Catholic clergy involvement with the
Ustaše covers the role of the
Catholic Church in the
Independent State of Croatia
Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a
Nazi puppet state created on the territory of Axis-occupied Yugoslavia
in 1941. The NDH was controlled by the
Ustaše movement, which was not
recognized by the Holy See, although the Holy See, more specifically
Pope Pius XII, was criticized for not condemning the movement more
timely and forcefully.
2 Independent State of Croatia
2.1 Creation and recognition
2.2 Clergy involved in
2.3 Clergy opposed to
2.4 Church and forced conversions
3 Catholic hierarchy
3.1 Archbishop Stepinac
3.2 Role of the Vatican
3.3 Pavelić audience
3.4 Giuseppe Ramiro Marcone
4.1 Relations with SFR Yugoslavia
4.2 Vatican "ratlines"
4.3 Post-war trials
5 Notable people
6 See also
Catholic Church in Croatia
For centuries, Croatia had been a part of the Habsburg Empire. A
variety of ethnic groups have long existed in the region, and there
has been a strong correlation between ethnic identity and religious
Croats being mainly Catholic, and more
Western-oriented, while the Serbs are Eastern Orthodox.
Following the dissolution of the Habsburg Empire at the close of World
War I, the desire of Croatian nationalists for independence was not
realised, and the region found itself first in the
Kingdom of Serbs,
Croats and Slovenes, and then in the equally Serb
dominated dictatorship of
Yugoslavia established by King Alexander in
1929. Internal borders were redrawn dividing historical Croatia into
several provinces. Political repression bred extremism, and the
"Ustaša" ("Insurgence") was formed in 1929 by Ante Pavelić, with the
support of Fascist Italy. In 1934, King Alexander was assassinated by
a Bulgarian gunman, a member of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary
Organization, a radical group seeking independence, allied with the
Ustaše group led by Pavelić. The new Regent Prince, Paul
Karadjordjević was convinced by the success of Vladko Maček's more
moderate Croatian Peasant's Party at 1938 elections to grant further
autonomy to Croatia.
On 6 April 1941, Nazi Germany invaded
Yugoslavia and Greece. In
their military campaign, the Axis forces exploited ethnic divisions in
Yugoslavia, and presented themselves as liberators of the Croats. The
Axis powers set up a puppet state, the Independent
State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH), which included
Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the parts of Dalmatia not annexed to
Italy. Deputy prime minister Maček refused to collaborate in a
puppet government, and Pavelić's
Ustaše was installed in power. In
Pavelić, Hitler found an ally.
Initially there was enthusiasm for Croatian independence, but the
state was in fact under occupation by the German and Italian armies,
Ustaša commenced a ruthless persecution of Serbs, Jews,
Gypsies, and dissident
Croats and Bosnian Muslims. Archbishop
Aloysius Stepinac of
Zagreb welcomed Croat independence in 1941, but
subsequently condemned Croat atrocities against both Serbs and Jews,
and involved himself in personally saving Jews. The Pavelić
government intended to rid Croatia of its
Eastern Orthodox Serb
minority in three ways: forcible conversion (1/3), deportation (1/3)
and murder (1/3). At least 450,000 people (although the exact number
is impossible to ascertain and is disputed by different sides) were
killed by the Ustaša, both in massacres and at concentration camps,
most infamously the one at Jasenovac. Most of the victims were Serbs,
but Jews, Roma and dissident
Croats and Bosnian Muslims were also
Independent State of Croatia
Creation and recognition
Ante Pavelić, the head of the Ustaša, was anti-
Serb and viewed
Catholicism as an integral part of Croat culture. Historian Michael
Phayer wrote that for the Ustaša, "relations with the Vatican were as
important as relations with Germany" as Vatican recognition was the
key to widespread Croat support. The creation of the Independent
State of Croatia was welcomed by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church
and by many Catholic priests.
Archbishop Stepinac supported Croatia's
independence from the Serb-dominated Yugoslav state and arranged an
Pius XII for Pavelić.
Peter Hebblethwaite wrote that Pavelić was anxious to get
diplomatic relations and a Vatican blessing for the new 'Catholic
state' but that "Neither was forthcoming".
Giovanni Montini (the
Pope Paul VI) advised Pavelić that the
Holy See could not
recognize frontiers changed by force. The Yugoslav royal legation
remained at the Vatican. When the King of Italy averred that the Duke
Spoleto was to be "King of Croatia", Montini advised that the Pope
could not hold a private audience with the Duke once any such
coronation occurred. Pius subsequently relented, allowing a half-hour
private audience with Pavelić in May 1941.
