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Ceremony In Kočevski Rog: The Memory Of Victims And Injustices Cannot Be Abolished

A commemorative ceremony with a mass was held on Saturday in memory of those killed after the war at the abyss near Kren in Kočevski rog. The service was conducted by the President of the Slovenian Bishops’ Conference (Slovenska škofovska konferenca) and Bishop of Novo mesto, Andrej Saje. In his address, he stressed the need for reconciliation and reparation, and emphasised that “the future is conditional on renouncing revenge and seeking truth and justice for all.” Former President of the republic Borut Pahor and President of the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS) Janez Janša laid memorial wreaths next to the abyss for all the victims who died there. Pahor’s office later said that he attended the ceremony as part of his reconciliation efforts.

Andrej Saje, President of the Slovenian Bishops’ Conference, pointed out that the purpose of the annual gathering at the abyss below Kren was to pray for the deceased and to promote reconciliation and forgiveness in the Slovenian nation. “Reconciliation and forgiveness are God’s work, but they cannot be realised without human cooperation and renunciation of evil. And that requires a decision, constant efforts and the cooperation of all,” he stressed.

Prayer for reconciliation, the Bishop said, “must always be accompanied by the establishment of historical facts and the righting of wrongs,” while justice “cannot be achieved without condemnation of the crimes and a dignified burial of the remains of the victims who have been exhumed.” “This is the responsibility of the relevant government departments and individuals. I ask and urge them to carry out these acts of civilisation, which are rooted in respect for every human being, regardless of their political beliefs, religion, or race,” he urged.

He then pointed out that the government had recently abolished the National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communist Violence, stressing that the memory of victims and injustices cannot be taken away or abolished. “Evaluating the past is a matter of spiritual hygiene. Without remembrance, we will not be able to move forward, and we will not grow healthily as a national and state community,” he urged.

The Bishop believes that the future is conditional on renouncing revenge and seeking truth and justice for all: “Reconciliation is a personal act and cannot be commanded. It must be decided on and persevered in. Although wrongs have been committed on both sides, it must be acknowledged that the burden of their guilt is different. The wrongs of individuals on the one hand and the structural violence of the authorities on the other cannot be compared.”

He recalled that there is still no agreement in the country on where the victims from the nearby abyss under Macesnova gorica will be buried. “Why have we not been able to come to a common agreement on where these victims will be buried with dignity? Why are some people afraid of the bones of the deceased and afraid of the remains from 78 years ago? Why do they refuse to allow the slain to be buried in a proper and dignified place of remembrance?” he asked. He believes that the most appropriate place for the victims’ burial would be Ljubljana’s central cemetery at Žale, where other victims of war and soldiers of different nationalities, including occupation soldiers, are already buried.

The service was followed by a cultural programme of the New Slovenian Covenant, during which those gathered at the ceremony were addressed by lawyer Andrej Fink. He stressed that the post-war killings were the product of human vileness and of certain groups and people with names and surnames. “Personally, all the misery has been forgiven. There are no more personal culprits today, but from a supernatural, social, state point of view, everything cannot just be forgotten as if nothing had happened. The uncleared past weighs on the present and prevents it from a healthy way forward,” he said.

The ceremony was attended, among others, by former President Borut Pahor and SDS President Janez Janša. Both laid wreaths at the memorial at the abyss. The Slovenian Armed Forces Honour Guard also laid a wreath on behalf of the country.

Sara Kovač

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