Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Stepinac, Aloysius, Archbishop (1898–1960)

Roman Catholic archbishop, cardinal, and Croatian patriot. Born in Brezarić on 8 May 1898, the eighth of twelve children of a peasant family, Aloysius Stepinac joined the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1916 as a second lieutenant and was taken prisoner in the war against Italy. Upon his release in 1919, he began undergraduate studies in agriculture at Zagreb University.

Stepinac decided to become a priest and went to Rome in 1924. During 1924–1929 he obtained two doctorates (one in theology, the other in philosophy) and returned home in October 1930. He was then appointed secretary to the archbishop of Zagreb and in June 1934 was nominated to be coadjutor of the archbishop. When the archbishop died in December 1937, Stepinac became archbishop of Zagreb.

Stepinac's behavior during World War II is controversial. Some sources accuse him of direct involvement with the fascist Ustashi regime, while others maintain that he acted with diffidence toward the government. In any case, with the end of the war, Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz Tito proposed that Stepinac establish an autonomous Catholic Church independent of the Vatican. He refused and on 18 September 1946 was arrested and charged with cooperating with the Ustashi regime. In October 1946 Stepinac was sentenced to sixteen years imprisonment. He remained in prison until 1951, when Tito's government commuted his sentence to house arrest in Krašić.

In an investiture ceremony in Rome on 12 January 1953, Pope Pius XII made Stepinac a cardinal, a gesture that led to the breaking of diplomatic relations between Yugoslavia and the Holy See. Stepinac died on 10 February 1960 at Krašić and was buried behind the main altar in the cathedral in Zagreb. He was subsequently rehabilitated and beatified by Pope John Paul II on 3 October 1998.

Lucian N. Leustean


Further Reading
Stella, Alexander. The Triple Myth: A Life of Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac. Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 1987.
 

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