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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

    SUN, 30 JUL 2000 02:08:39 GMT

    Slovenia and the Vatican

    Industry of Saints

    One of the most sensitive questions for the Slovenian Catholic Church is the problem of saints. Namely, the question of saints is the question of prestige. Until recently, the Slovenian believers of Catholic faith did not have their authentic saints: they had to borrow them from others. During the time Archbishop Alojz Sustar ruled the Slovenian Catholic Church, who was submissive to the communist rulers, beatification of Slomsk or Baraga was just a pie in the sky.

    AIM Ljubljana, July 4, 2000

    "We need someone like that in Slovenia. We need a language we could agree in about the past, present and the future," these are the words by which Foreign Minster Lojze Peterle saluted the anniversary of the birth of Frederik Baraga, a Slovenian missionary among the American Indians and author of a number of books in the Slovenian and Indian languages. It was no accident that Peterle said this, nor was by accident that the occasion was chosen - celebration of the day of birth of a missionary. Everything was carefully timed, especially the presence of representatives of the new authorities.

    Namely, Frederik Baraga is a candidate for the new Slovenian saint. And saints are one of the most sensitive questions for the Slovenian Catholic church. Namely, the question of saints is a matter of prestige. The Slovenes still do not have their cardinal (head of the Slovenian church, Franc Rode, is only an archbishop), and they do not rank very good in the sky either, since until recently, in the entire celestial army there was not a single local saint. The local believers of the catholic faith had to borrow them from others. For years, they hoped that their emissary to the Holy See, father Bruno Korosak, will manage to secure in Vatican "the beatification of Bishop Slomsk and Bishop Frederik Baraga". However, at the time Archbishop Alojz Sustar ruled the Slovenian Catholic Church, who was submissive to the communist rulers, this was all just a pie in the sky.

    Making Do

    Only when Sustar was replaced by uncompromising Rode, a man who is fervently supporting the most radical clerical ideas - everything changed. Starting a conflict with the authorities, Rode managed to secure a number of concessions which the Church yearned after for years. The Constitutional Court of Slovenia confirmed the validity of the law on de-nationalisation which is among the most generous ones towards the Slovenian branch of the Catholic Church when compared to similar laws accepted in Eastern Europe. And that was not all - the basis of catechism have been introduced in all schools in a form of a special subject on religions. Naturally, the Vatican was ready to reward that.

    First, last year, during his second visit to the independent Slovenia, the Pope John Paul II promoted into a saint the Maribor Archbishop Anton Martin Slomsk, to whom the Slovenian nation is indebted for his work on "securing recognition for the Slovenian language, writing textbooks, culturally aiding the poorest population strata", etc. The message to the Slovenian authorities and the Church was clear - bow to the Vatican's wishes and you will get the greatest national saints already tomorrow; and if everything turns out all right and Church is satisfied with its position in the society, with the introduction of catechism in schools and is appreciated in the media, who knows "you might even get a Cardinal". Immediately after that Rode managed to push through the nomination of Frederik Baraga.

    That is why Peterle, the first man of the Slovenian Christian-Democrats, attended the memorial service for Frederik Baraga as representative of the right-wing Government of Andrej Bajuk, and the importance that the new authorities have devoted to this event. In memory of Baraga they have organised an official commemoration and a special mass officiated by Archbishop Franc Rode. The happening had not only a religious, but also all-national character. In his speech Rode emphasised that "a nation is as big as much it had given to the world", that Baraga was "a part of the Slovenian greatness", a symbol of "industriousness, which is one of the best Slovenian characteristics".

    But, the most interesting part in this entire story is "that other thing" - technology for "the production of saints", which has never before attracted so much attention although a rather unusual procedure is in question which, apart from candidate's orthodoxy, requires much money. In order to have a potential saint internationally recognised, the proposer must prove that the person in question is revered all over the world. By fortunate coincidence, in the last couple of years some American citizens, mostly from the Slovenian Prekomurje by origin, mentioned Slomsk in their prayers so that the badly required data on several unbelievable recoveries from illness arrived to Slovenia overnight. That was a precondition for the Holy See to even take into consideration a proposal for proclaiming a new saint, because it is already rather crowded up there in the sky. Especially as certain nations (let's say those recently "liberated from communism") think that for their endurance and merits from the past they are entitled to special privileges and favour their saints.

