A commemoration for the Bleiburg victims will be held in the Loibach field near the Austrian town of Bleiburg this year again despite strong opposition in Austria, but contrary to what the organiser, the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon, had hoped for, the event will not be treated as a religious gathering, the Vecernji List daily wrote on Sunday.
The event will be officially treated as a public assembly, which implies stronger police presence, the daily said quoting participants in a meeting held between a delegation of the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon and officials of Voelkermarkt District, to which Bleiburg belongs.
"This means that the Austrian authorities did not accept the position of the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon which guaranteed the Austrians, with the support of the Croatian authorities, that the event to be held in the Loibach field would be exclusively a religious gathering, namely a prayer and a procession without any political speeches," Vecernji List wrote.
"According to unofficial information, the district authorities have a different position on the matter largely due to the position of Engelbert Guggenberger, administrator of the Gurk-Klagenfurt Diocese, who was asked by the local authorities for a final assessment on whether the event is really a religious gathering. His answer was negative, which is why the regime in force during the event will be different," the article said.
It noted that this is not the first time the diocesan administrator in Klagenfurt has opposed the Bleiburg commemoration, scheduled for May 18.
The daily recalled that Guggenberger previously turned down a request by the Croatian Bishops Conference for a Croatian bishop to serve Mass at the commemoration.
The new official interpretation of the nature of the Bleiburg commemoration is also in line with a letter which Peter Kaiser, the Social Democrat governor of the federal state of Carinthia, where Bleiburg is located, sent to Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, asking the federal authorities to prevent potential incidents at and in connection with the commemoration which, he said, could harm Austria's international reputation.
Kaiser also asked Kurz to apply the law on public assembly to the commemoration, which has evidently been accepted, Vecernji List wrote.
The Bleiburg commemorations are held in tribute to tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated pro-Nazi Independent State of Croatia (NDH) who surrendered to allied forces there in May 1945 but were handed over to Yugoslav forces by British troops. Many were executed on the spot, while many others perished during so-called death marches back to Yugoslavia.
In March, the Catholic Church in Carinthia, or rather the Gurk-Klagenfurt Diocese, denied permission for this year's Mass in the Loibach field as part of the annual commemorative event.
"If permission for Mass were granted, the overall perception of the event could rightfully be used as a basis to accuse the Catholic Church of Carinthia of instrumentalising a religious service for political purposes and not distancing itself from the Fascist worldview," the diocese said.