The Serbian Orthodox Church in Bosnia said on Monday that the “doors for cooperation and any kind of relationship” with Bosnia’s Catholic Church are “permanently closed” because of the announced mass in Sarajevo commemorating Nazi supporters killed in Bleiburg in 1945.
The Metropolitan of the Dabar and Bosnia, Hrizostom Rajko Jevic, told the Srna news agency he feels “betrayed” and that the decision to hold the mass is worrying.
“We hoped that we could begin the path of togetherness. But how can we go together? I would go to Stari Brod at the Drina river to cry and mourn the victims of (Jure) Francetic, while the Cardinal is bringing Bleiburg to Sarajevo. Well, that doesn’t go together!” he said.
Amid a Yugoslav army offensive aimed at defeating pro-Nazi and anti-communist forces, tens of thousands of mostly pro-fascist Croat soldiers and their families fled in 1945 to Austria to seek help from the British army, only to be turned back by the Brits right into the hands of anti-fascists.
In and around the Austrian town of Bleiburg, thousands of the so-called Ustashas were killed.
The Yugoslav forces saw the slaughter they committed as punishment for the tens of thousands of Jews, Serbs, Roma and anti-fascists killed by the Ustasha during WWII.
After the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Croatia began commemorating the Bleiburg victims with a large gathering near the Austrian town every year.
Croatian nationalists perceive the controversial annual event as a symbol of their suffering under communism.
Austrians, however, see it as a glorification of Nazism and have banned Ustasha flags and insignia at the gathering.
The Catholic Church in Carinthia rejected last year a request from Croatia’s Bishops’ Conference to hold a Mass during the event, labelling it as a promotion of nationalist ideas.
The event in Bleiburg was cancelled this year due to the pandemic and the organisers of the event, the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon, said it will be held in different cities instead, among them in Sarajevo.
The program will include a mass at the city’s Sacred Heart Cathedral on May 16, delivered by Bosnia’s Catholic Archbishop, Vinko Puljic.
Hristozom pointed out that there was no mass organised for Easter due to the coronavirus pandemic but that the Church decided that it should take place for Bleiburg.
“Distorted values! Can this be possible in a Church?” he asked.
He also asked why someone would want to organise the Bleiburg commemoration in Sarajevo.
“For good? No! We’re afraid it’s for evil!” he said.