Aloysius Stepinac

Aloysius Stepinac

Infobox Saint
name = Alojzije Stepinac
birth_date = May 8 1898
death_date = February 10 1960
feast_day = February 10
venerated_in = Roman Catholic Church

imagesize = 220 px
caption = Blessed Aloysius Stepinac
birth_place = Krašić
death_place = Krašić
beatified_date = October 3, 1998
beatified_place = Marija Bistrica
beatified_by = John-Paul II
canonized_date =
canonized_place =
canonized_by =
attributes =
patronage =
major_shrine = Zagreb Cathedral
suppressed_date =
issues =

Blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Viktor Cardinal Stepinac (May 8, 1898ndash February 10, 1960) was a Croatian Catholic Prelate. He was Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 to 1960. In 1946, in a verdict that polarised public opinion both in Yugoslavia and beyond, a Belgrade court found him guilty of collaborating with the Ustaše and complicity in allowing the forced conversion of Orthodox Serbs to Catholicism. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison, but after five years was released and confined to his home parish of Krašić. He was appointed a Cardinal in 1952 by Pope Pius XII. In 1998, Pope John Paul II declared him a martyr and beatified him, which again polarized public opinion.

Early life

Stepinac was born in the village of Brezarić in the parish of Krašić. He was the fifth of eight children in his peasant family. In 1909 he moved to Zagreb to study in the Classical Gymnasium and graduated in 1916. Just before his eighteenth birthday he was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian Army. He was attached to the 96th Karlovac Infantry Regiment before going to Rijeka for six months training. [ Biography of Aloysius Stepinac] ] He was then sent to serve on the Italian Front during World War I. In 1918 he suffered a leg wound and was captured by the Italians who held him for five months. After the formation of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, he was no longer treated as an enemy soldier, and he instead volunteered for Yugoslav legion that went to Thessaloniki. A few months later, he was demobilized and returned home in the spring of 1919.

For service in the Allied army during WWI, he was awarded the Order of the Star of Karađorđe, an award for heroism in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.Fact|date=October 2008 After the war he enrolled at the faculty of agronomy of the University of Zagreb, but left it after only one semester and returned home to help his father. In 1922 Stepinac was part of the Croatian Eagles Association and travelled to Brno, Czechoslovakia for a retreat. [ Aloysius Stepinac and Ivan Merz] ] Stepinac was at the front of the group's ceremonial procession, carrying a Croatian flag. In 1924, he travelled to Rome to study for the priesthood at the Collegium Germanicum et Hungaricum. He was ordained on October 26, 1930. On November 1, he said his first mass at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. In 1931 he became a parish curate in Zagreb. He established the archdiocesan branch of Caritas in 1931.

Coadjutor and Archbishop of Zagreb

He was appointed coadjutor to the see of Zagreb in 1934, after other candidates had been rejected by Pope Pius XI because king Alexander I of Yugoslavia needed to agree with the appointment. Upon his naming, he took "In te, Domine, speravi" (O Lord, in Thee have I trusted) as his motto. [ [ Catholic Scouts: Win over evil with goodness] ] During this period, king Alexander ran a dictatorship in the country. Stepinac was among those who signed the "Zagreb memorandum" demanding from the king the release of Vladko Maček and other Croatian politicians, as well as a general amnesty. [Perić, Ivo. "Vladko Maček. Politički portret". Golden marketing. Zagreb, 2003. (pgs. 174-175)] Stepinac was denied access by Yugoslav authorities to see Maček to thank him for his well-wishes concerning Stepinac's appointment as coadjutor. [Janjatović, Bosiljka. "Politički teror u Hrvatskoj 1918.-1935.". Hrvatski institut za povijest and Dom i svijet. Zagreb, 2002. (pg. 285)]

