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Updated on November 6, 2011



The role of Roman Catholicism in Yugoslavia has been long and controversial. Its roots among the Slovenes and Croats date from the missionary activities of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Apostles to the Slavs, in the ninth century AD. In the region, the Catholic Church helped preserve Western influences among the Slovenes and Croats. While under Ottoman and Hapsburg occupation, Catholicism was identified with Croat and Slovene nationalism. After centuries of being identified with these nationalisms, it was only natural that these ties take on political connotations during the eras of royalist Yugoslavia, World War II, and contemporary Yugoslavia.

During the consolidation of communist authority in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Tito stated that the Catholic Church in Croatia and Slovenia was not an enemy of the state or the people. Rather, the preĀ·1945 church leadership was responsible for attempting to separate the people and the church from the state. The authorities were able to capitalize on the past Catholic anti-Serbian and anti-Orthodox sentiments which erupted in wartime Croatia. As the state took control of church youth groups, and suppressed Catholic education, the church naturally protested. Due to existing international tensions, however, the church in Yugoslavia was unable to combat state resources. The chief concern of the state was the Catholic Church's international ties which detracted from the state's goals. The state required the total dedication of the people in the construction of Yugoslav socialism.

While Yugoslavia maintained its basic Marxist-Leninist tenets, the Catholic Church was able to retain influence within contemporary society, particularly during the last decade. Since Croatian independence, the Catholic Church has retained much of its influence. It has been critical of Croatian government policy in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The reported apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary (since 24 June 1981) in the village of Medjugorje (Bosnia- Herzegovina) caused more trouble among religious leaders than with the civil authorities. Secular authorities ceased their harassment within 8 months of the first apparition. The local bishop is hostile toward belief in the apparitions, fearing some form of retaliation from local Muslims and Orthodox. However, local Croats have managed to enrich themselves thanks to foreign tourist spending in the area.


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    • technorican profile image

      technorican 7 years ago from Houston

      Great information! I was in the former Yugoslavia in 1988 and just published a few stories from that time.