Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
(CNS file photo)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A commission of Croatian and Serbian experts studying Blessed Alojzije Stepinac's life said they were unable to reach a conclusion on questions regarding the controversial martyr's history.

Although the work allowed for "a better understanding," the commission said that aspects of the cardinal's life "are still subject to various interpretations."

"In the case of Cardinal Stepinac, the prevalent interpretations given by Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs remain divergent," said a message written by the commission and released by the Vatican July 13.

While Cardinal Stepinac remains a national hero for Croats, he is still considered a highly controversial figure for Serbian Orthodox and some Jewish groups, who have accused him of being a Nazi sympathizer.

The commission, which held its sixth and final meeting July 12-13, is made up of representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church in Croatia and the Vatican. It was created at the request of Pope Francis.

Before World War II, Blessed Stepinac was noted for helping Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. Though he welcomed the independent, pro-Nazi Croatian state declared in 1941, he later protested the puppet regime's genocidal policies and atrocities committed against Serbs, Jews and Gypsies.

But when communist partisans came to power in 1945, they accused the cardinal of attacking communism, and he was convicted of collaborating with the Nazis. He died under house arrest in 1960 from an illness he contracted in prison.

Blessed Stepinac was beatified as a martyr by St. John Paul II in 1998.

Croats see him as a symbol of the church's resistance to communist oppression, but others sharply criticize his early support of Croatia's pro-Nazi government.

Despite differences of opinion on Cardinal Stepinac's life, the commission members said they were aware that the final decision on his canonization is of "the exclusive competence of the pope" and that "each church has its own criteria to proceed with canonization."

However, they also agreed that the study helped to "illustrate the life and ministry of an important Catholic pastor during a particularly troubling period of history."

"The study of Cardinal Stepinac's life has taught that, throughout history, all churches cruelly suffered different persecutions and have their martyrs and confessors of the faith," the commission said.

"In this regard, the members of the commission agreed on the possibility of a future collaboration in a common work to share the memory of martyrs and confessors of both churches."

More: Saints
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

The latest from america

In a 50-year career as a columnist, Mary McGrory wrote some of the most prescient political journalism around—including for America.
James T. KeaneNovember 29, 2022
Your gift today - of any size - will help America continue to tell the stories and ask the questions that matter most. Donate today to join us in transformation.
America StaffNovember 29, 2022
Pope Francis, dressed in white with a chain around his neck, speaks into a microphone
The Kremlin's ambassador to the Holy See, Alexander Avdeev, told the RIA Novosti agency that he met Monday with a Vatican official to express his “indignation” about Francis’ comments.
As many restrictions put in place for the COVID-19 pandemic have been lifted, some Catholic dioceses around the country are returning to offering consecrated wine in the chalice for Communion.