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Statement by Catholic and Serbian Orthodox Bishops in Croatia Following a Meeting in Požega

Požega (IKA)

We, bishops of the Catholic and Serbian Orthodox Churches in Croatia, at the invitation of the Catholic Bishop of Požega, Msgr. Antun Škvorčević, met together at the Bishop's Residence in  Požega on January 17, 2019.

In a Christmas atmosphere, on the eve of the International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we bore witness to our common faith in the same Lord Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for us” (Tit 2:14), expressed our mutual respect, and shared the joys and hopes, difficulties and problems of the communities we lead. We expressed the conviction that no strategy directed against another person, nation or Church can be successful because it is not in accordance with God’s plan for man and his victory over evil and death, which was achieved in Jesus’ love on the cross. We spoke of the great suffering endured by the Serbian and Croatian peoples, as well as other citizens of Croatia during the recent past, owing to warfare, persecutions and murders caused by hatred. We are aware that by mutual recriminations, manipulation of the historical truth, interpretations of wartime events for political ends, insults and derogatory behavior owing to someone’s nation or religion, we remain slaves of the past and losers in the present. We support the scientific investigation and well-reasoned determination of the truth about the victims during the Second World War and the War in Croatia from 1991 to 1995, in order to stop using the numbers of victims for bargaining and restore the victims’ dignity as such.

We profoundly mourn every innocent victim of any nation, religion or political orientation from our recent past, and testify that “we conquer overwhelmingly” all the evil and injustice inflicted upon them “through him who loved us” (Rom 8:37). The starting point of our pastoral activity within the Croatian society is the firm belief that our God “has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18). Therefore, we pray that we may heed Jesus’ words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36), so that with our forgiveness we may be greater than the evil committed, which has humiliated us, and without thoughts of vengeance or hatred, in pure remembrance safeguard the memory of our innocent victims, heal wounded souls, promote trust and understanding among individuals and nations and, thereby, through the path of evangelization establish firm foundations for a better and more just future in our homeland for every person.

May the Lord bless our fraternal feelings, benevolent thoughts and sincere intentions.

Porfirije Perić, Metropolitan of Zagreb-Ljubljana; Gerasim Popović, Bishop of Gornji Karlovac; Jovan Ćulibrk, Bishop of Slavonia; Nikodim Kosović, Bishop of Dalmatia; Heruvim Đermanović, Bishop of Osječko Polje and Baranja.

Msgr. Želimir Puljić, Archbishop of Zadar, President of the Croatian Conference of Bishops; Msgr. Marin Barišić, Metropolitan Archbishop of Split-Makarska; Msgr. Đuro Hranić, Metropolitan Archbishop of Đakovo-Osijek; Msgr. Antun Škvorčević, Bishop of  Požega, President of the Council for Ecumenism and Dialogue; and Msgr.  Petar Palić, Bishop of Hvar, General Secretary of the Croatian Conference of Bishops.