As I wrote in a recent post, I will try to get to a long-accumulating blog early next year, explaining my statement that converting to Catholicism (as Islam-loving Tony Blair did, and as Islam-loving Dubya was considering doing), puts a person a step closer to Islam.

But in the meantime, we’ve gotten some additional news items related to the unofficial Catholic-Islamic axis which most Catholic faithful would be horrified to perceive. But I feel compelled to help them do so, so that they might help their hierarchy with its moral confusion.

To begin with, we had the following news item in September: “[Mosque] proponents are getting help from an unlikely corner: the Vatican.” Not exactly “unlikely,” actually. Read on:

Catholic Church backs Muslim struggle to build Milan’s first mosque (Sept. 21)

…[A]nother of the world’s great cultural cities is arguing over a proposal for its first mosque. And proponents are getting help from an unlikely corner: the Vatican.

Milan, the northern Italian city famed for finance and fashion, is home to about 100,000 Muslims, mostly migrant workers from North African countries. But within city limits, there isn’t a single mosque.

Local Muslims say they have been unsuccessfully seeking permission to build one for years, perhaps due to growing Islamophobia, which is particularly strong in Northern Italy, where the anti-immigration Northern League has its stronghold.

Now, the Catholic Church is backing the Milan Muslims’ quest.

“Milan civil institution must guarantee everyone religious freedom,” Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the church’s highest authority in town, told La Repubblica daily newspaper on Sept. 4. “Muslims have the right to practice their faith while respecting the law. Often the mosque issue has been distorted for political reasons, while it could become a instrument for civil coexistence.”

Cardinal Tettamanzi’s call reflects a wider view among Catholic leaders, says priest Davide Milani, a spokesman for the Milan diocese. “The Bishop’s conference is behind Tettamanzi, [the Catholic Church] cares about religious freedom for everyone.”

But it’s not clear whether clerical authority will sway Milan’s leaders. Building a mosque “is not a priority for Milan,” deputy mayor Riccardo De Corato of the center-right Freedom Party told the ASCA news agency. Mr. De Corato accused the local Muslim community of being close to “jihadi fundamentalism” and suggested the city hold a public referendum on whether or not to permit the building of a mosque.

“That’s pure nonsense, you never heard a politician suggesting we should have a referendum for granting the permit to build a church or a synagogue,” says sociologist Stefano Allievi, author of a study called “Conflicts over mosques in Europe.” He points out that freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Italian Constitution.

“It’s what I call the Islamic exceptionalism,” argues Professor Allievi. “When it’s about Islam, the usual rules are no longer valid and Europe betrays its own principles of freedom and equality.”

But Matteo Salvini, a European Parliament member from the Northern League, says he has good reason to seek an exception for Islam: “In Milan there are plenty of religious buildings and we never have had any problems with Jews, Buddhists, or Protestants. How so we have had so many problems with Muslims?”

Last winter there were a series of arrests in Northern Italy among Muslim immigrants accused of having ties to terrorist organizations. In November, for instance, two Pakistani nationals were arrested on the charge of having raised funds for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, where 173 people lost their lives. In a similar move, a judge in Milan issued 17 arrest warrants for people accused of raising 1 million euros ($1.49 million) to fund terrorist activities in Algeria.

To those pointing out that freedom to practice one’s religion is a constitutional right, Salvini replies that “Islam is not just a religion.” In his view, it “is a tool to spread a way of life and political views that are not compatible with Western democracy.” The Milan native says “there is no need to build a mosque here.” He agrees with the idea of holding a local referendum, confident most Milanese would reject the mosque.[…]

The unequivocal and unmoved tone of these Italian politicians is, to put it mildly, refreshing and impressive.

