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Fondat 2009 • ISSN 2065 - 4200 Anul 16 → 2024

INTERVIEW FOR THE ROMANIAN PRESS – Croatian Archbishop +Alexander

Revista Luceafărul (Bt), Anul – X

INTERVIEW FOR THE ROMANIAN PRESS – Croatian Archbishop +Alexander

Primit pentru publicare: 15 Nov. 2018
Autor: Tudor PETCU
Interviu realizat despre istoria Bisericii Ortodoxe a Croatiei cu Arhiepiscopul Alexander.
Este primul interviu acordat de aceasta Biserica unui publicist roman.
Publicat: 16 Nov. 2018
Editor: Ion ISTRATE




(1) Please tell us something about the history of the Croatian Orthodox Church.

The Church in Dalmatia began its existence in 55 A.D., when it was founded by Titus, a disciple of the Apostle Paul. At the beginning, the Dalmatian Church was under the supreme jurisdiction of the Roman patriarchs, then after the year 732, at the time already established as the “Croatian Church”, it came under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople.

The Christianisation of the Croats was a lengthy and complex process involving many factors, and which ended in the second half of the 9th century when Byzantine missionaries converted the Narentines.

In the year 1075, the Church Council of Split passed a decision declaring that Croatian lands fall under the jurisdiction of the Roman Church, while some Orthodox Christians remained in Dalmatian towns which were Byzantine colonies. The Venetian Republic assumed rule over these cities in 1420 and Dalmatian Orthodox Christians who were first under the jurisdiction of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid and later under the Metropolitanate of Philadelphia (Patriarchate of Constantinople) in Venice, where they remained until the end of the 18th century.

In the period from 1400 to 1557, as a result of military victories of the Ottoman Empire, “Morlachs”, “Stratioti” and “Vlachs” migrated to Croatia. These were people who came from the diocese of the Bulgarian Ohrid Archbishopric – Orthodox Bulgarians, Greeks, Montenegrins, Albanians. Over a period of 500 years in Croatia, these people intermixed with the Croats, assumed the Croatian language as their mother tongue, and thus became Croats.

In the year 1102, Croatia entered a personal union with Hungary. Within the Hungarian-Croatian Kingdom, Croatian institutions such as the Croatian Sabor, Viceroy of Croatia, and so forth, were in effect for centuries. This personal union lasted until the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy at the end of WWI. After this, Croatia became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

The autocephalous Archbishopric of Karlovci with its seat in Srijemski Karlovci was the true Orthodox Church in Croatia, or to put it in today’s terms – the Croatian Orthodox Church. Its diocese was the whole territory of the Kingdom of Croatia. The Archbishopric of Karlovci gained autocephaly from the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1707, and was in existence for over 200 years. Its ruler bore the title of Patriarch of Croatia. This Church was granted 5 decisions and 2 decrees, passed by the Croatian Sabor in the 19th century, on the grounds of which the Church received funds from the Croatian State Budget for the construction of churches and other operational expenses. Just as all institutions in the Kingdom of Croatia and Austrian Monarchy, the Archbishopric of Karlovci also used the Gregorian calendar.

On 17 June 1920, as per a decree of the Crown Prince Alexander, it was decided to establish a united autocephalous Serbian ORTHODOX CHURCH in the Kingdom of Serbs, CROATS and Slovenes. The state’s decision to establish the Church was in direct violation of Apostolic Rule No. 30.

On 19 February 1922, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Meletius IV signed a Tomos based on the decision of the Holy Synod (Protocol 1148) to create the new Church, after which the government of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes paid 1,500,000 francs in three instalments to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. According to Canon Law, this was a great offense called a simony, which is in violation of Apostolic Rule No. 29.

The Croatian Archbishopric of Karlovci never passed the decision to join the new Church in the newly formed state. Likewise, the Bukovina Eparchy also did not pass the mentioned decision. The Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church decided to join the new Church at a session without quorum and contrary to its own constitution. No one even asked the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, whose seven eparchies in Macedonia were forcibly affiliated with the new Church.

After the creation of the new state, all Orthodox Christians were automatically proclaimed Serbs, and the Orthodox faith became known as “SERBIAN Orthodox”.

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia, also known as the “Dungeon of Nations”, ceased to exist just a few days after the German invasion in April 1941.

On April 10, 1941, the independent Croatian state was restored, named the Independent State of Croatia (abbreviated “NDH” in Croatian), which included Croatia’s historical territory of present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, and was recognized by 86 states.

