Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point
On Air
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Saturday, October 3, 1998 Published at 20:15 GMT 21:15 UK


World: Europe

Stepinac: Hero or collaborator?

A massive painting of Cardinal Stepinac watches the Pope pray

Supporters say he was a hero who spoke out against Croatia's fascist leaders in World War II and refused to bow to Communism after the war.


[ image: Cardinal Stepinac's embalmed body]
Cardinal Stepinac's embalmed body
Detractors say he failed to stop crimes by the Nazi-backed Croatian regime, such as the deportation of Jews and forced conversion of Serbs.

History records that, in 1941, while Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac supported Croatia's Nazi-backed government.

But by the following year he was making speeches against the regime's genocidal policies, which led to the deaths of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and Croat opponents.

At one mass in 1942 he said: "All nations and races are from the God and they all have a right to live.

"That is why the Croatian church has always condemned injustice and violence committed in the name of class, racist or ethnic theories."

Critics say his condemnation was not public enough or strong enough.

Jail under Communism

In 1946 Cardinal Stepinac fell foul of the Communist rulers of the new Yugoslavia, of which Croatia was a part.

In a trial that Catholics maintain was a farce, he was convicted of collaborating with the Nazis.

He was still under house arrest 14 years later when, aged 62, he died. Mystery continues to surround his death with many Croatian Catholics believing he was murdered.

Tales of murder

In 1993, an autopsy ordered by a special Church commission showed the cardinal suffered from thrombosis, a potentially fatal clotting of the blood.

But the Croatian Catholic press reported that toxic levels of cadmium, chromium, lead and arsenic were also found in the bones. It also said the cardinal's internal organs were removed and destroyed by the Yugoslav secret service.

It was only in 1991, when Croatia broke away from Yugoslavia, that the rehabilitation of Cardinal Stepinac began.

The country's new rulers hailed him a national hero, although many Serbs still consider him a war criminal.

Now the Cardinal, who was born in Krasic, Croatia, the fifth of eight children, is just one step away from sainthood.



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©




Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia



Relevant Stories

03 Oct 98 | Europe
Controversial cardinal beatified

03 Oct 98 | Europe
The Pope's provocative choices

19 Jun 98 | Europe
The most mobile Pope in history





Internet Links


The Pope's Crotian tour: Cardinal Stepinac

The Holy See

Croatian Institute for Culture and Information


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Violence greets Clinton visit

Russian forces pound Grozny

EU fraud: a billion dollar bill

Next steps for peace

Cardinal may face loan-shark charges

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

Trans-Turkish pipeline deal signed

French party seeks new leader

Jube tube debut

Athens riots for Clinton visit

UN envoy discusses Chechnya in Moscow

Solana new Western European Union chief

Moldova's PM-designate withdraws

Chechen government welcomes summit

In pictures: Clinton's violent welcome

Georgia protests over Russian 'attack'

UN chief: No Chechen 'catastrophe'

New arms control treaty for Europe

From Business
Mannesmann fights back

EU fraud -- a billion-dollar bill

New moves in Spain's terror scandal

EU allows labelling of British beef

UN seeks more security in Chechnya

Athens riots for Clinton visit

Russia's media war over Chechnya

Homeless suffer as quake toll rises

Analysis: East-West relations must shift