The Jasenovac martyrs are as worthy as the first martyrs and only when we learn to respect the suffering of others will we have learnt something of our own suffering, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople said addressing a symposium in Zagreb about the Holocaust.
"The Jasenovac martyrs represent an important and special category in the history of our Orthodox church as victims of the Nazi regime and a dark era of humanity which is impossible to forget," Bartholomew I said opening the symposium of sociologists and theologists from Poland, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Israel, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia as well as representatives of all religious denominations in Croatia.
Bartholomew I arrived in Croatia to attend the symposium and the 75th anniversary of the suffering of the victims of the Jasenovac WWII concentration camp.
He condemned those who were "morally responsible" because even if they did not take up arms, they chose to keep silent about the crimes against another people and in that regard are responsible.
He urged for the recognition of every innocent victim, regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender or race.
"Whoever does not learn in Jasenovac to respect all victims has no respect for Jasenovac" and the real message of Jasenovac is that "only if we learn to respect every innocent victim do we respect our own," said Pakrac-Slavonia Episcope Jovan.
Bartholomew I is a "an angel of peace in the true sense" and he is a "motivation to build bridges of peace," Episcope Jovan said, underscoring that this is the first time in history that a patriarch from Constantinople has ever visited these regions and Croatia.
In "today's divided and warring world," he testifies that every man is worthy of attention, that he is an icon of God and that we must recognise our brother in him, Episcope Jovan said.
Recognising brotherhood was the main theme of the speeches at the symposium at which the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Efraim Zuroff, who, talking about the Holocaust, underlined why it is important to try atrocities.
Giving justice to the victims serves so that the truth can win and only then can there be peace, Zuroff said.
Speaking to the press, Zuroff said that Serbia would make a mistake if it were to remain silent about the revival of the Ustasha iconography and attempts to downplay that era. The European Union too has to speak up and condemn such behaviour, he said.
On Saturday, Bartholomew I and the Serb Patriarch Irinej will officiate a liturgy in Jasenovac and bless the episcopal palace in Pakrac.
Bartholomew I is the 270th Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch and is regarded as the primus inter pares (first among equals) of Orthodox patriarchs. He is the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world.
The symposium "New Martyrs: A Multi-perspective II" was held at the Serbian Orthodox High School "Katarina Kantakuzina Brankovic" in Zagreb.