Date: Sat, 3 Oct 1998 19:45:52 EDT
Subject: [Atheist] re: AANEWS for October 3, 1998
Pope John Paul II has once again angered critics in what may be the most controversial move of his papacy—the beatification of the Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac at a huge open air service in Croatia. That step, the final stage in the process of elevating a person to full sainthood, is causing embarrassment for the Vatican, and reopening questions about the Holy See's role in World War II, and its involvement with the fascist Catholic State of Croatia during the Hitler era.
John Paul's move came after appeals from Jewish groups, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to wait until a more exhaustive study has been made into Cardinal Stepinac's role during the war. As the Archbishop of Zagreb, Stepinac was closely associated with the fascist Ustashe regime of Ante Pavelic, who worked hand-in-hand with the Nazis in eliminating Jews and other “unwanted” minorities. Pavelic was also behind the death camp operations which melted down gold from jewelry and teeth of victims and transported the loot to Berlin and Rome. As the war ended, Pavelic escaped to Argentina thanks to the Vatican's infamous “Ratline” operation which assisted tens of thousands of former Nazis and sympathizers in obtaining money, contacts and false identification. The head of the former Catholic State of Croatia made his way to South America dressed as a priest, and using a Red Cross passport probably provided by the Vatican.
Despite Stepinac's collusion with the Nazis and Ustashe dictatorship, the Vatican has tried to “rehabilitate” the late Cardinal's image casting him as a foe of the communists. Stepinac was arrested in 1946 and found guilty of collaboration; he died under house arrest in 1960 following a five year prison term. In Rome, the papacy has charged the post-WW II government of Yugoslavia with punishing Stepinac out of “hatred towards religion.” But that rewriting of history requires ignoring numerous facts Archbishop Stepinac, and the era he helped to define. Writing in “The Vatican's Holocaust,” Avro Manhattan exposed the Stepanic-Pavelic collusion, noting:
Stepanic was a steady, zealous and efficient partner of Pavelic's Dictatorship. He supported the Ustashi (sic) government from the beginning until the end. Indeed, even after Ustashi Croatia collapsed following the disintegration of Nazi Germany, Stepanic was not only the Head of the Council of Croatian Bishops and of the Committee which carried out a policy of forcible conversions, he was none other than the Supreme Military Apostolic Vicar of the Ustashi Army.
“When Ustashi Croatia fell in 1945 as the result of the defeat of Nazi Germany and Pavelic had to run for his life, Archbishop Stepinac, in a vain effort to save the Regime, succeeded him as Head of Ustashi Croatia… Stepinac ordered special ceremonies in all the Catholic churches on Pavelic's birthday, and he frequently invoked the blessing of God upon the Ustashi…”
But John Paul may have more mundane reasons for angering so many groups who still remember the collusion of the Vatican, and especially the Catholic apparatus in Croatia, with the nazis. As part of his trip, John Paul will also be finalizing an accord whereby Croatia agrees to compensate the Holy See for property confiscated after the war. Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper notes that along with the warming relations between Zagreb and Rome, the Ustashe movement is also undergoing a “rehabilitation.”