In the first months of its existence, the NDH passed the decision to apply a special levy to the Serbian Patriarchate, and church communities were forbidden to maintain ties with it. The fictitious term “SERBIAN Orthodox faith” was also banned, and in its place the old Croatian terms “Greek-Eastern” or “Orthodox” faith were put into use. The SOC NDH (Serbian Orthodox Church in the Independent State of Croatia) undertook all these measures not because it is was an Orthodox Church, but because it was Serbian – that is, the church of the country of Serbia.

An independent state as was the NDH could not allow the operation of a foreign church on its own territory, because this would mean that the NDH was a Serbian vassal. At the same time, the state guaranteed religious freedom to the Orthodox (Croats, Bulgarians, Montenegrins…) on their own territory. Russian refugees (over 20,000) and the ROCE (Russian Orthodox Church in Exile) were permitted to use their own churches in Zemun, Sarajevo, Petrovaradin and Crikvenica.

In 1920, the state issued a direct order to establish the Autocephalous United Serbian Orthodox Church in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, yet 22 years later the NDH is accused of establishing (restoring, to be precise) the Croatian Orthodox Church. The difference lies in the fact that the NDH first issued the decree, confirmed the Constitution (Statute) of the COC, and on the basis of the constitution and in accordance with the law, designated the head of the Church, after which the nomination was confirmed by the state. In the Autocephalous United Serbian Orthodox Church in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the first constitution entered into effect a full 12 years after its “founding”, which means that no one actually knows how or on what basis, the new church was “created”, including the subsequent “appointment” of Patriarch Dimitri.

All institutions in the NDH used the Gregorian calendar, including the COC, which after a cessation of 22 years once again resumed use of the calendar.

After adopting the decision to establish the COC in the NDH (1942), in just THREE MONTHS the COC was recognised by the Russian OC, Bulgarian OC, Romanian OC, Greek OC, and Patriarchate of Constantinople.

On the grounds of the decision of the Holy Synod of the Romanian OC to participate in the ordination of the new bishop of the COC, on 15 August 1944, Metropolitan Visarion Piu of Chișinău came to Zagreb. This event actually saved his life, because at that time the II and III Ukrainian Fronts of the USSR Red Army were taking over Chișinău, including the entire territory of Romania in the days that followed. Visarion Piu never returned from Zagreb to Romania, as this would mean going back to certain death, and so instead emigrated to the West.

On 6 May 1945, Metropolitan Germogen was ceremoniously ordained Patriarch of the Croatian Orthodox Church.

Two days later, on 8 May 1945, Germany capitulated and its allies consider this to be the end of WWII in Europe.

The army of the NDH headed for Austria to surrender to the VIII British Corps. They had to do so as they knew the British signed the Geneva Convention on the Rights of Prisoners of War, while the USSR did not. As there was no longer an army in Zagreb, communist insurgents enter and begin mass executions of “national enemies”, plundering of their property, all of course with the support of the USSR and direct consent of Fedor Ivanovich Tolbukhin, commander of the III Ukrainian Front, who occupied the territory of the former fascist monarchy of Yugoslavia and its newly established states. The other antifascists – the British, pay no heed to the Geneva Convention and send the disbanded Croatian army and masses of civilian refugees (10% of the Croatian population) back into the Soviet zone. In this way, all antifascists (both communist and capitalist) jointly participate in the massacre of half a million Croats after the end of WWII. (Croatia today has a population of 3.8 million.)

With the formation of a new rule on 9 May 1945, the COC in essence ceased to function, and Patriarch Germogen along with the entire clergy were seized and detained. The inquest did not last long, for already on 29 June 1945, the first (and last) trial was held before the Military Court of the Zagreb City Command, presided by Captain Vlado Ranogajec. A street in Croatia’s capital of Zagreb is named after him.

Patriarch Germogen and his entire clergy were accused of attempting to break the unity of the Serbian people in Croatia, but who do not exist in Croatia because Croats live in Croatia. They were also accused of violating the Constitution of the SOC to which they did not belong, and more importantly, the constitution does not stipulate the death penalty for any offense. No one was charged with participating in a war crime, merely the existence of a Christian Church, namely the COC, was enough to have it classified as a criminal organisation.

On the night of 29-30 June 1945, Patriarch Germogen was executed together with all the clergy of the COC and a large population of Orthodox Christians. The whereabouts of their remains are still unknown. Recently published documents indicate that the bodies were most likely burned.

Patriarch Germogen is the only head of an autocephalous church to be killed during WWII, and the COC the only Church in world history to be obliterated in this way – by executing its entire clergy.