The Vatican has an Islamic problem. Recall the 1993 political cartoon on the front cover of an Italian newspaper during the Bosnian war, depicting Pope John Paul II standing atop a minaret crying to the heavens, “Isus (Warren) Christopher, save us!” As Bill Dorich wrote in his book The Suppressed Serbian Voice and the Free Press in America:

The Italian Press condemned Pope John Paul for blessing an American air assault on Serb positions and for asking President Clinton to launch it without delay. On 15 August 1993, Roman Catholic priest, Don Albino Bizzotto, founder of the Beati Construttovi di Pace peace and charity organization, has assessed the Pope’s call for air strikes on Bosnian Serbs as ‘disappointing’ and ‘double-dealing. “We cannot understand those who speak about mercy and military intervention at the same time, he said. Fr. Bizzotto went on to say: The pope’s behavior is like a leading big power, who tries to cure their hypocrisies and failures with armed interventions.”

Had the Serbs not been Orthodox Christians, it is doubtful that the pope would have called for bombing innocent civilians. Rather his concerns were, as claimed by the Italian press, to “curry favor with the Islamic world,” and to support and protect Croatia’s fascist past and present against Orthodox Christian Serbs. The paper corroborated the thesis by recalling the pope’s categorical opposition to the earlier intervention against Iraq and noted the fundamentally different approach in the case of the Serbs.

One also learns that:

In 1995, the Saudis and others, with the Vatican’s support, opened a large, beautiful mosque in Rome. The expectation was that the Saudis would loosen their restrictions on Christian practice. Despite some one million immigrant Christian workers there, the Saudis have done nothing.

Lessons not learned.

But what we have is the Vatican sticking its neck out for Muslims — that is, getting into Muslim business — while it has yet to take care of its own business. I’m talking about its conspicuous and permanent silence with regard to the Nazism that its flock in Croatia still exhibits, news of which comes in on a more or less weekly basis. (And that’s if you’re following only haphazardly.)

Croatia’s lingering Nazi sympathies, along with regular discrimination and attacks against Orthodox Christians as a feature of Catholic Croatian society — for some reason, this isn’t something for the Vatican to weigh in on? Somehow, Muslim welfare is closer to being the Vatican’s business than that of Christians of another denomination? That’s almost a tacit admission that the Vatican considers Catholicism closer to Islam than to Christianity.

The below is just in the past few months and, well, this is Catholic Croatia — still:

Jews protest Croatia’s treatment of death camp (Oct. 24)

Chief librarian of the Jewish community in Zagreb, Julia Kos, appealed to the Croatian authorities to change the language and invectives they use to describe the Croat-run WWII death camp in Jasenovac.

“The basic problem is that it withholds important facts. The historical reality is portrayed euphemistically and by manipulating the facts creates a lie about the reality,” said Kos.

Goes Kos about Croatia’s misleading idyllic description of the life in the death camp: “prisoners spent their ‘free time’ by making figures from clay, smoking, that they ‘wrote’ to their families and friends, wrote poetry and food recipe books.”

German Nazis described the Jasenovac death camp to be unbearably brutal and worse then any of their death camps that they managed.

“Extermination of Serbs, for example, is short and totally euphemistically described as a museum legend… Organizers and the most notorious Ustasa executioners of the atrocities are portrayed neutrally on the border of respect as statesmen, public servants and ‘leaders of the working service’ and not as war criminals,” said Kos.

Kos notes that the females that were raped at the camp are referred to [as] prostitutes and criminals, that slave labor is claimed to have been conducted willingly by the prisoners, that the platform from which Serbs and Jews were massively murdered is referred to as a “travel across Sava.”

And here is your Croatia in November, Pope. Note the Vatican flag under the Swastika flag:

As usual, the Vatican has had nothing to say about it.

The photo comes from a report about Siroki fans (Siroki Brijeg is the Ustasha stronghold in western Herzegovina — yes, Pope, your Croats have a Nazi stronghold — a few), whose club calls itself “Skripari” (”Cavemen”), after the die-hard Ustashe who hid in caves and continued to fight even after 1945 (like Germany’s “Werewolves”). Well, they never stopped fighting. But do we hear any objections from the Vatican?