Phayer wrote that just after becoming dictator of Croatia and "after
receiving a papal blessing in 1941,
Ante Pavelić and his Ustaša
lieutenants unleashed an unspeakable genocide in their new
country". Vatican Under Secretary of State Montini (later
VI)'s minutes of the meeting noted that no recognition of the new
state could come before a peace treaty and that "The
Holy See must be
impartial; it must think of all; there are Catholics on all sides to
whom the [Holy See] must be respectful."
The Vatican refused formal recognition but neither did it cut
diplomatic relations with the Ustaša.
Pius XII did not send a nuncio,
or diplomatic representative, but an apostolic visitor, Benedictine
abbot, Dom Giuseppe Ramiro Marcone, as representative to the Croatian
Catholic Church, rather than the government. Phayer wrote that this
suited Pavelić well enough and Stepinac felt the Vatican had de facto
recognized the new state.
In the 1831 papal bull Sollicitudo Ecclesiarum,
Pope Gregory XVI
Pope Gregory XVI drew
a clear distinction between de facto recognition and de jure, saying
that the church would negotiate with de facto governments, but that
was not an endorsement of either their legitimacy or
Pope met with Pavelić again in 1943. Pius was criticized for
his reception of Pavelić: an unattributed British
Foreign Office memo
on the subject described
Pius XII as "the greatest moral coward of our
age." For their part, wrote Phayer, the Vatican hoped the Ustaša
would defeat communism in Croatia and that many of the 200,000 who had
Catholic Church for the
Serbian Orthodox Church
Serbian Orthodox Church since World
War I would return to the fold.
Clergy involved in
Mark Biondich notes that "[T]he younger generation of radical
Catholics, particularly those of the crusader organisation, supported
Ustaša with considerable enthusiasm, while the older generation
of Croat Populists [HSS] was more reserved and in some cases overtly
hostile". This generational gap between conservative and radical
Catholic priests was further reflected by region (urban vs rural), the
geographical location of churches and bishoprics, and an individual
priest's relative place within the Church hierarchy. More senior
clerics generally disassociated themselves from the NDH. They were
also divided by religious order. The Fransciscans, who had resisted
for over fifty years Vatican efforts to turn over parishes to secular
clergy, were far more prominently associated with the
were the Salesians.
Mass murder occurred through the summer and autumn of 1941. The first
Croatian concentration camp was opened at the end of April 1941, and
in June a law was passed to establish a network across the country, in
order to exterminate ethnic and religious minorities. According to
writer Richard Evans, atrocities at the notorious Jasenovac
concentration camp were "egged on by some
Phayer wrote that it is well known that many Catholic clerics
participated directly or indirectly in
Ustaša campaigns of violence,
as is attested in the work of Corrado Zoli (Italian) and Evelyn Waugh
(British), both Catholics themselves.
A particularly notorious example was the
Franciscan friar Tomislav
Filipović, also known as Miroslav Filipović-Majstorović, known as
"Fra Sotona" ("Friar Satan"), "the devil of Jasenovac", for running
the Jasenovac concentration camp, where estimates of the number killed
range between 49,600 and 600,000. According to Evans,
Filipović led murder squads at Jasenovac. According to the Jasenovac
Memorial Site, "Because of his participation in the mass murders in
February 1942 the church authorities excommunicated him from the
Franciscan order, which was confirmed by the
Holy See in July
1942." He was also required to relinquish the right to his
religious name, Tomislav. When he was hanged for war crimes, however,
he wore his clerical garb.
Ivan Šarić, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vrhbosna in Sarajevo,
supported the Ustaša, in particular the forcible conversion of
Orthodox Serbs to Roman Catholicism. His diocesan newspaper wrote:
"[T]here is a limit to love. The movement of liberation of the world
from the Jews is a movement for the renewal of human dignity.
Omniscient and omnipotent God stands behind this movement."
Šarić appropriated Jewish property for his own use, but was never
legally charged. Some priests served in the personal bodyguard of
Pavelić, including Ivan Guberina, a leader of the Croatian Catholic
movement, a form of Catholic Action. Another priest, Bozidas Bralo,
served as chief of the security police in Sarajevo, who initiated many
Ustaša party power, much of the party work in Bosnia
and Herzegovina was put in the hands of Catholic priests by Jure
Ustaše Commissioner of this province. One priest,
Mate Mugos, wrote that clergy should put down the prayer book and take
up the revolver. Another, Dionysius Juričev, wrote in the Novi list
that to kill children at least seven years of age was not a sin.