King Alexander was assassinated in Marseilles in 1934, and Stepinac along with biships Antun Akšamović, Dionizije Njaradi and Gregorij Rožman were given special permission from the Holy See to attend the funeral in an Orthodox church. [ [ The Dictatorship of King Alexander and the Roman Catholic Church 1929-1934] ] Croatian politician Ante Trumbić spoke to Stepinac on several occasions in 1934. On his relation with the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, he recorded that Stepinac has "loyalty to the state as it is, but with the condition that the state acts towards the Catholic Church as it does to all just denominations and that it guarantees them freedom". [Gabelica, Ivan. "Blaženi Alojzije Stepinac i hrvatska država". Zagreb, 2007, pg. 86] On July 30 he received French deputy Robert Schuman, whom he told that, "There is no justice in Yugoslavia. [...] The Catholic Church endures much". [Gabelica, Ivan. "Blaženi Alojzije Stepinac i hrvatska država". Zagreb, 2007, pg. 75] In 1936, he climbed the mountain Triglav in Slovenia, then the tallest peak of Yugoslavia. To date, he is the only prelate to have accomplished such a feat, and in 2006 this climb was commemorated by a memorial chapel being built on the mass on Kredarica, near the summit. In 1937 he led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (then the British Mandate of Palestine). [ [ Stepinac's statue under the cross in Brodarica] , Slobodna Dalmacija] During the pilgrimage he blessed an altar dedicated to the martyr Nikola Tavelić (who was beatified then, but later sainted). [ [ Saint Nikola Tavelić, the first Croatian saint (1340-1391)] ]

On December 7, 1937 archbishop Anton Bauer died, and though still below the prescribed canonical age of 40 Stepinac succeeded him as the archbishop of Zagreb, becoming one of the youngest archbishops in the Church's history. During Lent in 1938 Stepinac told a group of students from the University of Zagreb: "Love towards ones own nation cannot turn a man into a wild animal, which destroys everything and calls for reprisal, but it must ennoble him, so that his own nation secures respect and love for other nations."Tomić, Celestin. " [ Prophetic spirit of Aloysius Stepinac] " (1998)] In 1938, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia held its last election before the outbreak of World War II. Stepinac voted for Vlatko Maček's opposition list, while Radio Belgrade spread the false information that he had voted for Milan Stojadinović's Yugoslav Radical Union.Horvat, Vladimir. " [ Archbishop Alojzije Cardinal Stepinac and totalitarian regimes] "] In the latter half of 1938, Stepinac had an operation for acute appendicitis. [Stella Alexander. "The Triple Myth: A Life of Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac". Columbia University Press. New York, 1987. (pg. 54)] Stepinac spent October 6, 1939 in Ivanić Grad where he dealt confirmation for the local parish. [ [ Archbishop Dr. Aloysius Stepinac and Ivanić-Grad] ] In 1940, he received Prince Paul at St. Mark's Church as the prince arrived in Zagreb to curry support for the Cvetković-Maček Agreement. [Tanner, Marcus. Croatia: A Nation Forged in War. Yale University Press, 2007. (pg. 135)] Under Stepinac, Pope Pius XII declared 1940 as a Jubilee year for Croats to celebrate 1300 years of Christianity among the Croats. [Žutić, Nikola. " [ The Vatican and Croatdom in the first half of the XX century (until 1941)] ".] In 1940, the Franciscan Order celebrated 700 years in Croatia and the order's minister general Leonardo Bello came to Zagreb for the event. During his visit Stepinac joined the Franciscan Third Order, on September 29, 1940. [Stella Alexander. "The Triple Myth: A Life of Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac". Columbia University Press. New York, 1987. (pgs. 26-27)]

World War II

Stepinac was the archbishop of Zagreb during World War II in the Independent State of Croatia (ISC), a puppet state formed by the Axis Powers in part of the territory of Yugoslavia after their occupation of Yugoslavia in April 1941. A movement of extremist Croatian nationalists, the Ustaša governed the state. In the early days of this regime Stepinac, like other influential Croatian leaders (notably Vladko Maček of the Croatian Peasant Party), supported the new state and its regime and welcomed the demise of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. On April 10 each year during the war he celebrated a mass to celebrate proclamation of the Axis statelet. ("Alexander, op.cit.") On April 21 1941 the Catholic newspaper Katolički List, over which Stepinac had full control as president of the bishops' conference, reported that he had welcomed Ustaša leaders in meetings on April 12 and 16. Stella Alexander ("op. cit.") notes that as the Yugoslav army was then still fighting the invaders, this was treason. Moreover it meant Stepinac had breached "apparently in a fit of absentmindedness" an oath of allegiance he had given the king when appointed coadjutor. Although most states around the world, including the Vatican, never recognized the ISC as a sovereign nation, Stepinac publicly exorted his hierarchy to pray for the new entity, and he asked God to fill the Ustaša leader Ante Pavelić with a spirit of wisdom for the benefit of the nation.