Bosnian Croat Fans Unfurl Nazi Swastika Flag During Match – Local Police Do Nothing

The flag was held up by NK Siroki Brijeg fans during their recent home match against bitter rivals Sarajevo FC at Stadion Pecara. Sarajevo fans weren’t granted quite the same leniency, as they had brought with them banners in tribute to Vedran Puljic (a young Sarajevo fan who was shot dead, allegedly by a Siroki supporter, during rioting between the two sets of fans last season; although some fans claim Puljic was killed by a stray police bullet). These banners were reportedly confiscated by the police, leaving the swastika to fly in the home end.

(Another report, for which a Google translation is available is here: “Excesses in Siroki Brijeg: [Flag of the victim] Puljić can not [be flown], Nazism can.”)

But the world — including the EU, the U.S., and Vatican — isn’t interested in the ongoing love affair with Nazism by Croats, young and old. And so in a desperate move to divert attention from these goings-on in the EU’s frontrunner Croatia, the Soros-funded Belgrade-based B92 TV station ran a propaganda montage asserting the existence of a “clerical fascist right-wing extremist conspiracy” involving the Orthodox Church; former President Kostunica; the Academy of Arts and Sciences; soccer fans; the conservative group Dveri; “and pretty much everyone and anyone whom the scum on the Imperial (our) payroll dislikes or fears or hates,” as Nebojsa Malic summed it up (in this Serbian-language text), adding in an email:

People who are proud of their Ustasha heritage and openly displaying (and linking) the Nazi and Vatican symbols, what else would that be but “clerical fascism”? Not to B92, though. For them, Croats are “civilized EUropeans”, who have neither soccer fans nor hooligans, but rather attend games in tuxedos and bowler hats. So much for B92 being a serious news medium, and the Yellowcrats a serious government.

(Indeed, the only thing so far that has threatened to derail Croatia’s entry into the EU is not its ongoing Nazism — nor even Amnesty International’s condemning Croatia’s reluctance to prosecute non-Serb war criminals (even keeping some in government) or to bring its war crimes laws up to international standards — no, the only thing that may potentially stall membership is the soccer chief’s statement to media last month that there was no room for gays in the sport.)

Now, obviously, if the Vatican doesn’t notice or isn’t bothered by Croatian Nazism, it’s certainly not going to notice double standards and slanderous inventions being applied to Orthodox Serbs. Nor will it notice Croatians’ increasing impatience with Jews over the past two decades. I most recently wrote about it here, and in addition to the troubles that the loyal Croatian Jews found themselves in during the 90s war, we can cite the following tidbits:

From a comment posted in 2003 on a UK Guardian web page, by a director/playwrite named Julia Pascal:

I take my actors to the Sibenik International Children’s Theatre Festival. On the idyllic Croatian coast, we pass burned-out Serbian villages. This is a clear message to any Serbs planning return.

We are to perform The Golem…the monster created to defend ghettoised Jews from Catholics….Most importantly, it is about minority culture. The contradiction between what we are presenting and what we are seeing soon becomes apparent. U signs are common graffiti. This is the U of the fascist Ustashe, the puppet Nazi state of the second world war which still has [more than] underground support.

We give theatre workshops to teenagers…Our workshop leader asks, “What is the U painted on the walls here?” The next day I am hauled into the theatre programmer’s office and ordered to keep politics out of the festival. “Parents have been complaining,” she says. “You mustn’t talk about war and certainly never mention Ustashe in the theatre.” Another theatre board member proclaims that my troupe are “not English, they’re Jews”. Before our performance, we give a synopsis of The Golem in Croatian for non-English speakers. The translation is scrupulously checked to ensure it contains no Serbian or international vocabulary. Language, as well as people, must be ethnically cleansed. Minorities have got the message. The few remaining Serbs and Bosnians here are fast changing their names and converting to Catholicism .

