Sunday, August 17, 2008

Croatia President to Report Bishop to Vatican

Croatia’s President, Stjepan Mesic, has said he may report a Catholic bishop to the Holy See for interfering with politics.

Local media said Mesic’s reaction came after Bishop Jurij Jezerinac was quoted as having cited a song by a controversial singer, Marko Thomson Perkovic, at a June service in Vukovar, eastern Croatia.

The lyrics contain the salute of Croatia's wartime fascist Ustasha movement: "Ready for the Homeland".

Mesic, a sharp critic of any professing nostalgia for the Croatian Nazi puppet state of the 1940s, said he had spoken with the Papal Nuncio, adding he "would probably have to also intervene with the Holy See".

Jezerinac was appointed bishop to the armed forces by the Croatian Defence Ministry following an agreement between Zagreb and the Vatican.

In his defence, the bishop said he was unaware of the identity of the author of the song, White Pigeons. "I saw the unsigned lyrics and liked them, because they speak about the defenders who eagerly safeguarded the Homeland," Jezerinac told the Zagreb daily, Jutarnji List.

Perkovic is a divisive figure in Croatia owing to his flamboyant, hard-line nationalism. Croats wearing Ustasha’s symbols are regularly seen at his concerts, causing sharp public criticism.

In some parts of Croatia, his concerts have been banned.

A June concert in Zagreb ended in a row within the Croatian police, after an officer was suspended for reporting the display of Ustasha symbols at the concert.

Mesic said politics was not allowed in the army and Jezerinac, as army bishop, appeared to be breaking that rule.

"If Jezerinac pursues with attitudes like that, he faces a ban on entering army barracks", Mesic said.

This was the second time Mesic had crossed swords with the bishop.

Before the general election last year, Mesic threatened to seek Jezerinac's removal as army bishop after the latter condemned the Social Democratic Party’s programme as "satanic".
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