St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna..
(photo credit: BWAG/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
The Catholic Church in Carinthia, Austria rejected a request to hold an annual mass because they said it would be used to promote nationalistic ideas on Friday, according to Balkan Insight, a network of NGOs promoting free speech and justice in Eastern and Southern Europe.
The mass "has become part of a manifestation that is politically instrumentalized and is part of a political-nationalistic ritual that serves a selective experience and interpretation of history,” Engelbert Guggenberger, the interim administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gurk, said in a letter explaining the decision.
According to the report, the Catholic Church believed that the event would undermine their reputation.
Symbols from the WWII fascist group Ustaša are often spotted at the mass, organized by the Croatian Bishops’ Conference. The mass commemorates tens of thousands of Nazi-allied Croatian troops and civilians who were killed in 1945 by Yugoslav Partisans.
Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković was deeply upset by the Croatian group's inability to memorialize the dead.
"Not allowing the possibility to pray for the victims of that great tragedy of the Croat people means disrespect for the victims and lack of sensitivity for the suffering of the innocent," Jandroković said according to Total Croatia News, a English daily news site concerning Croatia.
“As every year, the Croatian bishops’ conference has to ask for permission to hold worship at Bleiburg. Unlike the previous years the current interim bishop Guggenberger… did not allow the worship to happen,” Austrian anti-nationalist organization AK Pliberk/Bleiburg told Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in a tweet after the event was rejected.
Austrian police arrested seven participants in the 2018 event at Loibacher field near Bleiburg. There were also nine complaints filed claiming the event transgressed the country’s law against applauding fascism, according to the report.
The Croatian parliament started to sponsor the event again in 2016, after it had previously withdrawn its support for the event in 2012, for fear of restoring Ustaša ideology in the country.
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