    That is why enthusiasts from the Slovenian Catholic church prepared Baraga as their second trump card, just in case. Father Korosak had gathered data on 62 veritable miracles in the form of "miraculous recoveries" which happened on all five continents: "We have the recovery of two or three Chinese, fantastic examples of healings in Argentina, Peru, Slovenia, Australia, etc. Wherever our missionaries worked, preaching that if no one else could help you, no saint, no doctor - turn to Baraga. And the cure came, all over the world."

    A Recipe for the Altar

    The procedure of the legalisation of a new saint is equal to any other civil proceeding before a secular court. At a given moment the congregation can demand from a Bishop to do everything so that the altar can be covered with the paintings of their candidate, so that they can officially worship him. Bishop's duty is to resist that with all means at his disposal, recommending to the local population to turn to some of the existing saints. However, if the churchfold keep insisting on their wish, then a three-stage procedure is started.

    The first step is the bishopric court composed of three judges. After that comes the court of appeals and finally, the court of cassation. In the first stage, it is necessary to prove by means of documents all that had happened with the candidate from his birth to his death, and especially - after death. After that the judges in Rome, after they get all documents translated and verified, check their authenticity and if they give them a green light, the Council of Cardinals can decide within fifteen minutes whether they are dealing with a truly saintly person.

    Only then comes the Pope, who carries out canonisation. In the case of Slovenia, the mentioned father Korosak served as a kind of lawyer for Slomsk's fans, while because of his busy schedule he left Baraga to another clergyman.

    The whole process takes very long because the Ministry of saints in Rome has currently some 1,700 such pending cases. Each individual case can take years, decades. Although, if the proposer is better off, the colour of his money can drastically speed things up. Or, as Korosak instructed his flock: "Almost all nations hire Jesuit experts. But, beware, they are expensive! When I started preparing documentation for Baraga, they asked for 120 million liras just to start the procedure!" For the sake of comparison - 120 million liras are equal to DM 1,2 million! Just for starters.

    Be that as it may, father Korosak and Baraga's followers did not have that much money. They couldn't pay the Jesuit team. In addition, they had to pay the lawyer's fee, half a million liras - as a beginning! Next, Jesuits charge 12 thousand liars per a page of a document with journalistic spacing (25 to 30 lines per page). At this moment that is equal to some DM 12. That should be multiplied with several thousand pages, because until now the case of Slovenian saints is three thousand pages long. The text in Italian and the formulas in Latin. In addition, someone will have to write at least 300 pages long doctoral thesis on the saint in question. It is then clear how much one "national" saint costs.

    True, the Slovenes think that it is a matter of pride and honour to have at least two of their saints, but if that could cost them nothing. "Everything goes smoothly only with martyrs, because there is not much proving to be done since they have shed their blood for the faith. At the congregation they told me to bring them a saint like the ones the Spaniards propose, who really performed miracles", complained father Korosak.

    Despite everything, things are not so bad today, as it may seem to the representatives of the Slovenian Catholic church. It is true that the Slovenes were for years the only nation without its authentic, national saint but things have taken a turn for the better in a flash. Slomsk is the newly proclaimed saint and the second's halo is in sight. Birth throes with this undertaking are already a thing of the past - getting enough money for the proclamation of the first national saint, finding and proving his miracles, persuading the Vatican, etc. The inauguration of Anton Martin Slomsk broke the ice.

    Finally, Rode did not only manage to consolidate the new position of the Church in the Slovenian society, but also to ensure something for the Vatican which is much more valuable than money. Bajuk's Government is now intensively working on ensuring the sympathies of the Vatican cardinals for its popular masses by its moves - purges of the state funds of the "sympathisers of the left", onslaught on the independent media and the press, instilling greater conservativism in the society in general. And what is most important, Pope's beatification of another Slovenian saint.

    Svetlana Vasovic

    (AIM Ljubljana)