On the last night of the festival, our driver, who is the son of a theatre secretary, is to return us to Solaris. His drinking mate, a six-foot giant, sandwiches me in. I am crushed between the two drunks who scream with laughter and hardly look at the road. “Calm down,” I tell the driver who ignores me. When our Croatian actor/translator intervenes, he yells at her, “Fuck off, you. And your Jews.”

Say, what is all this? I thought the Croats only hated Serbs — and that means they’re civilized. Indeed, the ending:

It is our last day and we chill out. One of the actors starts a jamming session on the beach. The Hotel Solaris Animation Team join us. These local musicians are paid to entertain the mainly German guests. Tonight is a Caribbean evening. The singers are wearing rasta wigs and have blacked up. I tell them, “You know this would be seen as offensive in Britain.” “Look,” they say in surprise, “we are not racist. We don’t even dislike black people. We just hate Serbs.”

In 1992, professor emeritus John Peter Maher was a Fulbright lecturer in Slovenia and he took a trip to the Croatian city of Dubrovnik after hearing press reports of the city being leveled by the Yugoslavian government. While the damage he found was minimal — and being caused from Croatian positions onto Serbian quarters, he also “saw graffiti urging — ‘Lynch the Serbs, Jews Against the Walls (Firing Squad): Srbe na vrbe, zhidove na zidove.’”

These plus the above-described Jasenovac farce are of course just two drops in the bucket, but there’s your Croatia, Pope. Not that Benedict would care. Given the Holy See’s own indifference to Jewish sentiment — especially as compared to Muslim sentiment — what is there, really, for him to object to in such goings-on? (Recall Benedict’s own, Croatian-like reticence in his seemingly redacted, “cold and restrained” speech and demeanor in the Holy Land last year.)

Just the latest:

Jewish leaders dismayed over comments in pope book (Nov. 21)

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Jewish leaders reacted with dismay Sunday to comments in Pope Benedict’s new book that his wartime predecessor Pius was a “great, righteous” man who “saved more Jews than anyone else.”

In his book to be published Tuesday, called “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times,” the German pope says Pius did what he could and did not protest more clearly because he feared the consequences.

In the book-length interview with a German journalist, the pope says of Pius:

“The decisive thing is what he did and what he tried to do, and on that score we really must acknowledge, I believe, that he was one of the great righteous men and that he saved more Jews than anyone else.”

Jewish leaders said they were surprised by the comments.

“Pope Benedict’s comments fill us with pain and sadness and cast a menacing shadow on Vatican-Jewish relations,” said Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.

“The assertion that Pius saved more Jews than anyone else during the Holocaust is categorically contradicted by the known historical record. As survivors of the Holocaust we have a solemn obligation to the memory of those murdered to defend the truth of the tragedy till our last breath,” he said.

Pius, including the possibility that the Vatican may one day make him a saint, is one of the main points of contention in relations between Jews and the Vatican. The pope’s latest comments raised new tensions.

Last December, Benedict took the decision to advance Pius XII on the path toward sainthood by recognizing his “heroic virtues”…

“It is distressing that the pope has found it necessary to come to judgment on Pope Pius XII as he himself admits that the files and archives are not available to make a full judgment,” said Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League in the United States.

Jews have asked that the process that could lead to making Pius a saint be frozen until after all the Vatican archives from the period are opened and studied.

“There is certainly enough evidence to refute those who charge that Pius XII stood idly by while the lives of Jews and others were imperilled,” said [David] Rosen, [Director of the American Jewish Committee’s Department of Interreligious Affairs,] who is based in Jerusalem.

“On the other hand it appears that he never directly — certainly not publicly — challenged the Nazi regime regarding the extermination of the Jews; and arguably even more dramatic, never made any mention of this, let alone any expression of regret, subsequent to World War Two,” he said.

