|Priests of the Zagreb Archdiocese Visit Jasenovac|
After visiting Stara Gradi┼íka, today, September 24, priests from the Zagreb Archdiocese paid a visit to Jasenovac. In the parish church on the occasion of the prayer of the Sixth Hour, Archbishop Cardinal Josip Bozani─ç said during the homily that in Jasenovac a person open to the truth feels deep pain caused by violence, injustice and inhumanity. Here, in the words of the cardinal, much that is unspeakable is etched deeply into the soul, leaving serious questions unanswered and many poisoned with hatred.
Although with the passage of years there are fewer people who can testify about their experiences and the horrors of the Second World War, the cardinal emphasized how important it is, with their assistance and testimony, for new generations to get to the truth and acquire an appropriate understanding of these events... read more
"New generations, especially children and young people, removed in time from the actual events, have the opportunity to illuminate the truth through their efforts. The truth is the only thing that can free us from the open and hidden conflicts stemming from its manipulation. As the Church, we wholeheartedly support the investigation of all the aspects of the events prior to, during and after World War II, which should be conducted as soon as possible using all truthful means. Although much time has passed, during which there were a multitude of opportunities, such effort today is not only not in vain but is also greatly needed. Efforts should be made concerning the availability of all the relevant documents and testimonies, the opening of the archives relevant to understanding the overall context, and the application of a valid scientific method permeated with a desire for the truth and commitment to the good," said the cardinal.
He commented that when God as well as morality based upon the common good and the good of others are removed from the personal and public environment, it is a short path to the craving for authority over others, enslavement and the extermination of groups of people, even entire nations. It is not possible to build the happiness of individuals or nations on the foundations of racial or class ideology, on the foundations of discrimination against someone's ancestry or religion, or on the foundations of godlessness that does not accept the truth that all people are God's creatures, of equal dignity, said the cardinal.
"In Jasenovac, we feel deep pain for all the victims, particularly those who suffered and were killed here by members of the Croatian nation, and even greater pain when the perpetrators were members of the Catholic Church. Although we acknowledge the sin of those who are unworthy to bear the name of Catholic, the Catholic Church never participated in or supported such crimes. Moreover, although some want the Church to attribute failure to 'omission,' there are many indications that representatives of the Church and its members provided various forms of opposition to the inhumane ideology directed against others, especially against members of the Jewish and Serbian nations, Romes and political dissenters among the Croatian nation during that difficult period," emphasized the cardinal, adding that the names of the victims, their lives and personal journeys through the darkness of the Jasenovac concentration camp obligate us to seek the truth.
This place, as well as hundreds of other execution sites in Croatia, requires the truth, to which nothing is added or omitted, the truth that will not be suppressed by new ideologies or promote new levels of humiliation and crime, said the cardinal.
The cardinal stated that the precious models of courageous witnesses, among whom, undoubtedly, the most exemplary is the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, must not be forgotten. The truth about the Blessed Stepinac has been suppressed, distorted, covered by a cloak of lies and has yet to penetrate the hearts and minds of new generations. "The victims of the Jasenovac camp cry out for the truth. They also cry out for the truth about our Beatus. The victims of the Jasenovac camp will be honored when they are approached with honor, as evident in concern for the truthful and complete listing of all the victims ÔÇô to the extent that they are not instrumentalized for anyone's political errors or manipulations.
We are well aware of the extent to which the victims of the Jasenovac camp were instrumentalized for the purpose of stigmatizing the Croatian nation as a genocidal nation and the Croatian state as an undesirable entity. We know that such abuses were even used to justify many killings and crimes that have still not been called by their real names, not only immediately following the Second World War but also throughout the period of the communist regime, as well as in the preparation and carrying out of the aggression and violence in Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina during the 1980s and 1990s," said the cardinal.
Archbishop Bozani─ç emphasized in his homily that a well-intentioned person simply cannot understand, much less accept, that the victims of Bleiburg and the death marches were consequences of what the Ustasha regime did in Jasenovac. "Petrified with amazement, we listened to the excuses voiced by tyrants during the Homeland War (1991-1995), who killed so many, destroyed so many families and homes, inflicted such unspeakable pain and expelled innocent people from their homes, that they were acting preventively in order that the atrocities in the Ustasha camp in Jasenovac would not be repeated. It is even more incomprehensible that today, from political stages, with no repercussions for lying in public, it is propagated that the Catholic Church is an Ustasha stronghold," said the cardinal.