Phayer argues that "establishing the fact of genocide in Croatia prior
to the Holocaust carries great historical weight for our study because
Catholics were the perpetrators and not, as in Poland, the
Clergy opposed to
Pavelić told Nazi Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop that while the
lower clergy supported the Ustaše, the bishops, and particularly
Archbishop Stepinac, were opposed to the movement because of "Vatican
Along with Archbishop Stepinac, bishops Mišić and Rožman objected
Ustaša violence. Hebblethwaite wrote that to oppose the
violence of the new
Ustaše state, the "Vatican's policy was to
strengthen the hand of [Archbishop Stepinac] in his rejection of
forcible conversions and brutalities."
Phayer wrote that Stepinac came to be considered as jeudenfreundlich
(Jew friendly) by the Nazi-linked
Ustaše authorities. He suspended a
number of priest collaborators in his diocese. Thirty-one priests
were arrested following Stepinac's July and October 1943 explicit
condemnations of race murders being read from pulpits across
Martin Gilbert wrote that Stepinac, "who in
1941 had welcomed Croat independence, subsequently condemned Croat
atrocities against both Serbs and Jews, and himself saved a group of
Jews". Aloysius Mišić, Bishop of Mostar, was a prominent
resister. Gregorij Rožman, the bishop of
Ljubljana in Slovenia
allowed some Jews who had converted to
Catholicism and fled from
Croatia into his diocese to remain there, with assistance from the
Pietro Tacchi Venturi
Pietro Tacchi Venturi in obtaining the permission of the
Italian civil authorities.
In Italian-occupied Croatia, Nazi envoy
Siegfried Kasche advised
Berlin that Italian forces were not willing to hand over Jews and had
"apparently been influenced" by Vatican opposition to German
anti-Semitism. The intervention of Giuseppe Marcone, Pius XII's
Apostolic Visitor to Zagreb, saved a thousand Croatian Jews married to
non-Jews. The Apostolic delegate to Turkey, Angelo Roncalli, saved
a number of Croatian Jews by assisting their migration to Palestine.
Pius XII as Pope, and always said that he had been
acting on the orders of
Pius XII in his actions to rescue Jews.
Yad Vashem has recognised 109 Croatians as Righteous among the Nations
for rescuing Jews from the Holocaust, including Catholic nuns, Jožica
Jurin (Sister Cecilija), Marija Pirović (Sister Karitas), and Sister
Amadeja Pavlović, and a priest, Father Dragutin Jesih, who was
Archbishop Stepinac denounced the atrocities against the Serbs.
Phayer wrote that in July 1941, Stepinac wrote to Pavelić objecting
to the condition of deportation of Jews and Serbs and then, realizing
that conversion could save Serbs he instructed clergy to baptise
people upon demand without the normal waiting time for
instruction. As Pavelić's government cracked down on Serbs, along
with the Jewish, Muslim, and Protestant Germanic minorities, the
Catholic clergy took steps to encourage Orthodox Serbs to convert to
Church and forced conversions
According to Matthew Feldman, "[T]he NDH, not the Catholic orders,
oversaw forced conversions; it was
Ustaša ideology behind the influx
of racial – not religious – anti-Semitism in 1941..."
"...[T]his was a secular, not a religious, regime, one that appealed
to (and ultimately perverted) centuries-long Croatian traditions of
Catholicism to initially legitimate its rule." By 14 July
1941—"anticipating its selective conversion policy and eventual goal
of genocide"—the Croatian Ministry of Justice instructed the
Croatian episcopate that "priests or schoolmasters or, in a word, any
of the intelligentsia—including rich Orthodox tradesmen and
artisans" should not be admitted. Those precluded from the "coming
program of enforced conversion" were deported and killed, although
many who converted or tried to do so met the same fate, anyway.
Croats appropriated many Serbian Orthodox churches as "vacated or
requisitioned". The Catholic episcopate and HKP, the Croatian branch
of Catholic Action, a lay organization, were involved in the
coordination and administration of these policies.
Aloysius Stepinac of
Zagreb initially welcomed the
Independent State of Croatia
Independent State of Croatia granted by Nazi Germany, but subsequently
condemned the regime.
