Around 300 Croatians, including two presidential hopefuls, have protested in Zagreb for an end to Croatia’s treaties with the Vatican.

Driving the news

The rally Saturday in the Croatian capital brought together representatives of non-governmental associations and non-parliamentary parties who consider the treaties detrimental to Croatia, as state media outlet HINA reports.

At the heart of the protest, organised by the Movement for a Secular Croatia, the Protagoras NGO and the Atheists and Agnostics of Croatia, was anger over the opaque allocation of public money to Church institutions and organisations, as well as the contravention of the principle of State secularism.

Activist Sanja Sarnavka told HINA that Saturday’s was the seventh rally of this kind in protest at the treaties with the Vatican going against Croatia’s interests.

According to HINA, two presidential candidates participated in the rally: Katarina Peović, of the leftist political party Worker’s Front, and Dalija Orešković of the “Party of Anti-corruption, Development and Transparency”, or START.

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Go deeper

According to the Facebook post announcing Saturday’s protest in Zagreb, Croatia’s agreements with the Vatican “negate a provision of the Croatian Constitution that separates religious communities from the State”.

“Our main point is that the Republic of Croatia is a secular state in which all citizens have the same rights and obligations, and religious institutions, like all other organisations, must obey state laws”, the protest conveners wrote.

The demonstrators said they wanted “to send a decisive message to the authorities that the citizens of Croatia want to be full citizens”, not the “oppressed mass” for which politicians and the Church “make decisions that are contrary to our interests… far from the public eye”.

While the protesters said they “unreservedly” support the right to freedom of worship, they said “the issue of religion / belief is a personal matter”.

“We live in a democracy, and democracy is the rule of the elected majority, not the majority defined by religion, race, etc.”, they recalled.

“Democracy is also the rule of law, equality, as the Constitution dictates.

“That is why we want a secular Republic of Croatia, without the shackles of a treaty with the Holy See”, they continued, expressing their fear that “rigid religious laws” could take hold in Croatia “as in some Middle Eastern countries”.

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Why it matters

Those protesting against the Croatia-Holy See treaties had four demands:

  • an end to the “non-transparent and often corrupt sharing of taxpayer money between Church institutions and politicians”;
  • an end to “religious indoctrination” in schools;
  • the guarantee of “a society where all citizens are equal before the law”;
  • and the assurance “that pedophile priests be prosecuted as severely as any other citizen of this country”.

“It is unacceptable that the Republic of Croatia, one of the poorest EU members, is among the countries with the highest State allocations to the Church”, the demonstrators denounced.

“Vatican treaties are ‘agreements’ that oblige our country to serve in financial, territorial and legal obligations beyond our will, leaving us helpless and taking our country from us”, the protesters concluded their manifesto.

As “citizens seeking to establish a free society in our country”, the demonstrators said they longed to be able to exercise the right of every nation “to establish the freedom to live according to the will of the people”.

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