The Vatican's backing of Hitler and Mussolini and the Nazi puppet regime in France during the Second World War was consistent with its desire to resurrect the Holy Roman Empire with secular leaders doing Rome's bidding. Such has long been the Vatican dream and still is. France (which Pius XI called "the first-born of the great Catholic Family"), together with Italy and Germany, were Europe's principal Catholic countries where the Church held great power. Their governments were willing to work with the Church and even to establish formal relations through concordats.
Soviet Communism's aggressive atheism and its ruthless destruction of churches made it the foremost enemy which Catholicism had yet encountered in its long existence. Capitalist democracies, too, with their penchant for freedom of conscience, religion, and press, were incompatible with Roman Catholicism. So it was that Fascism in the 1920s and 1930s seemed to offer the best hope of uniting Catholic Europe as a bulwark against the rising red tide of world Communism and the growing threat of democracies.
The Vatican realized it was in a war to the death against Marxism-Leninism. It seemed essential to join in partnership with the emerging forces of Fascism in Western Europe. The 1929 concordat with Mussolini and the 1933 concordat with Hitler were part of this policy. These important alliances reflected the skillful diplomacy of Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, who was Vatican Secretary of State, on his way to succeeding Pius XI as Pope Pius XII just before World War II would break out in 1939. Both Mussolini and Hitler were Catholics and their leadership would strengthen European Catholicism.
The Vatican's imperialism could grow side by side with Italy's and Germany's.
In the closing days of World War I, Pacelli, already a rising star in the Vatican's eyes, had been the Papal Nuncio in Munich. He had negotiated secretly for the Vatican with the Central Powers to save Germany and Austria-Hungary from defeat. These Catholic countries were vital to the Vatican's interests in Europe. Their breakup into smaller states would mean the formation of countries in which Catholics would be a minority and the Church would thus lose its dominant position, so important to its ambitions.
President Wilson, however, had been determined to grant independence to the Southern Slavs. Thus were born the independent states of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Suddenly the Catholic Croatians found themselves a minority in a new country controlled by the Eastern Orthodox Church. To change this unhappy situation, the Vatican launched a campaign to destroy Orthodoxy in Yugoslavia and to counter the growing threat of Communism in that land.
In pursuit of these twin goals, the Vatican made contact in the 1920s with a group of "White" Russian intelligentsia who had fled the Bolshevik takeover and were determined to return to defeat "the Reds." As this coterie of conspirators grew it became known as Intermarium-an international underground committee to liberate and unite the peoples of the "Intermare" region bounded by the Baltic, Black, Aegean, Ionian, and Adriatic Seas. This buffer zone of more than a dozen states would theoretically seal off the Communists to the East from a new united Catholic Europe. As Intermarium's potential grew so did its support from the Vatican, even though by the 1930s it was clearly a Fascist group involved in international terrorism. Among its most vicious and sadistic leaders was a man named Ante Pavelic, who was destined to be of great service both to Hitler and the Vatican as the head of a Nazi puppet regime in Yugoslavia known as the Ustasha.
World Communism has been an evil beyond imagination, responsible for the slaughter of untold millions and the unlawful imprisonment and torture of multitudes more. Unfortunately, many of those who made it their lifework to oppose Communism were its equals in savagery. After World War II the World Anti-Communist League was infiltrated by "terrorists, Nazis, and Latin American [former Ustasha] death squads."2 The Ustasha's background is important.
Ante Pavelic and the Catholic Croatian Underground
The lawful leaders of Croatia, though Catholics, were suspicious of the political ambitions of the Vatican and justifiably unwilling to aid its efforts. Thus it was necessary to form an illegal army of pro-Vatican terrorists. This group of Ustashi was led by Intermarium leader Ante Pavelic in partnership with Croatian Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac. These two archcriminals were responsible for numerous assassinations, including Yugoslavian King Alexander and French Foreign Minister Barthou (1934), as well as Croat Peasant Party leader Radich (1928). (The latter had warned against and opposed the machinations of the Vatican and thus had to be removed.)
As the mastermind behind the murders in France of Alexander and Barthou, Pavelic was sentenced to death by the French but managed to escape. He had already been condemned to death in absentia by the Yugoslavian government five years earlier. Mussolini, out of loyalty to the Vatican, gave Pavelic asylum in Italy and refused both French and Yugoslavian demands for his extradition.
