The Social Democratic Party of Croatia has criticised the government’s decision to co-finance the construction of a chapel in Bethlehem with HRK 3.3 million, calling on it to use the money for the reconstruction of houses in the earthquake-hit region of Banija while the GLAS party called the decision scandalous.
“At a time when the healthcare system is under strain, when post-earthquake reconstruction in Zagreb and Banija is late and people lack basic conditions for normal living, our foreign minister considers it a priority to finance the Church,” SDP political secretary and MP Mirela Ahmetović said in a statement.
Calling on the government to use the money intended for the chapel to rebuild a dozen homes in Banija or buy expensive drugs for children suffering from rare diseases, Ahmetović noted that the Catholic Church receives around HRK 300 million from the state budget annually plus donations from local government units.
Another opposition party, GLAS, described the government’s decision as scandalous, noting that Croatia did not have a sufficient number of radiation therapy machines, which was why some cancer patients had to wait for therapy for up to three months.
“The Andrej Plenković government has always chosen its priorities wisely, including this time. Their clients and the Church that brings votes come first, and if something is left over, citizens get what they really need,” the party said in a statement.
GLAS MP Anka Mrak-Taritaš proposed to the parliament that the government should purchase three new radiation therapy machines, one costing HRK 5 million.
Earlier in the day, the government decided to allocate 3.375 million kuna (€450,000) for the construction of a Croatian chapel in Bethlehem and thus granted a request made by Conventual Franciscans in Zagreb.
The chapel will be built in Shepherd’s Field in Bethlehem to honour Croatian saints and Croatians who have been blessed.
Friar Sandro Tomašević, a clergyman in the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, told Hina that he was happy with the government’s decision and described Croatia’s plan to build the chapel as one of the six nations to do so in Bethlehem as a great success.
“It is a great thing for the whole homeland, particularly for our faithful and pilgrims,” the priest said.