On taking power in the puppet state, which included Bosnia and Hercegovina, the Ustaša launched a genocidal onslaught on its ethnic minorities: Jews, Roma and most especially Serbs of the Orthodox Christian church. (Cornwell, pp 254-256). According to the historian Misha Glenny ("The Balkans 1804-1999", Granta Books, London 1999) "the Ustaša turned their territory into one great slaughterhouse." But in his reports to the Vatican Stepinac spoke only favourably about the regime. On March 28 1941 he had made clear his own attitude to the Serbs:

"All in all, Croats and Serbs are of two worlds, north pole and south pole, never will they be able to get together unless by a miracle of God. The schism (Eastern Orthodoxy) is the greatest curse in Europe, almost greater than Protestantism. Here there is no moral, no principles, no truth, no justice, no honesty." (Alexander, "op.cit".)

During this period Stepinac raised no objections to the genocidal activities of the Ustashe that aimed to exterminate Jews, Serbs, and Roma. As is documented in Robert D. Kaplan’s “Balkan Ghosts”, Croatian Catholic priests were also known to go along on raids to Serbian villages in order to baptize the victims prior to them being butchered just so they could go to heaven as members of the “true faith”.Fact|date=October 2008 On May 14, 1941 Stepinac sent a letter of protest to Pavelić upon hearing news of the massacre in Glina, demanding that "on the whole territory of the Independent State of Croatia, that not one Serb is killed if he is not proven guilty for what he has deserved death"." [Krišto, Jure. "Katolička crkva i Nezavisna Država Hrvatska. Dokumenti, Knjiga druga". Zagreb: Hrvatski institut za povijest – Dom i svijet, 1998. (pgs. 39-40)] On Sunday May 24, 1942 to the irritation of Ustaša officials, he used the pulpit and a diocesan letter to condemn genocide in specific terms, though without bringing himself to mention Serbs:

"All men and all races are children of God; all without distinction. Those who are Gypsies, Black, European, or Aryan all have the same rights.... for this reason, the Catholic Church had always condemned, and continues to condemn, all injustice and all violence committed in the name of theories of class, race, or nationality. It is not permissible to persecute Gypsies or Jews because they are thought to be an inferior race." [Apud: Dr. H. Jansen, "Pius XII: chronologie van een onophoudelijk protest", 2003, p. 151
Dr. Hans Jansen is a historian of the Free University of Brussels and the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Brussels.

He also wrote directly to Pavelić, saying on February 24 1943: [ [ Alojzije Viktor Stepinac: 1896-1960] ]

"The very Jasenovac camp is a stain on the honor of the ISC. Poglavnik! To those who look at me as a priest and a bishop I say as Christ did on the cross: Father forgive them for they know not what they do."

Later Stepinac called on government officials to stop the persecution of Jews and others and urged them to distinguish between people implicated in wrongdoings and others who were racially profiled or just held as "hostages". He also sought tolerance for people in mixed marriages and people who converted to Catholicism. Stepinac advised individual priests to admit Orthodox believers to the Catholic Church if their lives were in danger, such that this conversion had no validity, allowing them to return to their faith once the danger passed. [Krešić, Milenko. " [ Bosnia and Herzegovina and Consequences of Exclusivist Ideologies] "] He was also involved directly and indirectly in numerous efforts to save hundreds of Jews, before and during the war. Dr. Amiel Shomrony alias Emil Schwartz was the personal secretary of Miroslav Šalom Freiberger, the chief rabbi in Zagreb, until 1942. In the actions for saving Jews, Shomrony acted as the mediator between the chief rabbi and Stepinac. He later stated that he considered Stepinac truly blessed since he did the most and the best he could for the Jews during the war. [ "Serbian Lobby Prevents the Inclusion of Stepinac in Yad Vashem" (article in Croatian), Večernji list, June 5, 2005] ] Reportedly the Ustaša government at this point agitated at the Holy See for him to be removed from the position of archbishop of Zagreb, this however to no avail as the Vatican City did not recognize the Croatian state, despite Italian pressure. [H. Jansen, 2003, p. 152]