All over Europe, under Pavelic's leadership, the Ustashi were responsible for murders, bombings in public places, blackmail, threats, and other acts of terror aimed at disruption of order in Yugoslavia and the formation of an independent Catholic Croatian state. Vatican diplomacy did its part to further the same goal. Backed with funds from both Mussolini and the Vatican, the Ustasha grew in numbers and power; thus, when Hitler moved into Yugoslavia, it was ready to operate a Nazi puppet regime headed by Pavelic.
Ante Pavelic and his Ustashi had a propaganda machine which turned out Nationalistic Croatian historical revisionism and racial hatred calculated to appeal to the lowest level of prejudice and superstition. Croatia's population in the late 1920s was comprised of about 3 million Roman Catholics, nearly 2 million Serbians of Eastern Orthodox faith, a million Muslims, and about 50,000 Jews. The Ustashi held out an appealing solution for those who wanted the Croatians in control of their country: All non-Catholics and non-Croatians would be removed either by deportation or liquidation.
In order to achieve that goal, Croatia had to gain its independence from Yugoslavia. To that end, Pavelic had already in 1929 established training camps for his Ustashi guerrillas in Hungary and Italy. From these bases the Ustashi sallied forth to commit their acts of terror against the Yugoslavian government. The Ustashi guerrillas were trained by the Italian Fascist militia, wore their black uniforms, aped the goose-step and outstretched-arm salute, and eagerly awaited the day when they would "liberate" their country. That moment came when the German army entered the Croatian capital of Zagreb and summoned Pavelic from Italy.
The Nazis, fulfilling the Vatican's desire, declared Croatia to be an independent nation and set up Ante Pavelic as the head of their puppet regime. Pavelic immediately launched his extermination program. His friend Stejpan Hefer was made governor-general of the county of Baranja, where he zealously enforced the Ustasha creed. "It meant that the slaughter of Serbs and the deportation of Jews [to Nazi death camps] was official state policy carried out by vigilante bands of Croatian terror squads that traveled the hills and valleys in search of [non-Catholic] families."3
Pavelic reprimanded Hitler for being too lenient in his treatment of the Jews and boasted that in Croatia he had completely solved the "Jewish problem." The approximately 50,000 Jews who had been resident there upon the outbreak of war were quickly either liquidated or shipped to the Nazi killing camps, mainly Auschwitz.
The Catholic Connection
Most of Croatia's Catholic clergy were fanatically behind Pavelic and his unbelievably evil regime. Medals were even given by Pavelic to nuns and priests, thus betraying the fact that many of them played active roles alongside the Ustashi military. Franciscan monks in particular joined Ustashi battalions. Concerning Pavelic's relationship to top clergy, two
When the Ustashi were ushered into Zagreb by the Germans, Archbishop Stepinac of Croatia immediately offered his congratulations to the poglavnik and held a banquet to celebrate the founding of the new nation. [As head of the Croatian Bishops] he ordered the proclamation of the independent state to be delivered from all pulpits of the Catholic Church in Croatia on Easter Sunday and arranged to have Pavelic received by Pope Pius XII [in Rome].4
Said Archbishop Stepinac, "God, who directs the destiny of nations and controls the hearts of Kings, has given us Ante Pavelic and moved the leader of a friendly and allied people, Adolf Hitler, to use his victorious troops to disperse our oppressors.... Glory be to God, our gratitude to Adolf Hitler and loyalty to our Poglavnik, Ante Pavelic."5 It was an open partnership between Church and state such as the Vatican loved but had not enjoyed for 300 years. Pavelic's birthday was the occasion for special ceremonies honoring him in all the Catholic churches. Former BBC commentator Avro Manhattan, an expert on Vatican policies, has written:
... here the Catholic Church [erected] a State in complete accord with all her tenets. The result was a monster standing upon the armed might of twin totalitarianisms: the totalitarianism of a ruthless Fascist State and the totalitarianism of Catholicism....
What gives to such a creature of Vatican diplomacy its peculiar importance is that here we have an example of the Catholic Church's implementing all her principles, unhampered by opposition, or by fear of world opinion.
The uniqueness of the Independent Catholic State of Croatia lies precisely in this: that it provided a model, in miniature, of what the Catholic Church, had she the power, would like to see in the West and, indeed, everywhere. As such it should be carefully scrutinized. For its significance ... is of the greatest import to all the freedom-loving peoples of the world.6
Once Pavelic took power, Archbishop Stepinac issued a Pastoral Letter ordering the Croatian clergy to support the new Ustasha State. The involvement of Catholic clergy either in active participation or in blessing the Ustashi-run holocaust is well-documented. One Franciscan monk, Miroslav Filipovic, headed the Jasenovac concentration camp for two years, during which time he directed the extermination of no less than 100,000 victims, mostly Serbian Orthodox. Archbishop Stepinac headed the committee which was responsible for forcible "conversions" to Roman Catholicism under threat of death and was also the Supreme Military Apostolic Vicar of the Ustashi Army, which effected the slaughter of those who failed to convert. Stepinac was known as the "Father Confessor" to the Ustashi and continually bestowed the blessing of Holy Mother Church upon its members and actions.
