Pope to beatify Croatian archbishop

IN A controversial gesture, the Pope will beatify a Croatian archbishop seen as a hero to Croats but who is a hate-figure in neighbouring Serbia, writes Marcus Tanner.

Alojzije Stepinac, archbishop of Zagreb during Yugoslavia's darkest hours in the Second World War, was tried after the victory of Josip Tito's Communist partisans for supporting the Nazi-backed independent Croatian state. Under that regime, led by the dictator Ante Pavelic, Serbs, Jews and gypsies were persecuted and tens of thousands - if not more - killed in pogroms and camps.

Most Croats thought Stepinac's trial in 1946 was a show trial and that his real crime was not collaboration with fascists but outspoken anti- Communism. Before his death, under house arrest in 1960, he had become a virtual saint in the eyes of Croatia's Catholic majority.