As well, no one ever mentions that Pius XII’s silence (approval?) in the face of the WWII Croatian-Catholic genocide and forced conversion of Orthodox Serbs set the precedent for the more well-known and more vast genocide of Jews throughout Europe. This was never apologized for by the Catholic hierarchy, just as it condones today Croatia’s ongoing Nazism. What is the excuse for not speaking out today? Does the Vatican risk Hitler striking out at the faithful? What was the risk during WWII of the Vatican speaking out against the slaughter of the Orthodox in Croatia? That the Catholic-Croatian fuhrer doing it would strike out at his Croatian Catholics who supported the genocide? Why, instead of the Vatican, did it take German Nazi officers to object about Croatia to Berlin?

We learn of more Jewish problems at the Vatican, thanks to WikiLeaks:
Cables: Anti-semitism in the Vatican (Dec. 11)

US diplomats believe that some top members of the Vatican’s hierarchy still harbor anti-Semitic views, diplomatic cable[s] made public by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks show.

The Times said that a 2002 US diplomatic dispatch said that “despite the real progress” under Pope John Paul in the Vatican’s relations with Judaism, some in the hierarchy still “manifested remnants of anti-Semitic sentiments.”

The document cited “an older desk officer of French origin” who complained that the US government’s “strong interest in modern European anti-Semitism stemmed from the ‘excessive influence of Jews in your media and government.”

Meanwhile another unnamed Vatican official said some lawsuits against the Holy See “were the result of ‘Jewish judges having too much influence’” in the United States, the report said.

Indeed, for the Vatican to object to the Nazi goings-on in Croatia — it seems that would be anathema, wouldn’t it?

Why does the Vatican think the Muslims feel safe doing this:

Vatican alarmed by Muslims burning Israeli flags outside cathedrals (January, 2009)

The Vatican has expressed alarm over the burning of Israeli flags by Muslims protesting against Israeli actions in Gaza during Muslim prayers staged outside Italian cathedrals.

Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace, said he was not disturbed “by prayer as such.” If Muslims wished to come to St Peter’s to pray, he would not object, the cardinal said. “Prayer always does good”.

However prayers held recently outside the Duomo in Milan and the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna, with thousands of prostrate Muslims facing Mecca, had been accompanied by flag burning which was not only anti Israeli but anti Semitic, with protesters carrying banners depicting the Star of David alongside the Nazi swastika. “What matters is the spirit in which one prays - and prayer excludes hate” Cardinal Martino said.

Bishop Ernesto Vecchi, vicar general of the Bologna diocese, said the Muslim prayers were “not just prayers but a challenge, not so much to the basilica itself as to our democratic system and culture”. Bishop Vecchi suggested the staging of mass prayers outside Christian churches in Italy was a deliberate move “on orders from afar” as part of a strategy of “Islamisation” of Europe.

Monsignor Luigi Manganini, archpriest of Milan cathedral, said he could imagine the Islamic reaction if Christians prayed en masse outside a mosque…

Father Antonio Sciortino, editor of the liberal Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana, told Corriere della Sera that prayers for peace were welcome, “but what matters in prayer is the intention.” The prayer services had been exploited by an “extremist fringe”, he said. Abu Imad, the imam of the main Milan mosque, said the demonstration had ended up on the cathedral square “by chance” at the hour of prayer, “so we prayed. There was no provocation or insult intended.”

[So there is a Milan mosque?]

He said that as for the flag burning, “You have to understand the deep anger and sadness of Muslims over what is happening in Gaza”. However Mario Borghezio, a Euro MP for the anti immigrant Northern League, which is part of the ruling centre Right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi, said “The fact that Muslim extremists transformed the cathedral square in Milan into an outdoor mosque constitutes an incredible provocation. The prayer to Allah recited by thousands of fanatical Muslims is an act of intimidation, a slap in the face for the city of Milan, which must remain Christian”. […]

No sooner did I start compiling this post than the following Nov. 27 piece was published by a Catholic named Lisa Graas, on News Real Blog:

CNN Vatican Reporter: Islam is “Driving the Train” of Vatican Interfaith Relations

…John Allen, senior writer at National Catholic Reporter (a.k.a. “fishwrap“), and CNN’s Vatican reporter, gave his views about Vatican interfaith relations recently during a forum held at the Abrahamic Center of Notre Dame College. His remarks were discussed in an article at the Cleveland Jewish News. The article does not make clear whether Allen was specifically asked about Archbishop Bustros’ comments at the Middle East Synod in which it was claimed that Jews are no longer the Chosen People, but everything Allen said should be read in that context.

