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Statement Issued by the Justitia et Pax Commission of the Croatian Conference of Bishops on the Occasion of the Upcoming Parliamentary Elections

Zagreb (IKA)

A statement issued by the Justitia et Pax Commission of the Croatian Conference of Bishops (CCB) on the occasion of the upcoming regular elections for members of the Croatian Parliament, entitled To Preserve the Dignity of the Political and Constitutional Legal Order of the State, was presented on Wednesday, April 3, 2024, at the headquarters of the Croatian Conference of Bishops in Zagreb.


The parliamentary elections in the Republic of Croatia, to be held on April 17, 2024, are once again an occasion when all the citizens of the Republic of Croatia and the Croatian diaspora who are entitled to vote, by choosing a certain political option, will be able to express their position on the future direction of the Croatian state with regard to its overall social development, especially its politics, economy, culture, education, healthcare and social welfare, but also with regard to its position in the international community and international relations. Emphasizing the importance of the parliamentary elections, while bearing in mind all the serious issues, among which we first of all call attention to the disturbing  demographic situation, emigration of the population and the issue of migration, upon which our future and standard of living depend, i.e., the development of the common good, the Justitia et Pax (Justice and Peace) Commission of the CCB wants to provide the Catholic faithful, but also all people of good will, with certain basic starting points for assuming their own positions on these issues, although we respect the choice of each voter in accordance with his or her conscience.

Responsibility for the Common Good

Citizens who also declare themselves to be Catholics are called by their faith to be profoundly interested in every improvement and advance in all the areas of common life in Croatia. Religion is not merely a private matter for an individual but also includes a social dimension and is manifested in co-responsibility for the common good of the society and state.  Going to the polls is one of the ways of manifesting this co-responsibility because in elections citizens decide to which political option they will entrust their confidence, in the belief that this will promote the best option on their behalf for the common good of the society and the benefit of all the citizens. We therefore want to reiterate that the political community “exists for the sake of the common good” (Gaudium et spes, No. 74), and the task of the state is to defend and promote the common good of the civil society (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1927). Political parties should be aware that the trust given to them by citizens is in fact the assumption of the responsibility that manifests itself in serving all the citizens. Elections are not a political arena where it is most important to win at any cost. Therefore, we invite all the political parties to emphasize their political programs in the election campaign and clearly present to the citizens how they intend to promote the common good and solve social problems.

Citizens are certainly interested in what measures the individual political parties or coalitions of political parties intend to adopt in order to solve the demographic crisis because it has become a fundamental problem of the Croatian society. We are facing a situation in which we no longer have enough able-bodied citizens, which seriously affects the development of the economy, and it is of crucial importance how the individual political options intend to  relate to the arrival of foreign workers, i.e., what kind of immigration policy they intend to  implement, and what kind of measures they intend to undertake in order to encourage the return of Croatian emigrants, especially young families, and stop the further emigration of Croatian citizens to other countries.  For Croatian citizens, however, it is also important to solve everyday problems so that the political parties or coalitions are expected to present citizens with programs for healthcare and pension reform, social welfare policy, agrarian reforms, together with ways to solve other social problems as well as increasingly important ecological issues. We invite believers, as well as all people of good faith in Croatia,  to take values and positions, such as respect for religious freedom in public life, respect for life from the moment of conception to natural death, non-working Sundays, and increasingly present issues of gender ideology etc. into account when electing their candidates.

In the encyclical Fratelli tutti (2020), Pope Francis clearly emphasized that it is necessary to guard against unhealthy populism that exploits a people’s culture, i.e., “when individuals are able to exploit a people’s culture politically under whatever ideological banner, for their own personal advantage or continuing grip on power. Or when, at other times, they seek popularity by appealing to the basest and most selfish inclinations of certain sectors of the population. This becomes all the more serious when, whether in cruder or more subtle forms, it leads to the usurpation of institutions and laws” (No. 159). Pope Francis points out that such unhealthy populism distorts the word people, because it attempts to meet popular demands for the sake of gaining votes or support, while neglecting policies that strive to achieve the common good through arduous work, provide people with the resources necessary for their overall development and create conditions for them to support themselves with the fruits of their own efforts and creativity.  Pope Francis urges politicians to direct their policies toward economic growth that will tap each region’s potential and various measures to guarantee sustainable equality.  Therefore, we call on citizens not to be “misled” by those who only point to omissions and fail to offer positive programs that could change the situation for the better. We also invite politicians, especially those who declare themselves to be Catholics, to cooperate with those political options with which they do not agree in everything, in the spirit of the Croatian democratic and pluralistic society, but stand for the value system of the majority of the Croatian citizens.

Avoiding the Constitutional Legal Crisis of the State Order

Mutual accusations, discrediting other political options and their candidates for the Croatian Parliament, violating constitutional provisions and disrupting the constitutional legal order of the state are not behaviors that merit the trust of the citizens, and have an exceptionally negative effect on all areas of society, from family life, school, to public and, especially, everyday life. Such behaviors do not guarantee the security and stability of the state and people in light of the requirements for the common good for all citizens. We therefore call on all the participants in the electoral process to respect the inviolable dignity of every human person and at the same time preserve the dignity of politics and provide an example of political culture and mature political behavior, because in a democratic society this is the only legitimate way to gain the trust of the citizens. As a commission that strives to promote human dignity, justice, peace and respect for legality, we condemn all actions that call the legality of the elections themselves into question, and call on voters to vote in the upcoming elections for those they believe will be prepared to implement much needed reforms and serve the common good in the interest of all the citizens.

