative to canonize the man was, and that “opinions of experts from various scientific fields who speak of the whole matter with one voice should be acknowledged.”
“The fact that the Jews and Serbs do not want to take part together with Croatian authorities in the Jasenovac commemoration shows you the extent to which the relations in the region both about Stepinac and about Jasenovac have deteriorated,” emphasised Rakovic.
It is all part of one package, he said, because the Croatian side wants to impose the revision of history and clear its name, and impose a new view of the crimes committed against hundreds and hundreds of thousands of the Serbs, Jews, Roma and antifascists during the NDH’s existence.