Aloysius Stepinac of
Zagreb was, at the time of his
appointment in 1934 at the age of 39, the youngest Catholic bishop in
the world. He initially received very little guidance from the Vatican
and was given great leeway in how to deal with the rise of the
Ustaše. His control over the lower bishops and clergy was not
uniform. Historian of the Holocaust
Martin Gilbert wrote that,
"Stepinac, who in 1941 had welcomed Croat independence, subsequently
condemned Croat atrocities against both Serbs and Jews, and himself
saved a group of Jews in an old age home".
Stepinac shared the hope for a Catholic Croatia and viewed the
Yugoslav state as "the jail of the Croatian nation". The Vatican was
not as enthusiastic as Stepinac and did not formally recognize the
Ustaša, instead sending
Giuseppe Ramiro Marcone
Giuseppe Ramiro Marcone as an apostolic
visitor. Stepinac, who arranged the meeting between
Pius XII and
Pavelić, was satisfied with this step, viewing it as de facto
recognition and Marcone as a nuncio in all but name. Stepinac began
attempting to publicly distance himself from the
Ustaša in May
1941. As the
Ustaše murders "increased exponentially" in the
summer and fall of 1941, Stepinac fell under "heavy criticism" for the
church's collaboration, but he was not yet prepared to break
completely with the Ustaše. Phayer wrote that Stepinac gave the
Ustaše the "benefit of the doubt ...[and] decided on a limited
Stepinac called a synod of Croatian bishops in November 1941. The
synod appealed to Pavelić to treat Jews "as humanely as possible,
considering that there were German troops in the country". The
Vatican replied with praise to Marcone for what the synod had done for
"citizens of Jewish origin", although Israeli historian Menachem
Shelah states that the synod concerned itself only with converted
Pius XII personally praised the synod for "courage and
decisiveness". Shelach has written that:
A bishops' conference that met in
Zagreb in November 1941 was not...
prepared to denounce the forced conversion of Serbs that had taken
place in the summer of 1941, let alone condemn the persecution and
murder of Serbs and Jews. It was not until the middle of 1943 that
Stepinac, the Archbishop of Zagreb, publicly came out against the
murder of Croatian Jews (most of whom had been killed by that time),
the Serbs, and other nationalities. In the early stage, the Croatian
massacres were explained as "teething troubles of a new regime" in
Rome by Msgr
Domenico Tardini of the Vatican state secretariat.),
Excerpt from Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.
According to scholar Ronald J. Rychlak:
Stepinac, after having received direction from Rome, condemned the
brutal actions of the government. A speech he gave on 24 October 1942
stated in part: "All men and all races are children of God; all
without distinction. Those who are Gypsies, black, European, or Aryan
all have the same rights.... For this reason, the
Catholic Church had
always condemned, and continues to condemn, all injustice and all
violence committed in the name of theories of class, race, or
nationality. It is not permissible to persecute Gypsies or Jews
because they are thought to be an inferior race". (24 October 1942
speech by Archbishop Stepinac).
Rychlak writes that the "
Associated Press reported that 'by 1942
Stepinac had become a harsh critic' of the Nazi puppet regime,
condemning its 'genocidal policies, which killed tens of thousands of
Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and Croats.' He thereby earned the enmity of the
Ante Pavelić ... [When] Pavelić traveled to Rome,
he was greatly angered because he was denied the diplomatic audience
he had wanted", although he enjoyed at least two "devotional"
audiences with the pontiff, under whom the Vatican granted Pavelić
"de facto recognition" as a "bastion against communism". Phayer wrote
that Stepinac came to be known as jeudenfreundlich (Jew friendly) to
the Nazis and the
Ustaše regime. He suspended a number of priest
collaborators in his diocese.
Stepinac declared publicly in mid-1942 that it was "forbidden to
exterminate Gypsies and Jews because they are said to belong to an
inferior race". When Himmler visited
Zagreb a year later, indicating
the impending roundup of remaining Jews, Stepinac wrote Pavelić that
if this occurred, he would protest for "the
Catholic Church is not
afraid of any secular power, whatever it may be, when it has to
protect basic human values". When the deportations began, Stepinac and
papal envoy Giuseppe Marcone protested to Andrija Artuković.
According to Phayer, the Vatican ordered Stepinac to save as many Jews
as possible during the upcoming roundup. Although Stepinac
reportedly personally saved many potential victims, his protests had
little effect on Pavelić.
Role of the Vatican
Cornwell considers Catholic involvement important because of "the
Vatican's knowledge of the atrocities, Pacelli's failure to use his
good offices to intervene, and the complicity it represented in the
Final Solution being planned in northern Europe."
