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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    SAT, 27 MAY 1995 15:15:00 GMT

    THE PATRIARCH IS NO POPE

    Although Slovenian press for quite some time carried polemics concerning justification of permitting manifestations of the Serb Orthodox Church in Slovenia in which the Patriarch Pavle himself would participate, only in the second half of May did they reach a red-hot climax. For weeks, in the columns reserved for readers of different Slovenian journals, one could read letters of a wide variety of people who disputed whether the Serb Patriarch was spurring the war in B&H or not. There were by far more of those who accused the Patriarch as an accomplice of the leadership from Pale, but there was also quite a significant number of those who claimed that Mr Pavle was trying to pacify war frenzy. The polemics were signed mostly by Slovenian names and family names, so that this was not anything among the Orthodox, but indeed among the hosts who were expected to welcome the Serb Patriarch with his suite and the chorus Branko Krsmanovic in Slovenia between June 16 and 18 this year. But, the Slovenian Government decided not to give its assent to the Patriarch's visit to Slovenia.

    It all began in March when representatives of the Serb Orthodox Church (SPC) in Slovenia, or more precisely, the Zagreb-Ljubljana-Trieste Metropolitan, Mr Jovan, and Archpriest and Parish Rector, Peran Boskovic, initiated a two-day visit of the Serb Patriarch Pavle to Slovenia on June 16. They made a program of the visit and got a consent for it from the heads of the SPC in Belgrade, according to which the Patriarch was expected to begin his visit in Kocevski Rog where he would have held services for the Chetniks killed and buried there. Towards the end of the war, namely, many Chetniks fled from the partisans and the allies through Slovenia. According to certain data, in Kocevski Rog (the forests near Kocevje, comparatively close to the Croat border), between 2000 and 4500 Chetniks were buried. On the same spot an enormous number of Slovenian Home Guardsmen and White Guards were also killed, since they too were sentenced to death as collaborators of the Germans. Slovenian Catholic Archbishop Alojzij Sustar on his part holds memorial services for the dead Home Guardsmen every year since Slovenia became independent and, according to the words of Archpriest Peran Boskovic, relatives of the killed Chetniks felt discriminated against because they could not commemorate their dead in the same way. This injustice was set right last year when about a hundred Serbs, relatives and friends of the deceased Chetniks came to Kocevski Rog and memorial services were held by Metropolitan Mr Jovan. Two ceremonies were planned for this year. The first similar to the one held last year, and the other which was planned to be attended by the Serb Patriarch.

    After Patriarch's return to Ljubljana, that very same day, a ceremony was planned to be held in Cankar's Club with about a thousand invited guests, which was actually conceived as a concert of spiritual music. The next day, the Patriarch was to be a guest of honour at the central event - consecration of the renewed Orthodox Church in the centre of Ljubljana. The Church already has new fresco paintings, and in the past few days its exterior is being decorated - the front and the new copper roof. After that, the organizers planned Patriarch's visit to Trieste which is an important seat of the SPC for that part of Europe. A meeting of the Patriarch with the Ljubljana Catholic Archbishop Sustar was also agreed, and the possibility of a meeting with Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek, and even President Kucan was also seriously considered.

    Strong resistance to this whole event in the Slovenian public predicted that the political meetings would probably be omitted, but not the visit of the Patriarch to Slovenia itself. But, in the meantime, Mr Pavle visited Pale and offered support to Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, just at the time it was decided in the Hague to put these two Serb leaders on trial for war crimes. The Patriarch's blessing in Pale was decisive to turn many who were previously in favour of his visit to Slovenia against it. His act in Pale made a very negative impression among the refugees from B&H and Croatia too, and their citizens who live in Slovenia. The Patriarch's visit would not be safe any more.

    The Slovenian Government was probably governed by all these reasons when it concluded that "in the present circumstances, such a visit is not acceptable". At the same time, the Slovenian administration declares that it would "in no way obstacles or oppose fulfillement of wishes of the citizens who are by religion or cultural background linked to the environments of their origin, but that it is its duty to bear in mind a priori the principles of tolerance and coexistence and to see to it that ethnic and political intolerance are not transferred to Slovenia from without. Such a decision of the administration does not derive from the opposition to Patriarch's pastoral mission which it hopes will in more favourable circumstances - to the satisfaction of the affected believers - be accomplished without hindrance". Considerably loud reactions followed - from a burst of support to condemnation of the Government. Namely, at the same time it was made public that Pope John Paul II would visit Slovenia next year. He is expected with enthusiasm in Slovenia, despite some of his stances which are completely unacceptable for modern Europe as well as for Slovenia. But criteria for acceptability are different, those who do not agree with the refusal of Patriarch's visit say. They stress that Pavle and Paul II are not the same...

    Reactions in the Serb press were also very loud. Generally it was stressed that Slovenia did not issue a visa to the Patriarch. It is difficult to say what would have happened had the Patriarch actually applied for a visa, which he did not do, since the Slovenian administration never stated that it would not issue a visa to him, although that is how the newspapers generally interpreted its statement. It is interesting that none of the Slovenian officials wished to comment on the decision of the Government. Not even the Catholic Church. The only one who made a public statement was the Belgrade Catholic Archbishop France Perko who did not agree with such a decision and said that he warned Prime Minister of Slovenia that this was not a good solution. His stance is understandable, because he is very well acquainted with the circumstances in both countries and with the relations between the two Churches. That they are good was verified by the Orthodox Archpriest Mr Boskovic before the decision of the Sloivenian Government. "Relations between the the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church in Slovenia are much better than the relations between the two Churches in some other countries. That is why I believe that the meeting between the heads of both Churches would contribute to an even higher quality of these relations", Mr Boskovic had said at the time. After the decision of the Slovenian Government, unfortunately it was impossible to get his statement because he was away from Slovenia.

    Janja Klasinc, AIM