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 CNS Story:

POPE-CROATIA Aug-2-2011 (540 words) xxxi

Pope intervenes in property dispute between monks, Croatian diocese

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has intervened to settle a property dispute between a Croatian diocese and an Italian Benedictine community in a case that also has created diplomatic tensions between the Vatican and Croatia.

(CNS graphic)

In early July, the pope gave a Vatican official special authority to act in the place of the bishop of Porec i Pula, Croatia, in signing a financial agreement compensating the Benedictines for the monastery in Dajla they felt forced to flee in the 1940s.

The property, which included vineyards and an olive grove, functioned as a parish until the then-communist government of Yugoslavia nationalized all church property in 1948 and turned the Dajla monastery into a home for the aged.

The Benedictine monks of Praglia, Italy, were given the property and established the monastery in the mid-1800s in the town on the Adriatic coast.

Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor met with Bishop Ivan Milovan of Porec i Pula Aug. 1 and, according to Croatian news reports, promised to write to the pope asking him to reconsider making the diocese compensate the Benedictines.

In a statement Aug. 2, the Vatican said the pope's efforts to settle the dispute have lasted more than two and a half years and his decision to name a special commissioner for the diocese "aimed exclusively at reestablishing justice within the church, albeit with only partial compensation."

The Vatican "regrets that this has been instrumentalized with an aim of presenting it in a political and demagogic light," the statement said.

On July 6, the pope appointed as commissioner Archbishop Santos Abril y Castello, a former nuncio who serves at the Vatican as vice chamberlain, "who, on this specific issue, substitutes the local ecclesiastical authority, making it possible finally to reach a solution to the controversy," the Vatican statement said.

The statement did not say how much money the diocese and the parish in Dajla were to pay the monks, although it did say that the value of the portion of property already sold by the diocese "is much greater."

The Italian news agency ANSA reported that the Benedictines received compensation in the 1980s after Yugoslavia signed an agreement with Italy to pay Italians whose property was confiscated after World War II. Croatia gained its independence in 1991 and signed an agreement with the Vatican to return church property or provide compensation for it, giving the former monastery to the Diocese of Porec i Pula.

As the original owners of the monastery, the Italian Benedictine monks asked the diocese for the equivalent of $42.5 million for the property, ANSA said. Although the diocese sold off much of the land around the monastery to a developer planning a golf course, a commission of cardinals appointed by the pope to mediate the dispute set the figure at $8.5 million, ANSA reported.

Local government officials in Dajla have told Croatian newspapers that paying $8.5 million could bankrupt the diocese.

The Vatican statement said the concerns and arguments of the diocese "were taken into the proper consideration, according to criteria of fairness and justice, in the pope's decision. Therefore, it is painful that the decision of the Holy See is being contested as if it had taken sides."


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