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Pope Francis’ New Encyclical Quotes a Letter from the Croatian Conference of Bishops: “We owe equal respect to every innocent victim”

Asiz (IKA)

In Pope Francis’ third encyclical, Fratelli tutti (All Brothers), issued on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, October 4, 2020, he quotes the Letter from the Croatian Conference of Bishops on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the End of the Second World War, signed on May 1, 1995, according to Fratellanza umana.

In Paragraph No. 253 of the new encyclical, On Fraternity and Social Friendship, the Holy Father quotes the letter from the Croatian Conference of Bishops in which the bishops pose a very important moral question to believers and the Croatian society as a whole:

The chief weight of the question is not how to mourn the victims of your own community and how to recognize the guilty among another community. Croats and Serbs, Catholics and Orthodox. Muslims and others confront a serious moral question: How to mourn the victims of another community, how to admit guilt in one’s own community? And then: How to repent for a crime. how to obtain the forgiveness of God and man, good conscience and reconciliation among people and nations? How to begin a new era based on justice and truth?

The Pope quotes an excerpt from the letter that precedes the above, which is also related to victims on the “other side.” Thus, Paragraph No. 253 of the Pope’s new encyclical reads as follows:

253. When injustices have occurred on both sides, it is important to take into clear account whether they were equally grave or in any way comparable. Violence perpetrated by the state, using its structures and power, is not on the same level as that perpetrated by particular groups. In any event, one cannot claim that the unjust sufferings of one side alone should be commemorated. The Bishops of Croatia have stated that, “we owe equal respect to every innocent victim. There can be no racial, national, confessional or partisan differences.”

This is probably the first time that a pope has quoted a document from the Croatian Conference of Bishops in an encyclical. The Pope also quoted several documents from other bishops’ conferences, as he had done in the encyclical Laudato si.

Furthermore, the Holy Father quoted a passage from his 2015 address on dialogue in Sarajevo at the Presidential Palace:

We need to communicate with each other, to discover the gifts of each person, to promote that which unites us, and to regard our differences as an opportunity to grow in mutual respect. Patience and trust are called for in such dialogue, permitting individuals, families and communities to hand on the values of their own culture and welcome the good that comes from others’ experiences (134).