At this moment of overall geopolitical instability in Europe, especially that caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine, which in a certain way extends to our territory, what we need the least is political instability and the undermining of trust in political institutions, as well as the legality of the parliamentary elections ahead of us. The rule of law as a fundamental constitutional principle binds all the citizens of the Republic of Croatia, all institutions and even political parties. Therefore, we appeal to all the participants in the election process to respect the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia and relevant laws, but also the human dignity of every candidate in the parliamentary elections. We consider the obligation for all the political parties to avoid causing a constitutional-legal crisis through their actions to be of particular importance and for all those who already have certain, even limited, political powers to set an example of fair electoral competition. At the same time, we want to point out that Croatia had a semi-presidential system until the year 2000 and a parliamentary system after the year 2000 that expressly forbids the president from membership in a party.

We invite all citizens who are believers and all people of good will in Croatia to support with their votes those politicians who support a free Croatia within the framework of the community of European nations and a prominent place for the Republic of Croatia in the European Union, aware that it is not ideal. We can agree with the statement entitled For a Responsible Voice Promoting Christian Values and the European Project issued by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), published on March  13, 2024, in view of the upcoming elections for the European Parliament, which emphasizes the following: We know that the European Union is not perfect and that many of its policies and legal proposals are not in line with Christian values or with the expectations of many of its people, but we believe that we are called to contribute and improve it with the tools democracy offers us.”

To Stop Corruption in Croatia

Among the priorities of the Croatian society is certainly the battle against corruption, because it creates unhealthy interpersonal relationships, distrust in state institutions but also reticence by investors in various areas of the economy. Corruption is an evil that is born in the hearts of those who neither fear God nor care about people (cf. Lk 18:4). Therefore, anyone who does not include the task of combatting corruption in Croatia in his campaign platform can hardly prove to voters that he understands politics as serving the common good and that he wants zero tolerance for corrupt practices in his administration. Referring to the words of Pope Pius XI, Pope Francis points out that politics written with a capital P is “one of the highest forms of love of neighbor. To advocate for ‘good’ politics means to propel the country forward, to work to advance its culture: that is politics and that is art (Francis, Politics and Society, 23). In this sense, those most responsible for creating the conditions for ending corruption are the politicians, so we appeal to them to make the battle against corruption a personal priority from the ethical, moral and political aspects but ethics should also be a priority for every political party or coalition, i.e., politics as concern for the common good. Nevertheless, it is important to note that responsibility for combatting corruption is borne by all citizens, not only the political parties, because this social evil can only be eradicated by collective action that includes the application of clear ethical principles, both in various forms of socioeconomic life and public life in general, as well as in political activity.

It is necessary to afford greater authority to the institutions responsible for revealing and combatting corruption, and to make the process of exposing corruption more transparent, without sensationalistic or selective reporting to the Croatian public. We particularly appeal to the responsibility of the means of social communication, but also to all other public institutions and private persons, to refrain from making unfounded accusations and damaging good reputations before determining accountability. We are called to contribute to the process by revealing corruption through arguments and the relevant institutions are called, in the spirit of honesty and for the good of the citizens, to investigate all cases, and when corrupt activity is established, to initiate and implement legal procedures. It is necessary to support and promote courage and honesty among the citizens, which include the practice of reporting those who commit corrupt acts to the competent institutions.

Christian Turnout at Parliamentary Elections

The absence of a culture of dialogue, often evident in political discussions that frequently border on expressions of vulgarity, often discourages Croatian citizens from wanting to go to the polls. Therefore, we are not surprised that citizens often ask for whom they should vote. However, we want to point out that by not voting in elections, we are nevertheless voting by allowing others to decide on our behalf, and we are depriving ourselves of the possibility of performing an act of civic responsibility for the common good, i.e., we are “voting” for those due to whom we refused to go to the polls. We therefore invite the Catholic faithful, who according to the 2021 population census make up the large majority of the Croatian citizens, but also all other citizens,  to participate in the elections and think seriously about to whom they will entrust their confidence. In doing so, it is important not to vote “against someone,” but to support those whose previous deeds demonstrate that they can be trusted, i.e., to “punish” the unfulfilled promises of those for whom they had previously voted.

Invoking God’s help on all the citizens of the Republic of Croatia, especially on those who are candidates for the future convocation of the Croatian Parliament and the assumption of the legislative and executive power in our country, we invite everyone to do everything to “rehabilitate” politics and make it a truly honorable occupation that is carried out in the service of citizens, and which does not prioritize one’s own livelihood and prosperity but is manifested in the painstaking observation of priorities and a high degree of ethical, moral and political responsibility in concern for the common good. A true politician is one who does not use the people as a mythical category but who lives with his people, recognizes their needs and works for their betterment. Citing Pope Francis, we emphasize that to understand the people, you have to live with them. Only those who live with the people understand them (cf. Francis, Politics and Society, 101). We are aware that there are no ideal politicians, because they, too, are only human, but through our thoughtful approach to the elections and conscientiously voting for a certain political option, we shall nevertheless make it possible to choose the best among those competing in the election process and thus contribute to the promotion of the common good of the Croatian society and state. We invite everyone to make a personal contribution to creating a positive mood so that these parliamentary elections will be held peacefully and with dignity, in an atmosphere of legality and justice, for the well-being of all the citizens of the Republic of Croatia.

In Zagreb April 3, 2024

✠ Đuro Hranić
Archbishop of Đakovo-Osijek
President of the Justitia et Pax Commission of the CCB