Archbishop offers apologies to victims of sexual abuse by priest in east Croatia

NEWS 01.04.202315:08

Djakovo-Osijek Archbishop Djuro Hranic on Saturday apologised to the victims of sexual abuse committed by the late parish priest in the village of Sotin and to their families, parishioners and to the general public over his failure to remove the parish priest during the probe in those cases.

“With this statement, I hereby apologize to the victims of late Fr Rajcevac, to their families, to the parishioners of Sotin parish, especially to those who reported the case, as well as to the entire Croatian public, because despite all the measures I’ve taken against him at the Government institutions and the Dicastery of the Holy See, I did not remove the suspect priest from the parish during the duration of the investigation against him,” reads the English version of the dignitary’s apology, issued by the Croatian Catholic agency IKA.

“Unfortunately, listening to the public testimony of one of the victims, as well as the voices of the Church and the general public, and after examination of myself before the crucified Lord, I have just recently realized how big an omission and mistake I made by taking care of the priest, and not realizing the amount of suffering of the victims and their need for protection they asked from me.”

The Archbishop already held a news conference on this topic on 21st March related to accusations of covering up a case of sexual abuse, concerning the parish priest in Sotin, Zlatko Rajčevac. On that occasion, Hranic rejected the accusations of any cover-up and said that he reported the case to the State Attorney’s Office (DORH) but that he did not transfer Rajčevac from Sotin because “he was already old and sick” and “his whole world would have collapsed.”

However, on 29 March the Apostolic Nunciature in Croatia stated that during that news conference, the archbishop failed to show the necessary and recommended empathy towards the victims, believing the accused priest rather than the mother of one of the alleged victims.

“With my omissions, as well as with my statements at the press conference that took place on the 21st of March 2023, although I had no such intention in my heart and opinion, I have neglected the condition and suffering of those whom I, as the pastor of the Church, should have protected and keep them safe,” reads Hranic’s latest statement.

Hranic today stated that he expresses his deep remorse and that he is sorry that he did not listen with enough attention and compassion to the victims’ cry for help, as well as the cries of the families as well as other people who tried to help them in various ways.

“Although I was with them with my heart, my public statement and actions were absent. I would like to correct this and express my deepest sympathy, in a special way, with the victim who had the courage in recent days to publicly testify to her suffering to her parents, relatives and all others, known and unknown, who suffered any kind of abuse.”

“I now understand better how important it is to put the victim at the centre of our response to a report of abuse, and that suspects of punishable acts should be dealt with decisively in accordance with current church regulations.

“I understand that the people who asked for help and protection in this specific case have now lost trust. However, I humbly ask all those who have suffered abuse by Church officials not to be afraid to report the cases to the Archdiocesan Commission for the Protection of Minors, as well as to the police, in order to stop and eradicate this grave evil,” says the archbishop.

The Nunciature recently confirmed that Hranic formally complied with the laws related to cases of abuse of minors, submitting a preliminary investigation to the competent Dicastery in the Vatican.