Pius XII was a long-standing supported of Croat nationalism; he hosted
a national pilgrimage to Rome in November 1939, for the cause of the
canonization of Nikola Tavelić, and largely "confirmed the Ustashe
perception of history". In a meeting with Stepinac, Pius XII
reiterated the words of
Pope Leo X, that the
Croats were "the outpost
of Christianity", which implied that Orthodox Serbs were not true
Pius XII foretold to Stepinac, "[T]he hope of a better
future seems to be smiling on you, a future in which the relations
between Church and State in your country will be regulated in
harmonious action to the advantage of both."
Undersecretary of State Montini (later elected
Pope Paul VI) was
responsible for "day-to-day matters concerning Croatia and Poland". He
Pius XII on a daily basis, and heard of the Ustaša
atrocities in 1941. In March 1942, Montini asked the Ustaša
representative to the Vatican, "Is it possible that these atrocities
have taken place?", and responded that he would view such accusations
with "considerable reserve" once the representative called them "lies
and propaganda". Montini's fellow Undersecretary, Domenico Tardini,
Ustaša representative that the Vatican was willing to
Ustaša because: "Croatia is a young state [...]
Youngsters often err because of their age. It is therefore not
surprising that Croatia also erred."
Stepinac was summoned to Rome in April 1942, where he delivered a
nine-page document detailing various misdeeds of Pavelić. This
document described the atrocities as "anomalies" that were either
unknown or unauthorized by Pavelić himself; it is omitted from the
ADSS. However, by 1942, the Vatican "preferred to have Stepinac try to
rein the fascists in rather than risk the effect that a papal
denunciation would have on the unstable Croatian state".
According to Eugene Tisserant, future Dean of the College of
Cardinals, "we have the list of all clergymen who participated in
these atrocities and we shall punish them at the right time to cleanse
our conscience of the stain with which they spotted us." Pius XII
was well-informed of the involvement of Croatian Roman Catholic clergy
with the Ustaša, but decided against condemning them or even taking
action against the involved clergy, who had "joined in the slaughter",
fearing it would lead to schism in the Croatian church or undermine
the formation of a future Croatian state.
Phayer contrasts the Vatican's "limited and sketchy" knowledge of the
genocide in Poland with "the Croatian case, in which both the nuncio
and the head of the church, Bishop Alojzje Stepinac, were in
continuous contact with the
Holy See while the genocide was being
Cardinal Secretary of State
Cardinal Secretary of State Maglione instructed nuncio
Marcone that "if your eminence can find a suitable occasion, he should
recommend in a discreet manner, that would not be interpreted as an
official appeal, that moderation be employed with regard to Jews on
Croatian territory. Your Eminence should see to it that [...] the
impression of loyal cooperation with the civil authorities be always
preserved." According to Phayer, the Vatican "preferred to bring
diplomatic pressure on the Ushtasha [sic] government instead of
challenging the fascists publicly on the immorality of genocide."
However, according to Professor Rychlak, "Between 1941 and 1944, the
Vatican sent four official letters and made numerous oral pleas and
protests regarding the deportation of Jews from Slovakia." Rychlak
quotes a letter from Pius himself, dated 7 April 1943: "The Holy See
has always entertained the firm hope that the Slovak government,
interpreting also the sentiments of its own people, Catholics almost
entirely, would never proceed with the forcible removal of persons
belonging to the Jewish race. It is therefore with great pain that the
Holy See has learned of the continued transfers of such a nature from
the territory of the Republic. This pain is aggravated further now
that it appears from various reports that the Slovak government
intends to proceed with the total removal of the Jewish residents of
Slovakia, not even sparing women and children. The
Holy See would fail
in its Divine Mandate if it did not deplore these measures, which
gravely damage man in his natural right, merely for the reason that
these people belong to a certain race."
The following day, a message went out from the
Holy See instructing
its representative in
Bulgaria to take steps in support of Jewish
residents who were facing deportation. Shortly thereafter, the
secretary of the Jewish Agency for Palestine met with Archbishop
Angelo Roncalli (later
Pope John XXIII) "to thank the
Holy See for the
happy outcome of the steps taken on behalf of the Israelites in
Slovakia ... [I]n October 1942, a message went out from the Vatican to
its representatives in
Zagreb regarding the "painful situation that
spills out against the Jews in Croatia" and instructing them to
petition the government for "a more benevolent treatment of those
unfortunates". The Cardinal Secretary of State's notes reflect that
Vatican petitions were successful in getting a suspension of
'dispatches of Jews from Croatia' by January 1943, but Germany was
applying pressure for 'an attitude more firm against the Jews'.
