An archbishop in Croatia has issued an apology to lesbian and gay people rejected by the church, bringing a positive voice to a highly-Catholic country where LGBTQ people are still stigmatized.
Archbishop Mate Uzinić, the coadjutor of Rijeka, posted his apology on Facebook for the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, on May 17th. Responding to a comment on a previous Facebook post, the archbishop focused his apology on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. He wrote, in part:
“I apologize to homosexuals for the fact that because of this [discrimination] they may still feel rejected by the Church, but also that they and the families to whom they still belong in the Church, which as a ‘family of the family” should be a family for all its members, cannot get what is considerate pastoral guidance which according to ‘Amoris laetitia’ should be guaranteed to them.”
Reaffirming to readers that Amoris Laetitia reiterates the church’s teaching that “any sign of unjust discrimination, especially any form of aggression and violence” should be avoided in regards to sexual orientation, Uzinić narrowed his focus, adding:
“I am sorry that there are still Catholics who do not agree with this. And especially that there are those who think they are serving Christ and the Church through discrimination, aggression and violence, insults and derogatory comments at the expense of homosexuals.”
According to La Croix International, the archbishop’s Facebook post is “believed to be the first time that a major Catholic leader in Croatia has defended the country’s LGBT community.” Croatia is a highly-Catholic nation with some 86% of people identifying with the faith. La Croix’s report continued:
“Croatia is considered the most advanced Slavic country in terms of LGBT rights by ILGA (the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association) and anti-gay discrimination has been outlawed since 2009.
“However, homosexuals are still victims of routine violence.
“The most striking episode remains that of Gay Pride in Split in 2011, where the demonstrators were physically and verbally assaulted by counter-demonstrators.
“Forty-four people were injured.”
Where Croatia has lagged behind on LGBTQ rights, church leaders have led opposition to such measures. They helped pass a referendum in 2013 that banned marriage equality, collecting nearly a half million signatures against same-gender marriages in a country of just over four million people. One bishop that year compared LGBTQ advocates to Nazis, while priests have referred to homosexuality as “pathological” and publicly used anti-gay slurs. Last year, a hate crime made international news when an effigy of a same-gender couple and their child was burned during a festival.
Thankfully, Croatians are moving forward to equality despite church leaders’ opposition. After marriage equality was banned, government officials moved quickly to legalize civil unions. And in 2021, LGBTQ people were granted adoption rights, which had been a point of dispute in recent years. Archbishop Mate Uzinić’s recognition of the harm some Catholics have caused to LGBTQ people may be a sign the church is ready to move forward, too, at least a little bit.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 21, 2021