Nevertheless, the communists were consistent because already in 1942, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Croatia said: “The COC is a fraud, and the clergy that acknowledge it are traitors.”

This decision thus became a directive for relations with the COC, which is in effect to this day.

(2) Oneness of the Croatian Orthodox Church with other Orthodox churches.

The COC is part of one holy Orthodox Church, and as such does not differ from other OCs – Romanian, Bulgarian, Russian… It goes by the Julian calendar, meaning that it celebrates Christmas on the 25th of December just like the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Romanian OC, Bulgarian OC, Greek OC, etc.

(3) What are the most important observances in the Croatian Orthodox Church?

The COC celebrates the liturgy in the same way as the aforementioned Orthodox Churches.

(4) What is the state of Orthodoxy in the Republic of Croatia?

The Republic of Croatia was established in 1991 by separation with the collapsed communist Yugoslavia, and its sovereignty confirmed by victory over the Serbo-Yugoslav aggressor in the Homeland War of Defence (1991-1995). The beginning of the war took place on Croatian territory with Serbian uprisings and the Yugoslav National Army (actually the Army of the former SFRY) in their attempt to thwart the establishment of an independent Croatia and efforts to form a Greater Serbia.

In December 2002, Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Račan (SDP) signed a Contract of Mutual Interest with the “Serbian Orthodox Church in Croatia”. The very notion of the “SOC in Croatia” exists only in that contract. Within the contract, the so-called Serbian Orthodox Church was given all Orthodox property in Croatia. The Republic of Croatia pays the SOC all operational expenses, including the salaries of its bishops and priests, administration and residential costs, utilities, etc. This however is not the case in Serbia where the SOC must be self-sufficient, because according to the Law of the Serbian Church and Religious Communities (Article 29), the Republic of Serbia only provides health and pension insurance for its priests. Nothing more!

The Serbian Orthodox Church is not entered in the Register of Religious Communities in Croatia. A financing contract was signed in 2002 between Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Račan (SDP) and the “President of the Episcopal Council of the SOC in Croatia”, a gentleman who falsely presents himself, because Article 5 of the Constitution of the SOC stipulates who the legal entities of the SOC are, and Article 10 stipulates the church hierarchy and self-governing authorities and institutions. Neither here nor anywhere in the Constitution of the SOC is there such a council, therefore there cannot be a president as such. The provisions of Article 8 of the Constitution of the SOC stipulate: “Assets and legal interests of the Church before state authorities (…) are represented by those church entities defined in this Constitution”, which means that de iuro no one has signed, and the said contract with the Republic of Croatia does not exist in legal terms.

Furthermore, there is no separate part of the SOC that could be called the “SOC in Croatia”, but instead there are five eparchies of the SOC in the Republic of Croatia that are not in any way separated from those in Serbia. The contract on the activities of the SOC in Croatia is in fact null and void, an “act inexistent”, one that does not exist. More importantly, not only is the SOC not entered in the register of religious communities in the Republic of Croatia, but at the time of signing the said contract with the government of Ivica Račan, the SOC was not even registered in Serbia. The SOC was only subsequently registered in Serbia in 2006 – 4 years after signing the contract with Ivica Račan. This leads to no other conclusion than that the “Serbian Orthodox Church in Croatia” operates unlawfully, and that from 2002 to 2018 the SOC illegally received over half a billion kuna (more than USD 100 million) from the Croatian State Budget alone, and perhaps even more from local organs, rented property…

(5) Restoration of the Croatian Orthodox Church.

When we know how and when the COC was obliterated by the communists after the end of WWII, it is obviously very difficult to restore the COC in present-day Croatia, especially after the communists declared it a criminal association, as is everything pro-Croatian that took place during the NDH. The ustashe movement acted on the territory of the NDH. Not a single of those criminal ustashe acted on Serbian territory. During WWII, the NDH and Serbia were not at war. On the contrary, they were allies, and as such formed diplomatic ties. The leader of the Independent State of Croatia, Ante Pavelić (in Croatian dubbed “Poglavnik”), and Serbian Prime Minister of the Government of National Salvation, Milan Nedić, collaborated based on the signed agreement.

All these facts work against the false image of the SOC which is now “anti-fascist”, despite the fact that during WWII it was the only Church in the world that officially exhorted the killing of Jews, and so in 1942 all 15,000 Jews in Serbia were exterminated, and Serbia was declared “Judenfrei”. The Holy Synod of the SOC swore allegiance to German Commander General Turner. Serbian partisans and monarchist chetniks operated on the territory of the NDH, not in Serbia, therefore they were not fighting the Germans or Serbia, but against the Croats. These facts are widely neglected and now the Serbs are proclaimed “anti-fascists” unlike the Croats who are “fascists” or worse – “ustashas”.