He further emphasized that the site of the Jasenovac camp is a school where it is learned to what extent humans can be inhumane. Evil is not abstract. It is always concrete. It occurs in a specific place and is perpetrated by specific people. Here, one cannot remain indifferent to the suffering of the victims of this camp. Here, profoundly sympathizing with innocent victims, there is a sense of suffering that gives a person the right to cry out in prayer: God, deliver us from evil, said the cardinal.
"While we pray here with Christian piety, remembering the victims of the Ustasha regime, from this place we also raise our cry for the truth about the victims of the communist regime because, unfortunately, it is still being concealed and negated in our country, as is the truth about the crimes of communism committed during the war, the postwar period and throughout its reign of terror. Why, even after nineteen years of democratic changes, are there still no list of the victims of communism, no due commemorations and no suitable memorials? Who is preventing this, who opposes it? Why has the European Parliamentary Resolution on European Conscience and Totalitarianism, dated April 2 of this year, in which it is clearly explained that reconciliation is the ultimate goal of the disclosure and assessment of the crimes committed by the communist totalitarian regimes, not been implemented until now in our country?" asked the cardinal, adding that precisely such a place cries out for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation, but also for remembrance.
"Nazism, fascism and communism are part of Croatian history because the Croatian population was also afflicted by the tragedy of the twentieth century that, in the words of the Servant of God John Paul II, was marked by three great evils: fascism, Nazism and communism. To justify a totalitarianism, i.e., to cover up and remain silent about the injustice that it inflicted, means to induce permanent unrest in society and the public because a historical lie is a crime. Questions regarding the Second World War and the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century will continue to generate unrest and hostility in our society as long as we do not apply the same measure toward all totalitarian regimes and until the same measure of remembrance is guaranteed to all the victims," clarified the cardinal.
The cardinal stated that the priests had gone humbly to Jasenovac because they feel that the time has come, in a manner that does not violate the truth, to approach speaking about this place filled with pain, desiring only to pray over it. "We did not come here for debate or polemics. Although some continue to seek apologies, justifications, opinions or political views from us, we did not come here to convey them, because precisely such statements, based upon untruth, have frequently contaminated the truth. Nonetheless, it can be said that the Church has always manifested its freedom from political and other godless motives that led the minds of those who gave the orders and the hands of the executioners in all dictatorships, i.e., those who created the Bolshevik gulags, Nazi and fascist concentration camps, and the communist prisons. The Church has done so and will do so, although it has paid dearly with the lives of its faithful and leaders, and although it has been slandered without foundation.
When ideologues from various sides instructed the Catholic Church regarding what it should do in relation to the Memorial Area of Jasenovac, they forgot that the Church is the bearer of truth, regardless of the sinfulness of its faithful, sinfulness for which we repent every day, attempting to be better followers of Jesus Christ. The Church cannot and must not be a part of the political violence perpetrated against the victims. With this pilgrimage, we are first opening ourselves to God and then imbuing suffering with hope through prayer," explained the cardinal.
Following the prayer of the Sixth Hour, the priests toured the Memorial Area of the Jasenovac concentration camp. During the visit to the Jasenovac Memorial Area, the bishops and priests became acquainted with the concept of the museum exhibition, the manner in which the victims of the former concentration camp are listed, and the use of the database of the victims. The cardinal noted that listing the names of the victims gave them the dignity of victims.
After a visit to the Memorial Area of the Jasenovac concentration camp the archbishop of Zagreb wrote the following in the book of impressions: "In prayer for the victims and for the gift of God's Spirit that purifies the truth, heals through love and instills hope through justice and mercy, I have visited this memorial area, leading a pilgrimage of priests from the Archdiocese of Zagreb to Stara Gradi┼íka, Jasenovac and Petrinja."
Human suffering and Christ's victory over sin and death oblige us to live in the light of the Lord's resurrection and grow in love that transforms, in order for a safe and peaceful life to flourish everywhere, wrote the cardinal further.
At the end of the visit, Archbishop Bozani─ç said a prayer of absolution for the victims of the camp, inviting those present to pray for peace, justice and love, and particularly for those who promote the truth about the former Jasenovac concentration camp.
In a press statement, Nata┼ía Jovi─Źi─ç, the director of the Jasenovac Memorial Area, referred to the visit by the archbishop, bishops and priests of Zagreb as the crown of all the visits thus far made by representatives of the Catholic Church to this camp. As a memento, she gave the cardinal a book with a list of 72 thousand names of the victims of the camp, which is constantly being updated. (ika) /third station: Petrinja/ /back to first station: Stara Gradi┼íka/