After the opening of the Ustasha Parliament, Pavelic attended the Zagreb cathedral, where Archbishop Stepinac offered special prayers for his good friend and ordered a solemn Te Deum to be sung in thanks to God for the establishment of the new regime. The reaction of the Catholic Bishop of Mostar to the subsequent slaughter of the Serbs and Jews was to lament not that hundreds of thousands of innocent persons had been tortured and sadistically slaughtered, but that they weren't converted to Catholicism: "If the Lord had given to the authorities more understanding to handle the conversions to Catholicism with skill and intelligence ... the number of Catholics would have grown at least [by] 500,000.to 600,000."7
Among the most infamous Church officials involved, in addition to Archbishop Stepinac, were Father Vilim Cecelja (later a key figure in the Vatican's escape route for Nazi war criminals), who presided as priest at Pavelic's swearing-in ceremony, and bishops Gregory Rozman of Lubljana and Ivan Saric of Sarajevo. Cecelja served as Deputy Military Vicar to the Ustashi militia, in which he held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Known in Bosnia and Herzegovina as "the hangman of the Serbs," Saric declared that Almighty God was behind the Ustashi movement and that His blessing was specifically upon their determination to free the world of the Jews.
As a reward by the Vatican for his work, Stepinac was later made a cardinal. Though his crimes were well-known, Pavelic was received at the Vatican and blessed by Pope Pius XII. "When the British Minister to the Vatican, in private audience, ventured to draw his [Pius XII's] attention to events in Croatia, the pope referred to Pavelic as `a much maligned man.' "8
The Slaughter of the Serbs
Unlike the Germans, who were interested only in the quickest and most efficient means of mass extermination, the Catholic Ustashi, with priests and bishops participating and giving their blessing, took great pleasure from "torturing before killing. Most of their victims were not shot but were strangled, drowned, burned, or stabbed to death. Serbs were herded into Orthodox churches by Ustashi [as the crusaders had done with Jews in an earlier age], who then barred
the doors and torched the timbers. One captured photograph shows Ustashi smiling for the camera before a table displaying the body of a Serbian businessman whom they had castrated, disemboweled, carved with knives, and burned beyond recognition."9
Estimates of the number of victims exceed a million. This is probably a realistic figure. Yugoslavia in its war-crimes trials estimated that from 700,000 to 900,000 victims were "tortured and put to death. .. [in] the two dozen concentration camps" within Croatia,10 and tens of thousands never reached the camps. Many were Jews, but most were Serbians of Orthodox faith who were given the choice of conversion to Roman Catholicism or death.
Both in Yugoslavia and the Ukraine, Roman Catholic priests, bishops, and cardinals, with the full knowledge of the Vatican, participated in and gave their blessing to some of the bloodiest and most barbaric massacres of the war, aimed at giving Roman Catholicism control of these regions. Fitzroy Maclean, Britain's military liaison to the anti-Ustasha partisans, wrote in a report:
The massacres began in earnest at the end of June  and continued throughout the summer, growing in scope and intensity until in August the terror reached its height. The whole of Bosnia ran with blood. Bands of Ustase roamed the countryside with knives, bludgeons and machine guns, slaughtering Serbian men, women and little children, desecrating Serbian churches, murdering Serbian priests, laying waste Serbian villages, torturing, raping, burning, drowning. Killing became a cult, an obsession.
The Ustashi competed among themselves on how many of "the enemy" they could kill. In order to impress the poglavnik-Pavelic-and be promoted or singled out for "heroism," the bands would pose with their victims before cameras. Captured photographs-they are too grisly to reproduce-show Ustashi beheading a Serb with an axe, driving a saw through the neck of another, carrying a head through the streets of Zagreb. In all of them, the Ustashi are smiling and crowding themselves into the picture, as if to prove they had a role in the atrocity. Some Ustase collected the eyes of Serbs they had killed, sending them, when they had enough, to the Poglavnik for his inspection or proudly displaying them and other human organs in the cafes of Zagreb.11
Postwar Escapes and Misinformation
After the war Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac was arrested by the Yugoslav government and sentenced to 17 years in prison for war crimes. The Vatican propaganda machine portrayed Stepinac as a brave victim of Communist persecutiona portrayal which has continued in the secular media, including such magazines as Newsweek.12 Pope Pius XII elevated Stepinac to cardinal after the war. In Croatian communities around the world, "Cardinal Stepinac Associations" were formed to lobby for the release of this "suffering martyr." Such pressures succeeded in obtaining Stepinac's release from prison after only a few years.