All these Serbo-Yugoslav fabrications still exist in Croatian history and Croats learn Croatian history through Serbian eyes and interpretation.

That is how in October 2013, Croatian Archbishop Alexander (until then a priest in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church), established a branch of the European Orthodox Church in Croatia, whose seat is in Paris. On 1 December 2013, the Holy Synod of the EOC granted autocephaly to the Croatian Church, declaring it from that point on the Croatian Orthodox Church, in accordance with Rule 14 of the IV Council of Chalcedon and Rule 38 of the VI Council of Trullo, whereby “the sequence of church affairs must follow state distribution”. In this way, the Croatian Orthodox Church was restored in Croatia, without any consent required on the part of the Serbian Orthodox Church, whose diocese is now the territory of the Republic of Croatia (uncanonically and unlawfully).

(6) What are the most important church edifices and monasteries in the Republic of Croatia?

All 400 Orthodox churches and a number of monasteries in Croatia are the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

(7) What can you tell us about relations between the Croatian Orthodox Church with other traditional Orthodox Churches?

The COC has received recognition from most state institutions in the Republic of Croatia – the Croatian President, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Finance… We are still lacking recognition from the Ministry of Administration. In accordance with our registration, the COC must be allotted churches, housing, funding and every other government benefit. For over 5 years now, the Ministry of Administration has been successfully refusing the registration of the COC. We are currently in our third administrative process, which is lasting over 31 months, despite the fact that the law states that decisions must be made within a month’s time. Therefore, the problem lies is acknowledgement from our own country, not other Orthodox Churches. All recognitions of the COC which were passed in 1942 by the Russian OC, Bulgarian OC, Romanian OC, Greek OC, and Patriarchate of Constantinople, are still in force.

We Croatian Orthodox Christians are in essence like the first apostles, forced to hide in catacombs in order to work and survive. I must highlight that we are no longer in the 1st century but in the 21st, and not in some wilderness but the centre of civilised Christian Europe.

The COC does not have a single church in its possession, and supports itself only through donations of Croats in Croatia and abroad. It operates just like the first Christian communities – holding liturgies out in the open or in borrowed premises.

It is a known fact that the COC is not being recognised for political reasons. The government of Croatia supports the SOC (like a cuckoo’s egg), whose Church belongs to our neighbour, Serbia. Without Croatian support, the SOC would go bankrupt.

(8) What books should we read in order to learn more about the history of the Croatian Orthodox Church?

Books in Croatian:

Pavelić Ante, Hrvatska pravoslavna crkva (The Croatian Orthodox Church), Madrid, 1984.

Požar, Petar. Hrvatska pravoslavna crkva u prošlosti i budućnosti (The Croatian Orthodox Church in the Past and Future). Zagreb, 1996.

Miloš Obrknežević, Razvoj pravoslavlja u Hrvatskoj i Hrvatska pravoslavna crkva (The Growth of Orthodoxy in Croatia and the Croatian Orthodox Church), from the book Hrvatska zauvijek: prilozi hrvatskoj državotvornoj misli (Croatia Forever: Commentaries on Croatian Statehood), (prepared by Ante Selak), Školske novine-Pergamena, Zagreb, 1996.

Croatian Archbishop †Aleksandar, HRVATSKA PRAVOSLAVNA CRKVA bila je, jest i bit će (THE CROATIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH Was, Is and Shall Be) Zagreb, 2017. ISBN 978-953-59546-0-6 (176 pgs.), published in May 2017.

Croatian Archbishop †Aleksandar, HRVATSKA PRAVOSLAVNA CRKVA: Činjenice i kratka povijest (THE CROATIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH Facts and Historical Overview) ISBN 978-953-59546-3-1 (48 pgs.)

Books in English:

Supplemented and expanded translations:

THE CROATIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH Was, Is and Shall Be, Zagreb, 2018. ISBN 978-953-59546-4-4 (240 pgs.), March 2018.

THE CROATIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH Facts and Historical Overview, Zagreb, 2018. ISBN 978-953-59546-2-0 (52 pgs.)

Books in Russian:

ХОРВАТСКАЯ ПРАВОСЛАВНАЯ ЦЕРКОВЬ была, есть и будет, Загреб, 2018. ISBN 978-953-59546-5-1 (248 pgs.)

