Croatia, The Catholic Church in
CROATIA, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
The Republic of Croatia is located in southeastern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula, and is bordered on the north by Slovenia and Hungary, on the east by Serbia, on the southeast by Bosnia and Herzegovina, and on the southwest by the Adriatic Sea. The southern region is alpine, falling to level, fertile plains in the north. Natural resources include petroleum and natural gas reserves, bauxite, iron ore and calcium, while agricultural products consist mainly of grain, sugar beets, potatoes and grapes, the last of which are cultivated on the islands off the western coast.
A wealthy, industrialized constituent republic of the former Yugoslavia, Croatia comprises Croatia proper, Slavonia, Dalmatia and Istria. Gaining independence in 1991, the region quickly became involved in ethnic warfare, both on its own soil and in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina. By 1995 a peace had been reached in both nations, leaving Croatia to resolve its remaining land disputes by 1998. Communist mismanagement of the Croatian economy, as well as damage caused by years of fighting, were among the issues confronting the country's newly elected government in 2000, as Croatia attempted to privatize its industrial base and reform its banking system. Ethnic Croats, who lived in Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as in Srijem (Syrmia) and Voivodina, remained overwhelmingly Catholics at the start of the 21st century; their faith distinguished them from the Serbs, who were Orthodox.
Early History. The Croats, who were believed to be migrants from Ukraine, settled in Pannonia, Istria and Dalmatia c. 600. In 615 they destroyed Salona (now Solin), capital of Byzantine Dalmatia, but were unable to seize the fortified cities on the Adriatic, in which the Roman population had taken refuge, until much later. When the Croats migrated into this territory, which had long been Christian, they came into contact with Catholicism. In 641 Pope John IV sent legates to Croatia to ransom Christian captives held by the Croats and to obtain for Rome relics of the Christian martyrs. So rapidly did Christianity penetrate the region that by 679 a treaty with Pope St. Agatho declared that the Croats would not undertake an aggressive war against Roman forces, signaling their orientation to the Western, rather than Eastern Orthodox, Church. Pope John X in 925 called them specialissimi filii Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae. Pope Gregory VII further accentuated this Western and Catholic tendency of the Croats by sending in 1076 a royal crown to Zvonimir, Rex Croatiae Dalmatiaeque.
When the 812 treaty of Aachen returned the cities along the Dalmatian coast to Byzantine rule, attempts were made to convert the nearby Croats to Byzantine policy and to the schism of photius. The Croats, however, refused to submit to the jurisdiction of pro-Byzantine Dalmatian bishops and in 864 established in Nin (Nona) their own bishopric, immediately subject to the Holy See until 928, when changed circumstances caused it to be abolished.
St. Methodius, the apostle of the Slavs, obtained from John VIII the bull Industriae Tuae (880), which approved, as had Adrian II, the Roman-Slavonic or Glagolitic, liturgy. On his way from Rome Methodius probably passed through Croatia and effected the adoption of this liturgy in the See of Nin. Soon it spread over all the Croatian lands near the Adriatic, and for centuries was distinctive in Croatian Catholicism. Because of this liturgy, understood by the people, Protestantism had slight success among the Croats, who clung to their traditional faith. Such was not the case in Dalmatia, where, under Venetian, Austrian and Italian domination, the Glagolitic liturgy continually waned. After 1918 it started to spread, and eventually was incorporated into a number of Dalmatian dioceses.
Hungary extended its sovereignty over Pannonian Croatia in 1093, and Hungary and the Croatian Kingdom of Dalmatia were joined in dynastic union by the pacta conventa of 1102. In 1094 St. Ladislaus founded the Diocese of Zagreb, which became an archdiocese and metropolitan see in 1852. Croatia was largely instrumental in saving the Church in the West by its heroic resistance against the Tatars in 1242, and later against centuries of Turkish incursions. For this they earned the title scutum solidissimum et antemurale christianitatis from Pope Leo X in 1519.
That part of Croatia not seized by the Turks suffered national and religious erosion because of an influx of Orthodox Serb refugees who entered Croatia in search of refuge from the Ottomans. The bishops of Zagreb labored zealously among these Serbs, with little success. The Church suffered further erosion during the 16th century as Protestantism spread among the nobility in Zagreb, although the action of Bishop Bratulić (1603–11) and a 1604 decree of banishment enacted by the Croatian Sabor (parliament) saved the Catholic faith in the region. The Orthodox Bishop of Marča, Simeon Vretanja, visited Rome in 1611 and made his profession of the Catholic faith, while a small group of Catholics from the district of Žumberak also joined with Rome, leading to a small Eastern Catholic population in Croatia by the 20th century.
The Illyrian movement initiated by Napoleon Bonaparte during the first years of the 19th century aroused Croatian nationalism, promoted solidarity with other southern Slavs and resulted in short periods of national autonomy, first from Austria during the 1848 revolution and then from Hungary in 1868. The Diocese of Zagreb was made a metropolitan archdiocese in 1852, and its first two archbishops became cardinals. The Society of St. Jerome was established in Zagreb during this period.
