STA, 5 June 2021 - Retired Ljubljana Archbishop Anton Stres addressed the annual memorial and mass for victims of post-WWII reprisal killings in the Kočevski Rog woods on Saturday, noting that that reconciliation was yet to be reached in Slovenia.
The conditions for that include revealing truth about the post-war executions and condemning those who have committed the acts and forgiveness by those from the other side, he added at the ceremony at the Pod Krenom grave site.
Stres said that reconciliation could not be reached with a single act, such as the reconciliation ceremony 31 years ago, when the first public ceremony for the victims of the post-war reprisal killings was held after several decades.
It is a process that has several steps, and the first step is, according to him, unconditional commitment to truth.
"Calls could be heard that history needs to remain as written and told in the time of the rule of those who perpetrated the killings. But truth cannot be locked down, and it is impossible to prescribe it, because it tells a story on its own."
Another step, according to Stres, is the right that the people who are lying in the chasms of Kočevski Rog and their relatives are still waiting for.
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the first ceremony of reconciliation in Kočevski Rog, Slovenian Prime Minister @JJansaSDS and President @BorutPahor attended a memorial ceremony in Macesnova gorica.— Slovenian Government (@govSlovenia) June 8, 2020
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"As long as no one is sentenced for these crimes and the vow of silence is so effective, with those who know many things not being allowed or not daring to talk, our country will not be what it should be," Stres said.
The third step towards reconciliation is forgiveness, which is the only way out "so that we start living a new life and look forward".
"To forgive means not to sweep things under the rug and say that a crime is not a crime. To forgive means letting go of any revengefulness and look forward, and not backwards," Stres said.
He assessed that there was not enough compassion in Slovenia for all post-war mass graves to be properly marked, and that after 76 years all victims could get a grave appropriate to their "inalienable human dignity".
According to him, the blame is also on various political groups that fail to make the necessary steps, "because they do not want to lose a certain number of voters or are cemented in past ideologies of hatred and false propaganda."
The ceremony organised by the New Slovenian Covenant association was also attended by Prime Minister Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Janez Janša and several ministers, including Defence Minister Matej Tonin.
Tonin, the president of the coalition New Slovenia party, said in a statement that histories of nations were very different and sometimes very painful.
"But it nevertheless needs to be accepted as it is - realistic and without sugar-coating. Wounds of the past need to be healed, and the dead need to be shown the basic civilisational respect by giving them proper burial," he added.