ХОРВАТСКАЯ ПРАВОСЛАВНАЯ ЦЕРКОВЬ Факты и краткая история, Загреб, 2018. ISBN 978-953-59546-3-7 (56 pgs.).

Our English books have already been delivered to all 751 MPs in the European Parliament. We are currently in the process of sending the Russian editions to scientific institutions and churches that use or understand Russian. The books were also distributed to ambassadors of Orthodox countries in Zagreb. In fact, nearly all the issues (10,000 copies) will be sent around the globe to enable worldwide exposure of Croatia’s historical truth.

(9) What is currently the main role and significance of the Orthodox Church in Croatian society?

For the last decade, we Orthodox Christians in Croatia are striving to prove to the government that there is Croatian Orthodox population in Croatia, despite the imposed Serbo-Yugoslav model by which all Orthodox believers must be Serbian. Therefore, we highlight the fact that the latest population census from 2011 revealed that 16,647 citizens were Croatian Orthodox. When we state that only 16,647 people declared themselves as Orthodox Croats, it appears then that 150,000 Orthodox Serbs are automatically members of the “Serbian Orthodox Church in Croatia”. The 2011 population census confirms that these are Orthodox Serbs, but by no means members of that religious denomination (SOC). A proper question was not formulated per se in the census, and accordingly so, no one was able to submit such a response. As a result, in 2011 no one declared which Church they were part of.

The only relevant state document in modern-day Croatia which presents the exact number of members per religious community is the Census of 2001. It indicates that the Serbian OC has 40,433 members, the Macedonian OC – 211, and Montenegrin OC – 44. The remaining Orthodox Christians have no nationality prefix – 195,969 in total!

    These are essentially believers (potential members) of the Croatian Orthodox Church, because if these people wanted to be members of one of the four registered national Orthodox Churches, they would have done so long ago. In most Orthodox countries such as Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece… Orthodox believers state their denomination without a nationality prefix, for they are all citizens of the given countries. No foreign Orthodox Churches exist in those countries, as this would be against Church Canon Law. Likewise, these Orthodox believers cannot comprehend the notion of an “Orthodox faith with a nationality prefix”, as this exists nowhere else in the world except on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, and which is contrary to Canon Law as forced by the SOC.

The Croatian Orthodox Church is Croatian because it operates in the Republic of Croatia. It is the Orthodox Church whose diocese is the territory of Croatia and its Orthodox congregation. All Croats may freely join it, regardless of ethnic origin, as the Gospel says: For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:20)

The Constitution (Statute) of the Croatian Orthodox Church is valid exclusively on the territory of Croatia, and it prays for the Croatian people because Croats live in the Republic of Croatia. The COC uses Croatian in its liturgy, which is the official language of the Republic of Croatia (Art. 12 of the Croatian Constitution).

     The canonically non-existent “SOC in Croatia” claims that its members are Serbs, and they pray in Serbian for the Serbian people (which do not exist in Croatia), and even proclaim a special Serbian Orthodox faith, which is an ethnophiletic heresy in Orthodoxy around the world. There is only one Orthodox faith, and it has no ethnic or national prefix. Anything contrary to this is a heresy!

The government of Croatia signed a detrimental and void contract with a foreign and canonically non-existent “SOC in Croatia”. It still has no understanding for the needs of the second-largest religious community, which consists of 200,000 Croatian citizens, who never were and do not wish to be members of the SOC, but instead seek their own Croatian Orthodox Church. It is the second-largest religious community after the Catholic Church, and its congregation is twice as numerous than the number of members of all registered religious communities together. They make up 82% of all Orthodox Christians in Croatia, and 5.5% of the total population.

The Republic of Croatia shows no acknowledgement for the religious freedom of its domicile population of Orthodox Croats – members of the Croatian Orthodox Church. Instead, it is endlessly delaying the Church’s legal registration, not abiding by secular rights and Canon Law whereby “the sequence of church affairs must follow state distribution”. This means that with the restoration of the autonomous Croatian state, the government must also restore its autonomous Orthodox Church.

Notwithstanding the claims of the SOC that in fact the COC does not exist, because such a Church could (perhaps) be created some time in the future – when the SOC permits, all citizens of Croatia support the Croatian Orthodox Church, regardless of their ethnic background and faith. The entire Croatian nation supports us – Catholics, Muslims, and atheists alike. This unified strength gives us sustenance in our struggle for the rights of Orthodox Croats, and the fulfilment of the final provisions of complete Croatian sovereignty, because the existence of an independent Croatian Orthodox Church is a paradigm of Croatian statehood.  


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