The Formation of Yugoslavia. In 1918 Croatia again asserted its political independence, joining Slovenia and Serbia in forming the kingdom that after 1929 became known as Yugoslavia (South Slavia). Although the constitution of this new nation guaranteed religious equality, Serbs who aligned state interests with those of the Serbian Orthodox Church controlled the government. In 1922 the Yugoslavian government began negotiations with the Holy See for a concordat. They reached agreement in 1935, but the Yugoslavian parliament heeded the opposition of the Orthodox Church and refused ratification. This concordat would have regularized the Catholic Church's organization so that diocesan and state borders would correspond. Belgrade was to be the metropolitan see for Serbia; Ljubljana for Slovenia; and Split for Dalmatia. The Roman-Slavonic liturgy was to prevail in all parts of Yugoslavia where Catholics so desired.
Dissatisfied with the government's preference for one church over another, Croatian Catholics began to support the idea of an independent Croatian state. During World War II Germany invaded the country and caused it to be divided, whereupon Croatia proclaimed its independence. Led by fascist Ante Paveliĉ, this new state aided the Catholic Church by promoting religious instruction in schools, although it also injured the Church morally by involving it in the forced conversion of Orthodox Serbians over the objection of Church leaders.
Paveliĉ's brutal regime ended in 1945, when Communists seized power and in a constitution dated Nov. 30, 1946, established the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, comprised of six federal republics: Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia (with the two autonomous territories of Voivodina and Kosovo-Metohia), Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia. Although religious freedom was guaranteed under the constitution, under the leadership of communist Marshall Josip Broz Tito the state did its best to break Church power in Croatia, condemning Zagreb Archbishop Alojzije stepinac (d. 1960) to 16 years imprisonment in 1946 for refusing to set up a puppet Croatian Catholic Church that would be controlled by
Tito. Catholic schools closed, their buildings confiscated, while all religious instruction in state schools ceased.
A clash of ideology between Tito and the Soviet Union that started in 1948 forced Yugoslavia to court Western powers and caused a lessening of religious persecution. By the mid-1950s the state's policy toward the Church had been liberalized to the point where the Holy See could appoint new bishops and Stepinac was released from prison; in 1962 bishops from Croatia were in attendance at Vatican Council II.
A nationalist movement begun in 1966 played on Croatian fears of Serbian dominance and sought political reforms that would substantially increase Croatian autonomy. However, this movement threatened the unity of the Yugoslav federation, prompting the eradication of nationalist elements from the Croatian party by 1972. Still, nationalist sentiments remained and, following Tito's death in 1980, became more openly expressed as the Yugoslav economy faltered and inflation took its toll. In 1988 Croats refused to support Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's manipulation of politics in Vojvodina and the Serbian enclave of Knin, where Serbian minority populations were agitating for the creation of self-governing provinces within the country.
In 1989 Croatia legalized opposition parties and established multiparty elections, while a new constitution was drafted in December of 1990 that provided for freedom of religion. On June 25, 1991 Franjo Tudjman won the election to form the first postwar noncommunist government in Yugoslavia. Scattered fighting followed, as Croats and Serbs fought in the region, bombing the city of Dubrovnik in 1992. In the region of Krajina, which declared itself a Serbian enclave, heavy fighting continued and the 1994 Croat offensive that led to the ultimate Serbian withdrawal from the area was marked by extreme violence that forced 150,000 ethnic Serbs from their Croatian homes. Following the peace of 1995, when Croatian bishops addressed the animosity between Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs and encouraged a resolution to the country's history of ethnic violence, they were criticized for overlooking Croat abuses in Krajina. Other issues confronting both the Church and the Croatian government into the 21st century included aiding returning Serbian refugees, making restitution for Church lands
confiscated by the communist government of Yugoslavia, dealing with accusations of war crimes, strengthening the economy and putting an end to further ethnic discrimination. In 1996 the Vatican made a pact with the Croatian government to reaffirm the Church's rights to teach, worship and engage in the sacrament of marriage; a further accord two years later provided for "reparations for the injustices to the Catholic Church caused in the past by the confiscation of ecclesiastical properties."
By 2000 Croatia had 1,521 parishes tended by 1,440 diocesan and 800 religious priests, while approximately 90 brothers and 3,600 sisters worked in the region. The Church ran primary and secondary schools, as well as hospitals and other humanitarian institutions. In addition, the Church operated the nation's sole privately owned radio station, Radio Marija. Unlike members of other faiths, beginning in 1991 all Catholic religious received pensions from the government, although by 2000, under Zagreb Archbishop Josip Bozanic, the Church became increasingly independent of such favoritism. In October of 1998, during a visit to Croatia, Pope John Paul II beatified Cardinal Stepinac, although Serbs who believed the Cardinal to have been a Nazi sympathizer during World War II criticized this move. In addition to a Roman Catholic population, Croatia retained a small community of Old Catholics.
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