Andrija Artukovic, the admitted Ustashi Minister of Interior and later Minister of Justice under Ante Pavelic,13 was in charge of the Croatian government's genocide policies, supervised its extermination camps, and in 1986 was described as "probably the most important war criminal still alive and unpunished today."14 Nevertheless, having been mistakenly released by British Intelligence in Austria in 1945, he entered the United States illegally under the name Alois Anich and lived unmolested in Southern California under his own name until his arrest for a deportation hearing in 1984. Artukovic was defended by fellow Catholics, such as Croatian priest Fr. Cuturic, quoted in a Chicago newspaper:
And what are they trying to do to one of our real leaders, Andrija Artukovic-Croatian and Catholicwho is being defended by the real champions of freedom, justice, and truth against the godless Jews, Orthodox, communists, protestants everywhere? They call our leader, Andrija Artukovic, a "murderer." No, we Ustashi must keep our dignity.15
Finally returned to Yugoslavia in 1985, Artukovic was tried and found guilty of numerous war crimes, including "ordering the killing of the entire population of the town of Vrgin Most and its surrounding villages.... "16 Sentenced to death by firing squad, he died January 16, 1988, at the age of 88 before the sentence could be carried out. To the end, his defenders portrayed Artukovic as the innocent victim of Communist propaganda and persecution.
Names such as Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sarajevo have become known to the world. The Serbs are properly castigated for their aggression and atrocities; yet news reports never mention the 1941- 43 massacres of Serbian civilians by the Catholic Ustashi, for which the Serbs are seeking revenge. A Reader's Digest article by a journalist authority on Yugoslavia mentions the Ustashi without a word about their slaughter of Serbs. It refers to "Christian Croats and Serbs,"17 and ignores the fact that the Croats are Catholics and the Serbs Orthodox and that a deep hatred exists between them.
Just prior to this new war, inside Croatia the Serbs had begun to fear another purge. "Ethnic Serbs, accounting for 12 percent of Croatia's 4.75 million people, accuse[d] the nationalist administration of resurrecting the spirit and policies of the Ustasha regime."18 The newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija was put under strict censorship in January 1993 for claiming that "in the new state of Croatia, it is forbidden not to be Croatian [Catholic]."19
We mourn with Archbishop Vinko Puljic the deliberate destruction of Catholic churches and slaughter of Catholics by the Serbs, which he publicized during a three-week tour of the United States in April 1994.20 However, it is dishonest for him not to mention the Catholic Ustashi massacres of nearly a million Serbs. The sins on both sides must be admitted and repented of for there to be peace.
The Vatican, which played a major role in the Ustashi's massacre of Serbs and then smuggled most of the mass murderers to freedom, denies the blood on its hands and lectures the world on truth and morality. In his "state of the world address" for January 1993, the pope said "that the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina has humiliated Europe and that the international community has a duty to `disarm the aggressor' if other means fail." Though he didn't mention Serbia directly, he implied that it was the aggressor to which he referred.21 Clearly the Vatican's hypocrisy knows no bounds.
In the last days of World War II, as Soviet troops closed in, Pavelic made his escape. Disguised as a Catholic priest, Hitler's puppet ruler eluded both the Soviet and Allied intelligence search teams and made his way to Rome, where he was hidden by the Vatican. There he met frequently with Pius XII's Assistant Secretary of State, Montini, who later became Pope Paul V1. Montini had Known for years what the Ustashi were doing. As early as September 1941, a Yugoslavian named Branko Bokun had turned over to Montini a huge file of evidence including gruesome photos and eyewitness accounts which documented the Ustashi atrocities. The Vatican saw no reason to change its policy, but continued to back their man in Croatia and his Ustashi regime and deeds.
After Vatican officials had learned all that Pavelic could tell them about Soviet Communism, Catholicism's archenemy, he was sent down its Ratlines to Argentina. There this sadist and mass murderer surfaced once again, this time as security adviser to Juan Peron, the Catholic dictator who welcomed fugitive Catholic war criminals for Mother Church.