by Jonathan Petre
IN WHAT is seen as a crackdown on the activities of the Church, Yugoslavian authorities have decided to take legal action against Fr Josip Deveic, the third parish priest arrested in a month.
The district public prosecutor is taking the action on the grounds that Fr Devcic failed to send a state official an invitation to a church-run ceremony as required under the law.
The ceremony is said to have involved the unveiling of a fresco in Fr Devcic's parish church. Yugoslavian government officials claim that one of the figures represented in the fresco is Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, who is a controversial figure in the country because of his alleged collaboratiod with Nazi sympathisers and Croatian separatists during the second world war.
Although dead for more than 20 years, Stepinac has been the cause of much tension between the Church and the communist government because of a Church campaign to rehabilitate him.
Elsewhere in the country. two other priests, both charged with
propagating "hostile propaganda" against the state, received prison sentences, of three and a half years and seven months respectively.
The government, obviously worried by the growing political activity in the Church, has called upon clergy to refrain from "antiYugoslav" activity.
At a series of three meetings by regional councils it was stated that some circles in the Church had entered into collusion with nationalist groups and individuals.
• The Catholic bishops of Yugoslavia have strongly criticized the communist government for presenting Marxist atheism to school children as the "only scientific conception of the world."
In a declaration issued after their Autumn meeting in Marija Bistrica, Yugoslavia. the bishops also defended their right to speak out when Catholics are hindered in professing their faith and condemned the mass media for presenting a one sided view of the church.
The bishops reaffirmed a declaration made after their spring meeting this year, which had been criticized by Yugoslavian politicians as an interference by the church in state matters.
"We insist that we are not meddling in oblides when in carrying out our mission as bishops and in the name of the Gospel we defend man and especially his right to not be hindered in the profession of his faith," the declaration said.
The bishops noted "with bitterness" that lessons and textbooks in all government schools present atheism as "the only scientific conception of the world."
"The rise of faith is explained in a non-scientific way. The person of Christ and in good part also the history or the Catholic Church are presented in a nonobjective manner," the bishops' declaration said.
"Such an explanation insinuates in believing youths the conclusion that religion and the church are an impediment."