Another instruction from the
Holy See to its representatives in Zagreb
directing them to work on behalf of the Jews went out on 6 March 1943.
Journalist John Cornwell, a British Roman Catholic, wrote that
Pavelić visited Rome on 18 May 1941 to sign a treaty with Mussolini
granting Italy control over several Croatian cities and districts on
the Dalmatian coast. While in Rome, he was granted a "devotional"
audience with Pius XII. Cornwell views this as a "de facto recognition
by the Holy See" of the Independent State of Croatia. Soon
Giuseppe Ramiro Marcone
Giuseppe Ramiro Marcone was appointed apostolic
legate to Zagreb. Cornwell is unsure whether the Vatican was aware of
the degree of atrocities that had been committed by the
Ustaše up to
this point, but noted "it was known from the very beginning that
Pavelić was a totalitarian dictator, a puppet of Hitler and
Mussolini, that he had passed a series of viciously racist and
anti-Semitic laws, and that he was bent on enforced conversions from
Orthodox to Catholic Christianity".
Giuseppe Ramiro Marcone
Pius XII dispatched
Giuseppe Ramiro Marcone
Giuseppe Ramiro Marcone as Apostolic
Visitor to Croatia. Marcone served as
Nuncio in all but name.
He reported to Rome on the deteriorating conditions for Croatian Jews,
made representations on behalf of the Jews to Croatian officials, and
transported Jewish children to safety in neutral Turkey.
The Vatican used Marcone, together with
Archbishop Stepinac of Zagreb,
to pressure the Pavelić government to cease its facilitation of race
murders. When deportation of Croatian Jews began, Stepinac and
Marcone protested to Andrija Artuković. In his study of rescuers
of Jews during the Holocaust,
Martin Gilbert wrote, "In the Croatian
capital of Zagreb, as a result of intervention by [Marcone] on behalf
of Jewish partners in mixed marriages, a thousand Croat Jews survived
Relations with SFR Yugoslavia
Further information: Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Following the defeat of Axis forces in Croatia in 1945, the Communist
partisan leader Marshal
Josip Broz Tito
Josip Broz Tito established the Socialist
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a Communist state which lasted until
Yugoslavia was the only post-war Eastern European Communist
state which had not been conquered by the Red Army.
After the war, writer Evelyn Waugh, a Roman Catholic convert, advised
the British Foreign Office, and
Pius XII that Tito "threatens to
destroy the Catholic faith in a region where there are now some
5,000,000 Catholics". According to Phayer, "even before the end of
the war, Tito had begun to settle the score with the Ustaša, which
meant with the
Catholic Church as well because of the close relations
between the two."
Partisans of Tito retaliated against the Catholic clergy for their
perceived or actual collaboration with the Ustaše; by February 1945,
at least fourteen priests had been killed; by March 1945, as many as
160 priests; by the end of the year, 270 priests. According to
Waugh (who visited Croatia after the war), "the task of the partisans
was made easier in that the clergy as a whole had undoubtedly
compromised the church by tolerating the pro-Axis Ustashis, if not
actively collaborating with them." Franciscans, in particular, were
singled out for Partisan attacks and fifteen
Pius XII sent American bishop Joseph Patrick
Hurley as his envoy to Tito (as Hurley carried the title of "regent",
this was a step below official diplomatic recognition). Tito
requested to Hurley that Stepinac be recalled to Rome; the pope,
however, deferred to Stepinac, who chose to remain.
Further information: Ratlines (World War II aftermath)
Following the end of the war, clandestine networks smuggled fugitive
Axis officials out of Europe. The USA codenamed the activity the
"ratline". In Rome, the pro-Nazi Austrian bishop
Alois Hudal was
linked to the chain, and the Croatian College offered refuge to many
fleeing Croatia, guided by Msgr Krunoslav Draganović.
According to Phayer, "at the end of the war, the leaders of the
Ustasha movement, including its clerical supporters such as Bishop
Šarić, fled the country, taking gold looted from massacred Jews and
Serbs with them to Rome." Intelligence reports differed over the
location of Pavelić himself.
Counter Intelligence Corps
Counter Intelligence Corps agent
William Gowen (the son of Franklin Gowen, a US diplomat in the
Vatican) was one of those tasked with finding Pavelić; although the
CIC hoped the relationship would reveal Pavelić's location,
eventually, Phayer wrote, the opposite occurred and the Vatican
convinced the US to back off.