“With Islam ‘driving the train’ of Catholic interfaith relations, Allen said the church needs reform in other faith traditions…‘We can talk to Shiites,’ Allen said. ‘We can talk about politics and policy, but with a shared spiritual commitment. The Catholic church is ideally positioned to be a bridge builder with Shia.’”

First, in regard to the “train” comment, it should be noted that Allen is referring not to the Vatican as a whole but only to the office of Inter-religious Dialogue…We can only guess what “reform in other faith traditions” means since we don’t have access to his direct quote. Surely he doesn’t believe we should/could try to “reform” Jewish belief about Israel. Whatever the case, to put this in context, Allen is clearly arguing that the brand of Islam (Shia) held by Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is something that Catholics should seek to make theological inroads with.

Further, Allen seems to believe that the Vatican should want to open up interfaith dialogue more with Shia Muslims…than with Jews based on, of all things, demographics. The last sentence here is particularly noteworthy.

“The Catholic population explosion in Asia, Africa and Latin America means that today most Catholics are living in close proximity with Muslims, not Jews. ‘Judaism does not have a significant footprint in the global South,’ Allen pointed out…‘By 2050, three of every four Catholics will be in the Southern Hemisphere, the most rapid transformation of Catholic demography in history,’ Allen said. With this population shift, there are new, younger Catholic leaders who did not live through the Holocaust, he explained. ‘They don’t feel the same sense of historical responsibility for anti-Semitism’ as do Catholic clergy in Europe and North America.”

Allen seems to be making the case here for the Vatican to “forget” the Holocaust because the newer generations are “forgetting” the Holocaust. To this, I say that I am one Catholic who has pledged to “Never Forget” and I am not alone.

Archbishop Bustros’ comments, even before I had time to write about them, generated more reader email than I have received on any other topic in over two years of blogging. My Catholic readers were even more upset by Archbishop Bustros’ remarks than my Jewish readers were…as Bustros seemed to be throwing Israel under the bus in order to make peace with anti-Semitic Muslims. It is the Catholic Faithful who understand that no precept of the Faith should ever be denied for the sake of temporary “peace.” To them (and to me) it was shocking that a Catholic bishop would reject what we understand to be clear Catholic teaching, and that he seemed to be doing so in order to make peace with Islamists…Bustros appeared to be taking a theological axe to the root of the Catholic tree — Judaism — in order to throw a bone to Islamists to protect Christians from further slaughter. In other words, regardless of what others might have heard in Bustros’ words, what many Catholics heard was akin to “the Catholic Church believes this contradictory thing now because Islamists are forcing us to believe it.”

In his remarks to the forum, John Allen uses no blunt language that I am aware of, but to many of us who are paying attention his words amount to a call for the Vatican to join with Archbishop Bustros’ flawed theological claim, to cut the heart right out of our Jewish mother, to “forget” what we should “Never Forget” and to work to make inroads with Muslims who despise our Jewish mother. Who can bear it? Not this Catholic.

To close, I’d just like to check in on how Catholics are faring in Bosnia since Pope John Paul II got his demanded NATO intervention on behalf of Muslims:

Bosnia’s Catholics nearly all gone
(July, 2009)

SARAJEVO, Bosnia ( The Muslim population is growing in Bosnia to such an extent that Sarajevo is a “practically Muslim city”, Cardinal Franc Rodé said.

The prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life affirmed this when he spoke with Vatican Radio about his June 19-21 trip to the Balkans.