Stepinac and the papal nuncio to Belgrade intermediated with Royal Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian troops, urging that the Yugoslav Jews be allowed to take refuge in the occupied Balkan territories to avoid deportation. He also arranged for Jews to travel via these territories to the safe, neutral states of Turkey and Spain, along with Constantinople-based nuncio Angelo Roncalli. [Jansen, 2003, p. 87.] He sent some Jews for safety to Rev. Dragutin Jesih, who was killed during the war by the Ustaše on suspicion of supporting the Partisans. [ [ Croatian Righteous] , Croatian Ministry of Science, Education and Sports]

In 1942, officials from the Kingdom of Hungary lobbied to attach the Hungarian-occupied Međimurje ecclesiastically to a diocese in Hungary. Stepinac opposed this and received guarantees from the Vatican that diocesan boundaries would not change during the war. [Nada Kisić-Kolanović. "Mladen Lorković-ministar urotnik". Golden marketing. Zagreb, 1999.] Stepinac travelled to the Vatican in 1943. There he came into contact with the Croatian artist Ivan Meštrović. [ A Question of Judgment: Dr. Aloysius Stepinac and the Jews] ] According to Meštrović, Stepinac asked him whether Croatian leader Ante Pavelić knew about crimes being committed in the state. When Meštrović replied that he must know everything, Stepinac broke into tears. [Tanner, Marcus. Croatia: A Nation Forged in War. Yale University Press, 2007. (pg. 155-156)] Meštrović did not return to Yugoslavia until 1959 and upon his return met with Stepinac again, who was then under house arrest. [ [,0,5659269.story Sculptin a legacy] ] Meštrović went on to sculpt a bust of Stepinac after his death which reads: "Archbishop Stepinac was not a man of idle words, but rather, he actively helped every person─when he was able, and to the extent he was able. He made no distinctions as to whether a man in need was a Croat or a Serb, whether he was a Catholic or an Orthodox, whether he was Christian or non-Christian. All the attacks upon him be they the product of misinformation, or the product of a clouded mind, cannot change this fact....".

On October 26, 1943 Germans killed the archbishop's brother Mijo Stepinac. In 1943, Stepinac advised the retired bishop of Dubrovnik Josip Marija Carević to remain in Zagreb due to the dangers presented by Yugoslav Partisans in the surrounding area.Stjepan Kožul. "Martirologij Crkve zagrebačke". Zagreb, 1998. (pgs. 35-36)] Despite this, Carević moved to the parish of Strmica near Veliko Trgovišće where he was killed by Partisans in April or May of 1945. In 1944, Stepinac received the Polish Pauline priest Salezy Strzelec, who wrote about the archbishop, Zagreb, and Marija Bistrica upon his return to Poland. [ [ Salezy Strzelec, Dojmovi iz Hrvatske] ]

Throughout the early years of the Ustaša terror, which dismayed even high-ranking Nazi officials in Zagreb and Belgrade [The Three Yugoslavias: State-Building And Legitimation, 1918-2005 by Sabrina Petra Ramet Indiana University Press 2006 page 128"But the Germans were dismayed by the 'problematic' relationship between the Ustasa Militia and the army, while General Edmund Glaise von Horstenau (1882-1946), an ex-imperial Austrian general staff officer appointed as general-plentipontiary representing the Wermacht in the NDH, was appaled by the savagery of the Ustase, and protested both publicly and privately".] [Edmond Paris: Genocide in Satellite Croatia 1941-1945, American Institute for Balkan Affairs (Chicago, 1961) pp 9 and 15] , Stepinac allowed Catholic publications in Zagreb to remain openly supportive. And adulation of the regime by, among other clerics, the archbishop of Sarajevo Ivan Šarić, went unchecked. The Catholic Church in Croatia has also had to contend with criticism of what some has seen as a passive stance towards the Ustaša policy of religious conversion whereby some Serbs - but not the intelligentsia element - were able to escape other persecution by adopting the Catholic faith (see Cornwell, "op cit", pp 253 ff). Stepinac did not seem to make any public attempts to criticize the government, though he was later quoted as giving out a secret message to the priests that "when this time of madness and savagery passes, those who converted out of their beliefs will remain in our Church, and the rest will, when the danger is gone, return to their own."

