Review by Christos T. Panagopoulos –
The Vatican is satisfied with its relations with Croatia which is complying with all signed agreements and the issue of relations between the Catholic Church in Croatia and the state is part of the democratic life in Croatia, Croatian President, Ivo Josipovic, said on Thursday after talks with Pope Francis.
“The pope has a very good picture of the relations with Croatia”, Josipovic said, adding that there are no problems in the relations with the Holy See.
“The Vatican is satisfied with the relations, with the fact that Croatia is complying with regulations of treaties signed so far”, Josipovic told reporters after the audience with Pope Francis and talks with the outgoing Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.
“When it comes to the relations between the local Church and the state, the pope knows there are certain debates about how to regulate certain issues, but this is part of the democratic life in Croatia”, Josipovic said.
Dialogue between the Catholic Church in Croatia and the state is an issue which requires a special debate, not only between the Church and the state, but within the state as well, Josipovic said. Different political options, different social groups have different positions on certain issues and the main characteristic of a democratic society is that this be openly discussed, said Josipovic, who is confident that Pope Francis advocates “an open Church” which does not want to meddle in state affairs.
“At today’s meeting and in interviews given so far, the pope underscored how he saw the position of the Church in the community. This is an open Church which does not aspire to clericalism or meddling in state affairs”, the Croatian president said.
Josipovic said he and the pontiff also talked about education and an agreement regarding the military ordinariate. “The military ordinariate has undergone some changes which are the result of the fact that our army has been significantly downsized, and this is also related to available finances,” Josipovic said. “I believe a compromise was reached regarding the organisation of the military ordinariate.”
Josipovic said he and Pope Francis also talked about Croatia’s path from “a new state born in a war to membership of the European Union,” as well as about the difficult economic situation and the need that the state help those most vulnerable.
“I told him we have serious economic problems which arose from the crisis, notably when it comes to poverty and the need that the state provide from the weakest ones”, Josipovic said.
Josipovic, who is also scheduled to give a talk on morality and politics in Croatia in transition, said Pope Francis would promote the strengthening of morality in politics.
“This pope will introduce an important novelty in international politics, the role of ethics and morals in international politics will grow stronger with him,” the Croatian president said. “We spoke about values such as reconciliation, coexistence and justness. He advocates justness, international relations based on morality, non-violence and reconciliation”, Josipovic said. “These were the foundations of our talks about the situation in Croatia and the region. Together we advocate reconciliation and a European path for the entire region”.
Bertone, who will be replaced as Cardinal Secretary of State by Pietro Parolin in five days, has excellent knowledge of the situation in Croatia and the region, Josipovic said, adding that “the Vatican diplomacy is currently very focused on Bosnia and Herzegovina and its success on the European path. This foresees the organisation of its constitutional relations. I have to say I am happy to see that Bosnia and Herzegovina now enjoys the support Croatia once had”, Josipovic said.