By Phayer's account,
Pius XII protected
Ante Pavelić after World
War II, gave him "refuge in the Vatican properties in Rome", and
assisted in his flight to South America; Pavelić and
Pius XII shared
the goal of a Catholic state in the Balkans and were unified in their
opposition to the rising Communist state under Tito. By
Hebblethwaite's account, Pavelić was hidden in a
until 1948, then brought to Rome by Draganović, who "was a law unto
himself and ran his own show and lodged him in the Collegio Pio Latino
Americano disguised as 'Father Gomez'" until Perón invited him to
Phayer wrote that, after arriving in Rome in 1946, Pavelić used the
Vatican "ratline" to reach Argentina in 1948, along with other
Ustaša, Russian, Yugoslav, Italian, and American spies and agents
all tried to apprehend Pavelić in Rome but the Vatican refused all
cooperation and vigorously defended its extraterritorial status.
Pavelić was never captured or tried for his crimes, escaping to
Spain, where he was eventually shot by a Yugoslav agent; he later died
of his injuries. According to Phayer, "the Vatican's motivation
for harboring Pavelić grew in lockstep with its apprehension about
Tito's treatment of the church".
Dozens of Croatians, including war criminals, were housed in the
Pontifical Croatian College of St. Jerome
Pontifical Croatian College of St. Jerome in Rome. By the spring
of 1947, the Vatican was putting intense diplomatic pressure on the US
and the UK not to extradite
Ustaša war criminals to Yugoslavia.
Special Agent Gowen warned in 1947 that, due to Pavelić's record of
opposing the Orthodox Church as well as Communism, his "contacts are
so high and his present position is so compromising to the Vatican,
that any extradition of the subject would be a staggering blow to the
Roman Catholic Church". Phayer contends that the feared
embarrassment of the Church was not due to Pavelić's use of the
Vatican "ratline" (which Pavelić at this point, still hoping to
return, had not yet committed to using), but rather due to the facts
the Vatican believed would be revealed in an eventual trial of
Pavelić, which never occurred.
Phayer wrote that
Pius XII believed Pavelić and other war criminals
could not get a fair trial in Yugoslavia. During this period,
across Central and Eastern Europe, a number of prominent Catholics
were being punished in reprisals, or silenced as potential sources of
dissent by the new Communist governments being formed. The
priest-collaborator Joseph Tiso, former President of the Nazi puppet
state of Slovakia, was hanged as a war criminal. Rome had been advised
Yugoslavia was threatening to destroy Catholicism
throughout the country. In this climate, the Church faced the prospect
that the risk of handing over the innocent could be "greater than the
danger that some of the guilty should escape". 
Gregorij Rožman of
Ljubljana was the first bishop tried for
"collaboration" in Yugoslavia, in absentia, by the military court in
August 1946. The case was reopened in 2007 by the Slovene Supreme
Court and the 1946 verdict was annulled on procedural grounds. The
British occupational authorities recommended he "be arrested and
interned as a
Ustaša collaborator". Phayer views his trial as a
"warm-up for proceedings against Stepinac". After Rožman was
convicted, Stepinac was arrested. Rožman emigrated to the U.S.
sometime after the war and found a haven in the United States through
the intercession of influential clerics. He died in the U.S., a legal
alien but not a U.S. citizen.
The Archbishop of Zagreb, Aloysius Stepinac, was brought to trial by
the Yugoslav government on 26 September 1946. Hebblethwaite called it
a "showtrial for dramatic effect with the verdict decided in advance,
it had nothing to do with justice or evidence." Time Magazine
reported in October 1946 that:
Zagreb sports auditorium, brilliantly lit for photographers and
500 spectators, the show trial of Archbishop
Aloysius Stepinac and
twelve Catholic priests was rolling to a close. Charged by Marshal
Tito with 'crimes against the people', the 48-year-old head of the
world's fifth largest Catholic diocese ... temporarily lost his
equanimity. He shook an angry finger at the court, cried: 'Not only
does the church in
Yugoslavia have no freedom, but in a short while
the church will be annihilated.'"
Stepinac was indicted on charges of supporting the
encouraging forcible conversions of Orthodox Serbs, and encouraging
Ustaše resistance in Yugoslavia. He repeatedly refused to defend
himself against the charges and was sentenced to sixteen years in
prison. Phayer argues that Stepinac could have defended himself
from the charge of supporting forced conversions, but not the other
two charges. Hebblethwaite wrote that Stepinac's support for
Croatian independence had been based on the
Atlantic Charter and the
principle that all nations have a right to exist.
