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Ex-Archbishop of Zagreb Dies at 83

March 12, 2002

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ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, a former primate of this predominantly Roman Catholic country who preached tolerance during the wars in the Balkans, died early Monday. He was 83.

The church-run news agency IKA did not identify the cause of the death. Kuharic, who retired in 1997, reportedly had heart problems.

Kuharic was the archbishop of the Zagreb diocese and the primate of Croatia since 1970, while the country was still a part of the communist-run Yugoslav federation which suppressed religious and national feelings.

Most Croats turned openly toward the church after Croatia’s 1991 independence from Yugoslavia and they regard it as the highest moral authority.

During and after Croatia’s 1991 war with its rebel Serbs and the subsequent war in neighboring Bosnia, Kuharic urged forgiveness and spoke out against vengeance.

He also often criticized corruption that flourished during the late President Franjo Tudjman’s nine-year rule.

Still, critics charged that his relations with Tudjman’s regime, which eventually was ousted by the pro-Western coalition two years ago, were too close.

Kuharic was close to Pope John Paul II, who visited the country in 1994 _ the first time a pope had done so in 800 years. The pontiff revisited four years ago and is tentatively scheduled to visit Croatia again this fall.

John Paul sent a telegram of condolence that said Kuharic ``knew how to generously, patiently and faithfully serve the people of God entrusted to his pastoral care.″

``Both during the period of the communist regime as well as the recent, painful period of national history, he committed himself with all his energy to the defense of the liberty and the dignity of the Croat people,″ the pontiff said.

Kuharic was replaced by Cardinal Josip Bozanic in 1997.

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