The prelate said Catholics were the main victims of the war there and many fled the country, heading to Croatia or far-away nations like Australia, Canada and New Zealand. [Of course, we know that these “main victims” started the Yugoslav wars in the first place, making the Serbs their main victims while the Muslims were doing the same. Croatian behavior in Australia, Canada and New Zealand is helping those countries figure that out.]

He said many had their houses burned and others fled for their lives.

Cardinal Rodé said many priests and religious were killed, and churches and monasteries destroyed. [Including Serbian ones by Catholic Croats, but that’s not the point at the moment.]

“Numerically, they have diminished a lot,” he said after his visit at the invitation of Cardinal Vinko Puljic.

He said there were only 17,000 Catholics in Sarajevo, a city of 600,000.

“In the Diocese of Banja Luka, before the war between 1991 and 1995, there were 150,000 Catholics; now there are only 35,000.”

Nevertheless, Cardinal Rodé affirmed, the Catholics desire to remain there and offer ecclesial services, particularly social services and education and formation made available to everyone – Catholic, Orthodox or Muslim.

In Banja Luka, Bishop Franjo Komarica is planning a Catholic university to be distinguished by inter-religious dialogue.

“The Church I found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, though numerically reduced, is a living Church, full of hope,” the cardinal said.

“(It) is a very motivated Church, and priestly and religious vocations are not lacking.”

Meanwhile, more than 100 mosques have been built in recent years, the prelate said.

“There is, in fact, the will to Islamise the region of Sarajevo.” […]

Bosnia: Muslims dominate capital, claims Croatian MP (Aug. 6, 2008)

Sarajevo, 6 August (AKI) – The Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, once a symbol of ethnic diversity, has become an entirely Muslim city, a Croat deputy in the Bosnian Parliament, Branko Zrno, said on Wednesday.

“Sarajevo definitely isn’t a multi-ethnic city, but the city of one group, the Bosniacs (Muslims), ” Zrno told local media.

He pointed out that Serbs and Croats in Sarajevo have no institutional protection, and continue to leave the capital.

Zrno echoed allegations from Bosnian Serb leaders, including Serb entity Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, that non-Muslims in Sarajevo suffered discrimination and were denied their rights.

Zrno said that the Croatian presence in the city had been halved and that neither Croats nor Serbs held any important posts in local government.

Serbs claim that in the city of 400,000 only 7,000 Serbs have remained, compared to 160,000 before the 1992-1995 civil war.

The Serb claims have been supported by the Muslim President of the Bosnian Helsinki committee for human rights, Srdjan Dizdarevic, who said in a recent interview that Sarajevo had become a “monoethnic” city.

“Over 90 percent of Sarajevo inhabitants belong to only one group, the Bosniacs,” Dizdarevic told weekly Fokus.

“Ethnic cleansing in this city has, unfortunately, been successfully completed. If the will exists to reconstruct Bosnia on multiethnic principles, one should start with Sarajevo,” he concluded.

But as ethnic tensions deepened, the Muslim chairman of a three-man rotating state presidency, Haris Silajdzic, on Wednesday launched a fresh attack on the Serb entity.

Silajdzic repeated earlier claims that the Serb entity is a “symbol of genocide”…Bosnia’s majority Muslim leaders have continued to call the Serb entity a “genocidal creature” that should be abolished - a move strongly opposed by Serbs.

And an even earlier report: “Catholics Continue to Flee Bosnia a Decade After War Ended” (Universe Catholic weekly newspaper, Nov. 19, 2006)

Hopes have been dashed of an end to the exodus of Catholics from Bosnia-Herzegovina after the collapse of talks to amend the country’s post-war constitution.

That was the bleak picture painted by the country’s Franciscan provincial, Fr Mijo Dzolan…”Catholics are still discriminated against by the constitution of Dayton [the Balkans peace agreement reached in 1995].”

Until the constitution was changed, it was difficult to see an end to the crisis which had driven more than half of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Catholics out of the country since the start of the Balkans war, said the priest.

“Catholics do not have a good political or cultural frame to live in. They feel helpless. They have no confidence there will be an improvement and psychologically now they have no wish to participate in any improvement.”

