A FAIR TREATY
Substantial Advantages For All
From Our Central European Correspondent THE CONCORDAT BETWEEN THE VATICAN AND YUGOSLAVIA, WHICH IS EXPECTED SHORTLY TO BE RATIFIED, IS ANOTHER IMPORTANT STEP TN THE VATICAN'S POLICY OF DEFINING ITS RELATIONS WITH AS MANY POWERS AS POSSIBLE.
The Bill, however, has aroused much opposition since it is alleged that the Catholic Church will thereby be put in a privileged position at the expense of " the ancient Church of the Serb people," the Orthodox Church, which has slightly more members in Yugoslavia than the Catholic Church.
Echoes of the dispute—which follows on many years of excellent relations between Catholics and Orthodox — are being heard in this country, where certain Churchmen of the Anglican Church are championing the cause of the Orthodox. Thus the Bishops of Gloucester and Lincoln have written passionately in this sense to the British Press.
An important survey of the Concordat and its history proves that there is no real justification for this attitude.
To read certain Anglican criticisms of the Concordat Bill, one might imagine that the Vatican's greedy tentacles had already absorbed the Belgrade Government and that the monster was about to devour the unhappy Orthodox.
The reality is less picturesque.
The truth is that the Catholic Church has secured very great advantages—this is not in dispute—but on the other hand the Yugoslav Government has also secured immense advantages. After all, the majority of its members are Orthodox and in a Concordat, as in other agreements, the old principle of " nothing for nothing" still holds good.
Concession to Catholics
Among the concessions made to the Church are compensation for, or the return of, confiscated Church property, particularly under the old Habsburg Empire. Catholic schools and teachers are to be provided and the State will pay where Catholics are in the majority. The State will see to it that children of mixed marriages are brought up as Catholics, and priests will in future be tried by Canon Law.
All these important concessions are objected to by the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox claim is that these privileges put the Church in a dominant position in Yugoslavia.
But in point of fact all these concessions may. in accordance with a new clause, be granted to the Orthodox Church and, after all, if the latter did not think of asking for these privileges before the Church's representatives did so, why blame the Church? As one Anglican prelate admits, "no one can blame the Roman Catholic authorities for getting the best conditions possible for their own Church."
Orthodox Government Supports Bill
Supporters of the Government—Orthodox they are, too---are, however. vehement in their defence of the Concordat.
They are quick to point out that the new Concordat is a unification of other previous Concordats such as the Serbian and Montenegrin, and that the terms of the former are actually more adyantageous to the State than the latter.
They claim, too, that it was the only possible type of Concordat suitable to Yugoslavia. The principle of equality between the various confessions is derived from the Serbian Orthodox Church itself. The very existence of such a Concordat is a tremendous step in the direction of unification of a new and multi-racial state, and is a powerful moral support for Belgrade as against any separatist tendencies.
Healing Minority Problems
Moreover, the boundaries of the dioceses now correspond to the State boundaries. This may appear a minor point to Englishmen, but in view of the tremendous complication of the geographical and racial jigsaw puzzle of Central Europe, is actually most important. This question, for instance, raised tremendous complications and difficulties in the case of Czecho slovakia. And it is for Belgrade no small matter that there is no longer a single foreign bishop with jurisdiction over Yugoslav territory.
Advantages not previously enjoyed b% the State ore the right of veto of nominees for the episcopate and the acceptance of the post-War measures of agrarian reform, as well as the prayers for the King and the Royal Family and the oath of loyalty to the State to be sworn by bishops.
There is a further and unique advantage secured by the State in the form of the Glagolithic or old Slavonic in the Mass. This is an interesting and very ancient survival on various Dalmatian islands, together with a few places on the coast, whereby the Latin Mass (this is not a Uniat ripe, as Borne erroneously think) is said in this ancient language.
Actually, despite the great privileges secured, the Church is running a considerable risk of being identified with Belgrade by the Croats and Slovenes. But the Orthodox Church is determined to fight and the Orthodox Patriarch Varnava (Barnabas) even threatened at one time to excommunicate M. Stoyadinovitch, the Premier, and the other Orthodox members of the Cabinet. He is now lying seriously ill in Belgrade, and the Holy Synod has met, presumably to discuss and select an eventual successor. Mgr. Varnava was educated largely in pre-War Russia, and has been very active on behalf of the Russian refugees in Yugoslavia.
Over forty per cent, of the population of Yugoslavia is Catholic, their numbers exceeding five million, The percentage of Orthodox is slightly higher, being approximately forty-seven per cent. There are also a number of Moslems, mainly in Scrajevo and the extreme south-west.
Croatia and Slovenia, territories acquired since the Great War from the former Habsburg Empire, are almost wholly Catholic. This is also true of Dalmatia, With certain exceptions it is not untrue to say that Catholic means Croat or Slovene and Orthodox Serb. Mgr, Lljcic, the Archbishop of Belgrade, for instance, is a Slovene. But, it is important to remember that Serb, Croat and Slovene are very similar languages, the two former being all but identical save for the alphabet.