Some historians also argue that Ustaše prepared an assassination of Stepinac.

Post-war period

Stepinac was the only religious leader in Zagreb to survive the war. The head rabbi of the Jewish Municipality of Zagreb Miroslav Šalom Freiberger was taken to Auschwitz by the SS in 1943 where he died shortly after his arrival. The Serbian Orthodox metropolitan Dositej Vasić died in Belgrade on January 13, 1945. On the Yugoslav Partisan's arrival into Zagreb, they arrested the Evangelical bishop Philip Popp, Zagreb's head Mufti Ismet Muftić and the head of the Croatian Orthodox Church Germogen Maksimov and had them executed. [Matijević, Margareta. " [ Religious Communities in Croatia from 1945 to 1991] "]

After the war, on May 17, 1945, Stepinac was arrested. On June 2, Josip Broz met with representatives of the Archdiocese of Zagreb.Akmadža, Miroslav. " [ Causes of breaking of diplomatic ties between the Vatican and Yugoslavia in 1952] "] The following day, Stepinac was released. On June 4 he met with Josip Broz Tito but no agreement was reached between them. On June 22, the bishops of the People's Republic of Croatia released a public letter describing injustices and crimes done to them by the new authorities. On July 8, Stepinac led his annual pilgrimage to Marija Bistrica which drew 40,000-50,000 people. This would be his last pilgrimage to the site. On July 10, Stepinac's secretary Stjepan Lacković travelled to Rome. While he was there, the communist regime forbade him from returning to Yugoslavia. [ [ The secretary of Aloysius Stepinac has died] , March 11, 2007. Retrieved October 11, 2008.]

From September 17 to 22, 1945, a synod of the Bishops' Conference of Yugoslavia was held in Zagreb which discussed these issues. [ [ Creation of public opinion against the Catholic Church and archbishop Stepinac 1945, 1946] ] On October 20, Stepinac published a letter in which he stated that 273 clergymen had been killed since the Partisan take-over, 169 had been imprisoned, and another 89 were "missing" and presumed dead. It is argued that most of these executions had not been ordered by the Yugoslav high command and were, for the most part, spontaneous retributions against pro-nazi clerics by the people and isolated partisan groups and, thus, had nothing to do with the Yugoslav government. In response to this letter Tito spoke out publicly against Stepinac for the first time by writing an editorial in a daily newspaper accusing Stepinac of declaring war on the fledgling new Yugoslavia.

In forging a new republic out of the war-ravaged remnants and deep-seated bitternesses of the former kingdom, Tito had established brotherhood and unity as the state's over-arching central objective and nothing was allowed to challenge it. In such a climate Stepinac's persistence had been both brave and reckless. On November 4 he had stones thrown at him by a crowd in Zaprešić and in January 1946 Yugoslavia asked the Holy See to post him elsewhere. The request was refused. On January 5, 1946 Stepinac was visited by Randolph Churchill who said that OZNA was spying on the archbishop and that all of his internal correspondence was censored. [Akmadža, Miroslav. "Katolička crkva u Hrvatskoj i komunistički režim 1945 - 1966.". Rijeka: Otokar Keršovani, 2004. (pg. 24)]


By September of the same year the Yugoslav authorities indicted Stepinac on several counts - collaboration with the Nazis, relations with the genocidal Ustaša regime, having chaplains in the Ustasha army as religious agitators, forceful conversions of Serb Orthodox to Catholicism at gunpoint and high treason against the Yugoslav government.Fact|date=October 2008 Stepinac was arrested on September 18, 1946 and his trial started on September 30, 1946.

