A Statement from the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Slovenian Bishops' Conference concerning the Arbitration Agreement
Peace is the fruit of justice
The Catholic Church in Slovenia has always made efforts to ensure that traditional good and neighbourly relations, friendly cooperation, and mutual existence are preserved between the Republic of Slovenia and the Republic of Croatia. This applies not only to the lengthy period of settling the border between two republics, but also to the most recent developments. A century of good relations and mutual respect are priceless values which must be protected and preserved, especially now, when the issue at hand is the border itself.
The Catholic Church is well aware of the fact that it is not within its jurisdiction to decide on matters concerning international agreements. "It is not the Church's responsibility to make this teaching [of justice] prevail in political life. Rather, the Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice...," said Pope Benedict XVI (Deus Caritas Est, 28a). For that reason we seek to contribute to the respect of truth for historical facts, honesty, and tolerance, both in statements and public appearances, especially when dealing with an understanding of "the true demands of justice", which also applies to determining the border. With that, we would like to call to attention the fact that an open passage to international waters is of vital importance to the Republic of Slovenia, and something which it can lose altogether, while the Republic of Croatia faces no such danger.
It is understandable that the Catholic Church welcomes every advancement towards a consenting and peaceful solution of conflicts, but the Church is also acutely aware of the biblical principle which was also heavily emphasised by Pope Paul VI: "Opus iustitiae pax." (Peace is the fruit of justice, e.g. Is 32:17) (1). While we endeavour for peaceful coexistence and friendship among nations, we are also aware that this will be possible to preserve and develop only if the border, which must now be determined, will be just, and not result in any nation feeling as if it were short changed.
We could ask ourselves, might it not be better if politicians took on this responsibility themselves, something which was bestowed upon them during elections, and decide on the Arbitration Agreement (2) once and for all in the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia? At the moment this is being left to the decision of the citizens on a referendum. The citizens must therefore take on the responsibility themselves. We must take part in the referendum and vote responsibly. The Commission for Justice and Peace of the Slovenian Bishops' Conference call upon the media, which form public opinion, to report on events in an unbiased manner, and to provide voters with differing opinions and arguments. Far too important national interests are now at stake to allow for political manoeuvring and hidden agendas. The Commission invites all voters to form substantial and rational positions, and to vote deliberately and responsibly, so that we may achieve a just border. Only a just border will also be able to ensure permanent peaceful coexistence and cooperation between our two nations.
Msgr. Dr. Anton Stres
Archbishop and Metropolitan of Ljubljana
President of the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Slovenian Bishops' Conference
(1) The work of justice will be peace; the fruit of justice will be rest and safety forever.
(2) Arbitration agreement between The Government of the Republic of Slovenia and The Government of the Republic of Croatia in English and Slovenian language.