A vicious sentence of 11 years' imprisonment with hard labour has been passed on the American-born Bishop Varnava Nastic, of the Orthodox Church, by a Yugoslav People's Court. .
His case recalls that of Archbishop Stepinac and indicates that persecution of religious leaders by the Tito Government is now being extended from Catholics to the Orthodox Church as well.
Even the usually biased and garbled reports of the Cornmunist Press have been unable to conceal the fact that he has emerged from his trial as a man of more than usual courage, guilty only of fighting for the religious rights of his people, condemning the immorality of the Communist youth organisations and refusing to collaborate with the present regime.
Purpose of the " trial " was undoubtedly to get him removed from the scene for a very long time, as was the case with Archbishop Step.inac. But all attempts to blacken his name and make him appear before his Orthodox followers as a criminal have failed completely.
Bishop Nastic was born in Gary, Indiana, in 1914 and was taken to Sarajevo whilst still a boy. He studied theology and in 1940 entered a monastery. Offered a post as bishop by the Pavelic regime during the war. he refused and remained in Sarajevo until the end of hostilities caring for his people.
At his " trial." which lasted three days, he was charged with saying that there was no freedom of religion in his country--and to prove that there was, the court gave him 11 years. Latest reports reveal that hundreds of Orthodox priests are now in prison, many have been murdered by the Communists. and priests in general have had their property confiscated under the land " reform."
Bishop Nastic had himself been under considerable pressure to link up with the Moscow Patriarch, who now supports the Soviet Government in Moscow.
The whispered slogan in Yugoslavia is now, " You Catholics have your Stepinac—we Orthodox our Varnava."
A Brooklyn. U.S.A., report says that over 150,000 Holy Communions were offered by schoolchildren and adults in the New York area on the occasion of Archbishop Stepinac's 50th birthday earlier this month.