Milovan Djilas, a Yugoslav official close to Tito, said that Stepinac "would probably not have been brought to trial for his dubious conduct in the war...had he not continued to publicly oppose the new Yugoslav state."

Stepinac was tried alongside former officials of the Ustaša government including Erih Lisak (sentenced to death) and Ivan Šalić in a case that reflected determination by the Yugoslav government to tackle the collaboration that had gone on between the puppet state and elements of the Catholic Church (see Involvement of Croatian Catholic clergy with the Ustaša regime). Altogether there were 16 defendants.

The way trial was conducted was criticized by the Catholic Church, Switzerland, several other western states and nationalists. Stepinac claimed that it was a show trial. He gave a long, 38-minute speech on October 3rd as part of the fourth day of the proceedings when he stated that his conscience was clear with regard to all of the accusations, and that he did not intend to defend himself or appeal against a conviction. Instead, he stated he would take not only ridicule, disdain and humiliation, but also death, for his beliefs. He further stated that he was being attacked in order for the state to attack the Church and that no religious conversions were done in bad faith. He claimed that the military vicariate was created in the Independent State of Croatia just as it was in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, to address the needs of the faithful among the soldiers and not for the army itself, nor as a sign of approval of all action by the army. Furthermore, he asserted that he was never an Ustaša and that his Croatian nationalism stemmed from the nation's grievances in the Serb-dominated Yugoslav Kingdom, and that he never took part in any anti-government or terrorist activities against the state or against Serbs.

He also once again claimed that 260-270 priests were executed by the Partisans and deemed these summary death sentences uncivilized. He also decried the nationalization of Church property - schools, seminaries, orphanages, printing presses, and the prevention of Church involvement in education, press, charitable work (mercy was considered degrading by socialists), teaching of religion in school, as well as intimidation and molestation of clergy. He also complained against issues such as atheism, evolution, materialism, and communism in general.

The state brought forth evidence and witnesses concerning the executions and forced conversions members of his military vicariate performed, pointing out that even if he did not order them, he also did nothing to stop them. They also pointed out the disproportionate number of chaplains in the NDH armed forces and attempted to present in detail his relationship with the Ustaša authorities. Foreign affairs politics of the time also demanded that the Vatican be implicated as much as possible in these accusations. Whether the accusations were true or not, no opportunity was missed that could further imply its complicity in the matter.

The trial was, thus, soon condemned by the Holy See. Many Catholics and others considered the Judicial process to be fatally compromised by extorted witness statements, false testimonies and falsified documents. Some such critics have cited as an example a letter entered in evidence which was addressed to the Pope and was alleged to have been written by Stepinac in 1943. The letter was incriminating in that it expressed support for the Ustaša's mass conversion programme and for the state itself, but Stepinac denied writing it. The prosecutor claimed that a copy signed by Stepinac existed, but he did not produce it.

On October 11, 1946, the court found Stepinac guilty of high treason and war crimes. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison (considered a mild punishment for treason charges). All Catholics who had taken part in the court proceedings, including most of the jury members, were promptly excommunicated by the Pope.

On October 13 1946, the New York Times wrote that, "The trial of Archbishop Stepinac was a purely political one with the outcome determined in advance. The trial and sentence of this Croatian prelate are in contradiction with the Yugoslavia's pledge that it will respect human rights and the fundamental liberties of all without reference to race, sex, language and creed. Archbishop Stepinac was sentenced and will be incarcerated as part of the campaign against his church, guilty only of being the enemy of Communism." [ Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac in Light of Documentation] ] The American Jewish Committee also responded harshly, saying, " [Stepinac] was one of the very rare men in Europe who raised his voice against the Nazis' tyranny at a time when it was very difficult and dangerous for him to do so." On November 1, 1946 Winston Churchill addressed the British House of Commons on the trial and expressed "great sadness' at the result. [Akmadža, Miroslav. "Katolička crkva u Hrvatskoj i komunistički režim 1945 - 1966.". Rijeka: Otokar Keršovani, 2004. (pg. 58)]

