In 1914, as we all know, in an effort to suppress the Austrian influence which had been so strong in Croatia, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, nephew and next in line to Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I, was assassinated on June 18, 1914 in Sarajevo. This murder provoked the outbreak of World War I. Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were forced into alignment with the Triple Alliance again. Though it had been extremist Bosnian Muslim terrorists sympathetic to the Turkish cause who had assassinated Ferdinand, the course of history was set. Reluctantly Croats fought for the Central Powers, their only incentive in the war being that their enemy were the hated Serbians whom Russia had recruited on the side of the European Entente Powers. But as almost every skirmish between these two bitter cultures has been, it was standoff. Not so with the rest of Europe where the United States' involvement and British tenacity forced Germany to her knees.
With the defeat of the Central Powers by America, France and England, the Franco-Belgian military convention agreed to the Czechoslovak-Yugoslav defensive alliance to avert Hungarian revisionism. In 1918, as an aftermath of President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points for World Peace, the Serbo-Croatian-Slovene Kingdom of Yugoslavia was proclaimed. After centuries of fighting among themselves, they were now forced to live in harmony bound together in an uneasy alliance. Though it might work in the melting pot of America, the resentment and long bitter ethnic struggles ran too deep to really work though they put on a united front to the rest of the world; while underneath seethed an ethnic bitterness that would spill over in blood in 1991. When World War II broke out in 1939 again alliances were along the lines of natural enemies rather than loyalties to the cause. How else can you explain the Catholic Croatians and Italians aligning with the Nazis and the Fascists? Namely because Russia sided with the Serbs against Croatia and, because Russia was on the side of the Allies, Croatia sought help from the Axis Powers for protection. After the war the communist manifesto took control in the Balkans and through the regime of Marshall Josip Broz Tito the Yugoslav Republic even put on a facade that Communism really worked with Socialist Republics of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sovenia.
When the hammer and sickle crumbled on the brink of the nineties, governments were left with the opportunity to become independent again throughout Eastern Europe. This included the Balkans where Croatia and Bosnia sought to vote out communist rule and vote in an independent ticket for the foundations were shaky and, appropriately enough on the tenth anniversary of the Apparitions of Medjugorje - June 25, 1991 the Croatian people had the opportunity to choose their own destiny in voting for independence from Yugoslavia and Serbian domination. Nationalism was gaining once again, but the communists and the Serbs weren't totally through. The head of Serbia and the Cyrillic empire in Belgrade Slobodan Milosevic, seeing everything beginning to fall apart, sought to keep the Yugoslavian Republic together no matter the carnage. But the people had spoken and so, stubbornly as the despot he is, sent troops to annex Croatia but the Croats were too strong and successfully expelled the Serbs. It wasn't as easy in Bosnia where a year later a bitter civil war broke out embroiling Croat, Serb and Muslim. Nowhere was this division more pronounced than in Sarajevo and Mostar, two of the major cities in this same country where the Blessed Virgin Mary first appeared on June 25, 1981 ten years before in the remote mountain village of Medjugorje to warn the populace and urge all God's children to return to her Divine Son Jesus for therein was the only achievable Peace. She even came as Our Lady of Peace. Did the people of the Balkans listen? Evidently not. But should we be surprised? After all we haven't listened either, not only Medjugorje, but Fatima, Lourdes, La Salette, and Rue de Bac, dating all the way back to Guadalupe in 1531. For Heaven it has to be frustrating. Our Lady imparted to the Hidden Flower of the Immaculate Heart in 1991, after the Gulf War and as civil war simmered in the Balkans, to beware of the "false peace." The Blessed Mother has an impeccable track record for accuracy, folks.