Nor were refugees who fled their Bosnian homes during the conflict returning, added Fr Dzolan. “The reasons to leave were simple - fear and danger…”

There was also this in April, 2008: Bosnia: Catholic Church targeted for terror — with implications for Western Europe by World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission

One certainly doesn’t need to wonder what could be suddenly giving the Vatican cold feet on recognizing Kosovo, though it was most eager to do so as early as 1993 (”Pope Openly Embraced Kosovo Secession“).

In sudden deference to the 120,000 Serbian Orthodox (a more than decimated number, with thanks to the Vatican), who remain amid a sea of two million mostly Muslim Albanians in Kosovo, the Vatican lately has been proceeding with caution on Kosovo. June, 2008:

Vatican said unlikely to recognize Kosovo

Rome, Jun. 16, 2008 ( - The Vatican has no intention of recognizing the independence of Kosovo, according to a report circulated by the Interfax news agency.

Interfax cites Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, who told Itogi magazine that the Vatican recognizes the concerns of the Russian Orthodox Church regarding an independent Kosovo. Cardinal Kasper recently visited Moscow for talks with Russian Orthodox leaders.

Serbian Orthodox leaders, and their Orthodox colleagues in Moscow, have complained bitterly about the destruction of Orthodox churches and harassment of the remaining Orthodox minority in Kosovo since the province achieved autonomy.

And this was April 2010:

Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is a member of the Pontifical Council, said that the Vatican had not recognised Kosovo’s independence out of consideration for the Serbian Orthodox Church, SPC.

In an interview with the Catholic news agency Kathpress, Kapser said that “We, of course, know that Kosovo is a heavy wound and pain for the SPC. We also know that it is the cradle and centre of Serbian Orthodoxy in Kosovo. We understand that and wish to have consideration for it.”

Kosovo has been recognized by 22 out of 27 EU member states.

According to Kapser, the Vatican supports the protection of Orthodox monuments, churches and monasteries in Kosovo and that it is very upset due to “certain cultural brutality.”

“In Kosovo, significant historical, cultural and religious monuments have been destroyed. This must not be so. One cannot erase history in this way,” he added.

Just this week, the Vatican reaffirmed that it would not recognize Kosovo: Vatican consistent in non-recognizing Kosovo

…Indicating that in Kosovo, which he visited on a number of occasions, members of the Catholic Church represents [sic] only four percent of the population, and since the Kosovo population consists almost entirely of the Albanian believers [?], Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Orlando Antonini said that it cannot be assumed how the Catholics view the self-proclaimed Kosovo independence.

…[O]n a general level, that is, on the political and institutional one, there seem to be no elements that could affect the Holy See to change its position of non-recognition of independence, Antonini underlined.

According to him, the Holy See will certainly maintain the same stand if the Council of Europe reports on organized crime in Kosovo prove accurate…When asked if Pope Benedict XVI might visit Serbia in 2013, Antonini said that he hopes that this perspective is possible.

(Last Christmas, Kosovo president Fatmir Sejdiu even sent the Pontiff a Christmas card thanking Benedict for “the ‘constant care’ by the Vatican for Kosovo,” and expressing hope that the opening of a cathedral named after Mother Teresa in 2010 would bring about the Vatican’s recognition.)

While being grateful for the Vatican’s small mercies, let’s be cynical for a moment and look at the full stretch of the Vatican’s positions on Kosovo since the mid-90s: If one tries to follow the thinking, or lack of it, at the Vatican, what we end up with is this: Let’s give Kosovo to the Muslims, so we can then evangelize both the Muslims and the Orthodox heathen there, thereby rescuing Christianity from the jaws of Islam.

Given the Vatican’s moral dilemmas between doing for Islam and doing for Christianity, and recalling what started this post — the Vatican-supported mosque in Milan — I think there is just one clear solution to the Vatican’s moral dilemmas: Why doesn’t the Pope simply build a mosque in Vatican City?