In March of 1947 the president of the People's Republic of Croatia Vladimir Bakarić made an official visit to Lepoglava prison to see Stepinac.Jandrić, Berislav: "Kontroverze iz suvremene hrvatske povijesti: osobe i događaji koji su obilježili hrvatsku povijest nakon Drugoga svjetskog rata". Zagreb, Srednja Europa, 2006.] He offered him to sign an amnesty plea to Yugoslavia's leader Josip Broz who would in turn allow Stepinac to leave the country. Instead, Stepinac gave Bakarić a request to Broz that he be retried by a neutral court. He also offered to explain his actions to the Croatian people on the largest square in Zagreb. A positive response was not received from either request. On November 11, 1951 Cyrus L. Sulzberger from the New York Times visited Stepinac in Lepoglava. [Akmadža, Miroslav. "Katolička crkva u Hrvatskoj i komunistički režim 1945 - 1966.". Rijeka: Otokar Keršovani, 2004. (pg. 62)] He won the Pulitzer Prize the following year for the interview.

After serving five years of his sentence in Lepoglava prison, where he had had better-than-usual accommodation in recognition of his clerical status (two cells plus an additional cell as his private chapel) [,9171,939610,00.html] , Alojzije Stepinac was released in a conciliatory gesture by Yugoslav Prime Minister Josip Broz Tito, on the condition that he either retired to Rome or was confined to his home parish of Krašić. He refused to leave his country and opted to live out his last years in Krašić, where he was transferred on December 5 1951. He stated that: "They will never make me leave unless they put me on a plane by force and take me over the frontier. It is my duty in these difficult times to stay with the people." [cite book |title=Croatia: A Nation Forged in War|last=Tanner|first=Marcus |url= |year=1997|publisher=Yale University Press|location=New Haven/London |isbn=0300076681]

On November 29, 1952, his name appeared in a list of cardinals newly created by Pope Pius XII. In response the non-aligned Yugoslav government severed diplomatic relations with the Vatican on December 17 1952. The government also expelled the Catholic Faculty of Theology from the University of Zagreb, to which it was not restored until democratic changes in 1991. [Goldstein, Ivo. "Croatia: A History" . McGill Queen's University Press, 1999. (pg. 169)] [ [ Catholic Faculty of Theology History] ] Stepinac was unable to participate in the 1958 Papal conclave due to his house arrest. [ [ Conclave - 1958] ] On June 2, 1959 he wrote in a letter to Ivan Meštrović: "I likely will not live to see the collapse of communism in the world due to my poor health. But I am absolutely certain of that collapse."

Death and legacy

In 1953, Stepinac was diagnosed with polycythemia, a rare blood disorder. Seven years later, at the age of 61, he died of a thrombosis. He was buried in Zagreb during a service in which the protocols appropriate to his senior clerical status were, with Tito's permission, fully observed. Cardinal Franz König was among those who attended the funeral. [ [ The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church] ]

Notwithstanding that Stepinac died peacefully at home, he quickly became a martyr in the view of his supporters and many other Catholics. There is no evidence that he was killed, but they argue that the declining health during his last years of life was in some way a consequence of his imprisonment, perhaps exacerbated by the fact that he was treated at home rather than in a hospital (as was dictated by the law). Against this, others argue that he enjoyed favored treatment in Lepoglava in comparison with other prisoners, being allocated double the normal entitlement of living space and an adjoining cell as his personal chapel.

In 1970, Glas Koncila published a text on Stepinac taken from L'Osservatore Romano which resulted in the edition being confiscated by court decree. [ [ Important events in the history of Glas Koncila] , Glas Koncila] The Catholic Church declared Stepinac a martyr on November 11, 1997. [ Patron Saints Index: Blessed Alojzije Stepinac] ] For Catholics at least, Pope John Paul II resolved the debate in Zagreb on October 3, 1998 when he declared that Stepinac had indeed been martyred. John Paul had earlier determined that where a candidate for sainthood had been martyred, his/her cause could be advanced without the normal requirement for evidence of a miraculous intercession by the candidate. Accordingly he beatified the late cardinal after saying these words: "One of the outstanding figures of the Catholic Church, having endured in his own body and his own spirit the atrocities of the Communist system, is now entrusted to the memory of his fellow countrymen with the radiant badge of martyrdom."