American Jewish leader Louis Braier stated in 1946:
"This great man of the Church has been accused of being a Nazi
collaborator. We, the Jews, deny it. He is one of the few men who rose
in Europe against the Nazi tyranny precisely at the moment when it was
most dangerous. He spoke openly and fearlessly against the racial
laws. After His Holiness, Pius XII, he was the greatest defender of
the persecuted Jews in Europe."
Archbishop Stepinac served 5 years in
Lepoglava prison before the
sentence was commuted to house arrest.
Pius XII elevated Stepinac
College of Cardinals
College of Cardinals in 1952. Although Phayer agrees that
Stepinac's conviction was the result of a "show trial", Phayer also
states that "the charge that he supported the
Ustaša regime was, of
course, true, as everyone knew", and that "if Stepinac had responded
to the charges against him, his defense would have inevitably
unraveled, exposing the Vatican's support of the genocidal
Pavelić." Stepinac had allowed state papers from the
be stored in his episcopal residence, papers crucial to the
retaking control of the country and which contained volumes of
incriminating information against
Ustaše war criminals. Stepinac
was transferred back home to the village of
Krašić in 1953 and died
in his residence seven years later. In 1998,
Pope John Paul II
Further information: Alperin v. Vatican Bank
Ustaše hiding in Pontifical Croatian College of St. Jerome
brought a large amount of looted gold with them; this was later moved
to other Vatican extraterritorial property and/or the Vatican
Bank. Although this gold would be worth hundreds of thousands of
2008 US dollars, it constituted only a small percentage of the gold
looted during World War II, mostly by the Nazis. According to Phayer,
"top Vatican personnel would have known the whereabouts of the
Surviving victims of the
Ustaše and their next of kin living in
California brought a class action lawsuit against the Vatican bank and
others in US federal court, Alperin v. Vatican Bank. Specifically,
the Vatican bank was charged with laundering and converting "the
Ustaša treasury, making deposits in Europe and North and South
American, [and] distributing the funds to exiled
including Pavelić". A principal piece of evidence against the
Vatican is the "Bigelow dispatch", a 16 October 1946 dispatch from
Emerson Bigelow[who?] in Rome to Harold Glasser, the director of
monetary research for the U.S. Treasury Department.
Former OSS agent William Gowen gave a deposition as an expert witness
that in 1946 Colonel Ivan Babić transported ten truckloads of gold
Switzerland to the Pontifical College. All the charges were
Krunoslav Draganović (1903–1983), Catholic priest, organized
Tomislav Filipović-Majstorović (1915–1946; born Miroslav
Franciscan friar and Jasenovac camp commander infamous
for his sadism and cruelty, known as "brother Satan". Captured by
Partisans, tried and executed in 1946.
Petar Brzica (1917–?),
Franciscan friar who won a contest on 29
August 1942 after cutting the throats of 1,360 inmates at the
Jasenovac concentration camp. His post-war fate is unknown.
This article has an unclear citation style. The references used may be
made clearer with a different or consistent style of citation and
footnoting. (December 2014) (Learn how and when to remove this
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Pope Pius XII
Born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, 2 March 1876 – 9
Cardinal Secretary of State
Cardinal Secretary of State (1930–1939)
Saint Peter's Basilica
Saint Peter's Basilica (1930–1939)
Illness and death
Mystici corporis Christi
Divino afflante Spiritu
Orientales omnes Ecclesias
Deiparae Virginis Mariae
In multiplicibus curis
Redemptoris nostri cruciatus
Sempiternus Rex Christus
Ad Sinarum gentem
Ad Caeli Reginam
Le pèlerinage de Lourdes
Ad Apostolorum principis
World War II
conversion of Jews
Persecution of Church
Jewish orphans controversy
Pontifical Relief Commission
1942 Christmas address
Alleged kidnapping plot
Bombing of Rome
Nazi Germany (Reichskonkordat)
Post-World War II
Eastern canon law
Fátima and Balazar
Apostolic constitutions and bulls
The Deputy (fictional play)
Three Popes and the Jews
Actes et documents
International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission
Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy
The Myth of Hitler's Pope
Pius XII, The Holocaust, and the Cold War
The Pope's Jews: The Vatican's Secret Plan to Save Jews from the Nazis