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News 07 Sep 15

Croatian Church Answers Pope’s Refugee Plea

The archdiocese of Zagreb said it was ready to assist refugees fleeing the Middle East after Pope Francis called on Catholic churches in Europe to help accommodate them.

Sven Milekic
Pope Francis. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The archdiocese of Zagreb told BIRN in a statement on Monday that it was ready to help arrange accommodation for refugees coming to Europe after the appeal from Pope Francis the previous day.

 “Our archdiocese and the church in general in Croatia has experience caring for the displaced and refugees during the Homeland War [the term used for 1990s war in Croatia] and the wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo, when thousands of displaced persons lived in the parishes, in the church halls and other church premises,” the statement said.

“From this rich and hard experience, the church will be able to meet the challenge of providing assistance,” it concluded.

Pope Francis called on Catholic institutions throughout Europe to take in one refugee family each.

“May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe host a family, starting from my diocese of Rome,” he said.

'In the Name of the Family' logo. Photo: Facebook.

But a high-profile Croatian religious NGO that advocates conservative family values said on Monday that although it will respond to the Pope’s plea, refugee camps should not be set up in Croatia.

The NGO, In the Name of the Family, called on Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic to ask the European Commission and NATO to ensure that “reception centres for refugees are opened in border countries outside the EU”.

It said that among the refugees and migrant are people coming to Europe “for economic reasons” or being sent by armed radical groups to cause chaos in those countries. It also suggested that Islamic State was causing the refugee crisis in order to send potential jihadists to Europe along with the genuine refugees.

The NGO further asked that Milanovic insists that refugees are “distributed among the [EU] member countries in a fair manner - in proportion to the population, taking into account economic strength, but also the historical ties that countries like UK and France have had with the countries from which refugees come since the colonial era”.

In the Name of the Family is known for its campaigning against sexual education in schools as well as for triggering a referendum on the constitutional definition of marriage.

The referendum was held in December 2013 and resulted in marriage being legally defined as the union of a man and a woman, thus effectively banning gay marriages.

The NGO is led by Zeljka Markic, who also leads the Family Party, which will run in its first parliamentary elections this year.

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