In 1984 a community of Croatians who had emigrated to Cleveland, Ohio, built a Croatian American Home named after Stepinac and placed a larger-than-life statue of Archbishop Stepinac in its hallway. The Croatian American Lodge is located in Eastlake, Ohio.

On the other hand many non-Catholics have remained unconvinced about Stepinac's martyrdom and about his saintly qualities in general. Some saw his promotion to within one step of sainthood as a gratuitous provocation, one result of which is that to his most severe critics he has become known as the patron saint of genocide.Fact|date=October 2008 Without question the beatification re-ignited old controversies between Catholicism and Communism and between Serbs and Croats. The Jewish community in Croatia, some members of which had been helped by Stepinac during World War II, did not oppose his beatification but the Simon Wiesenthal Center asked for it to be deferred until the wartime conduct of Stepinac had been further investigated.Fact|date=October 2008 The Vatican ignored this representation.

On February 14, 1992, the Croatian Parliament symbolically condemned the 1946 court decision and the process that led to it, amid protests. It says that true reason of Stepinac inprisonment was his pointing out many communist crimes and especially refusing to form Croatian Catholic Church making a schism with Pope. However, the verdict has not been formally challenged nor overturned in any court (even between 1997 and 1999 when that was possible under Croatian law).fact In 1998, the Croatian National Bank released commemmoratives 500 kuna gold and 150 kuna silver coins. [ [ The 100th anniversary of Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac's birth] ]

Stepinac was unsuccessfully recommended on two occasions by two individual Croatian Jews to be added to the list of the Righteous Among the Nations. One of those Croatian Jews, Amiel Shomrony, has recently challenged the Serb lobby for preventing the inclusion of Stepinac into Yad Vashem's Righteous list. Esther Gitman, a Jew from Sarajevo living in the USA who holds a PhD on the subject of the fate of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia, said that Stepinac did much more for Jews than some want to admit. However the reason stated by Yad Vashem for denying the requests were that the proposers were not themselves Holocaust survivors, which is a requirement for inclusion in the list; and that maintaining close links with a genocidal regime at the same time as making humanitarian interventions would preclude listing".

In 2007, the municipality of Marija Bistrica began "Stepinac's Path", which plans to build pilgrimage paths linking places significant to the cardinal: Krašić, Kaptol in Zagreb, Medvednica, Marija Bistrica, and Lepoglava. [ [ Cultural Tourism] , Croatian National Tourist Board] The Aloysius Stepinac Museum opened in Zagreb in 2007. [ [ Opening of the museum of blessed Aloysius Stepinac] , Total Portal]

Croatian football international Dario Šimić wore a t-shirt with Stepinac's image on it under his jersey during the country's UEFA Euro 2008 game against Poland, which he revealed after the game. [ [ Captain's band on the arm, Stepinac's picture on his chest] ]

External links

* [ Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac]
* [ Online Book: Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac - Basic Facts about His Person and Work by Simun Sito Coric]
* [ Patron Saints Index - Blessed Alojzije Stepinac]
* [ "The Case of Archbishop Stepinac", by Sava N. Kosanovic, Ambassador of the FNR Yugoslavia in Washington]
* [ Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, A Servant of God and the Croatian People]
*Archbishop Stepinac High School - A Catholic High School in White Plains, New York (USA) named for Archbishop Stepinac. Includes a shrine featuring a bust of Stepinac by the Croatian artist Ivan Meštrović.
* [ Cardinal Stepinac Village (Retirement & nursing home)]
* [ Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac and saving the Jews in Croatia during the WW2 © by Darko Zubrinic, Zagreb (1997)]


* Marcus Tanner, "Croatia", Yale University Press (New Haven and London 1997)
* Herbert Butler, "The Sub-prefect Should Have Held His Tongue", Allen Lane The Penguin Press (London 1990)
* John Cornwell, "Hitler's Pope", Viking (London 1999)
* Stella Alexander, Triple Myth: a life of Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac, East European Monographs (Boulder, Colorado 1987)


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