And, sadly, what she conveyed did materialize and for finite man it was a time of trial and tribulation in the Balkans as well as other hot spots around the world. Overwhelmingly Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia opted for freedom which was quickly countered by the suppressing Serbs directed by Milosevic from Belgrade, seat of the Serbian stronghold which also incorporated Montenegro and Kosovo, the latter of which borders the much fought after Macedonia and Albania to the west. It was the latter nation whose people had migrated to Kosovo over 500 years ago and where much of the trouble would erupt for Milosevic sought an ethnic cleansing that would "purify" the Serbian state even though the Albanians had formed the League of Prizren in 1878 to assure autonomy for the people of Kosovo. Though Milosevic knew of this, he still insisted on erasing the Kosovars. He failed in Croatia and Slovenia, but the cost was high. Recognized by the United Nations and the U.S. as independent countries, they felt the brunt of Serbian retaliation but fended off the brutal attacks and mass murder ethnic cleansing. The cost: countless lives, demolished churches and monasteries, millions left homeless! The crown jewel of the Adriatic Coast - Dubrovnik, the old medieval walled city that withstood the barbarian hordes and the Black Death which claimed over 75 million people from 1347 to 1351 - was systematically destroyed by Serbian gunships, air power and ground militia. In 1992, Bosnia-Herzegovina, tired of Serb suppression, also voted for independence and their reward was a full onslaught of genocide and ethnic cleansing unparalleled in history - even more grotesque than Hitler's infamous Holocaust and second only to the terrible sin of abortion. Many termed this war a civil war. Oh, how wrong they were for this was truly a religious war and satan had a field day. Correct that, is having a field day for the war continues - there is no peace, all is false. It is just as Our Lady prophesied and as her Divine Son foretold in Mark 13: 7-8, "When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; for they must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These things are the beginning of sorrows." Kingdom against kingdom refers both to Heaven vs. hell as well as ethnic groups fighting among themselves. The Muslims remained loyal to their Allah, while the radical Serbs clung to their Eastern Orthodox roots which not only is not in alignment with Rome, but a far cry from the devout Orthodox faith. Many Roman Catholics in Bosnia and Croatia fought valiantly as Soldiers of Christ for their Faith, many dying as martyrs. For many their only weapon was and is the Rosary. And this faith and devotion is what the Serbians hate most, attacking every church they could, destroying monasteries, demoralizing parishioners. Over 1000 churches, basilicas, cathedrals, chapels and religious institutions were destroyed by the ruthless Serbs and Moslems. Throughout the war in Bosnia, Medjugorje remained unscathed, just as the area in Rwanda did where Our Lady also appeared. But all around there was turmoil and death.
And this devastation continues today as Kosovo has become virtually a "ghost town." Who knows how many bodies are buried in mass graves throughout this southern Serbian province that borders Albania and Macedonia. Milosevic was rightly accused of war crimes and should be brought to justice, but not by the United States or NATO but rather his own people. Will that happen? That's very unlikely, because there is no peace, for one and secondly, because we won't do the same in our own country. As we have written often in these pages before, if Milosevic is guilty of ethnic cleansing, so is William Jefferson Clinton, the enemy of the unborn. Yet he pontificates that he has the answers and is acting so righteous in bringing Milosevic to justice. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!!! It would seem presumptious to think that an amoral politician from Arkansas could solve something that has gone on for centuries. Liberal wags and media spinmeisters may like to extol the man from Hope, Arkansas but to assume he has done anything of permanence and good for mankind is to really stretch the truth. We've often been criticized by Clinton-crazies for daring to make him accountable for his sins which have been made quite public and of which he boasts of. In fact, one disturbed writer, and we do mean disturbed, even threatened to notify the White House of our comments and so we assume we are now on their "hit list" as if we are scared since standing up for Christ and His laws are the only authority that truly counts. For as Jesus said in Matthew 22: 21, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." We pay our tributes to "Caesar" - the government - but we will not pay tribute to the devil. It has nothing to do with personality, but with souls and living God's will.
Again, we reiterate, we stand behind the Holy Father as loyal Roman Catholics first and foremost, then our country. That is why we have been highly critical of NATO's bombing raids during those 79 days of pummeling the Balkans for these victims of the bombing are also our brothers and sisters and NATO and its principals have not learned from history. In fact there have been more Kosovar Albanians eradicated by NATO than the Serbs who themselves have been killed by the thousands. While America puts on a face of moral indignation, they have destroyed any credibility on the global stage by their actions with the US media being manipulated as a publicity arm for the White House policies as the latter continues to alienate other major powers, most notably the dangerous ones such as China and Russia. It makes no sense to spend millions bombing someone and then spending millions more to rebuild something we destroyed. While buildings can be rebuilt, memories and feelings run deep - as in centuries. America, still wet behind the ears history-wise, doesn't understand that. Many finite beings don't understand that, but Our Lord and His Blessed Mother have done their utmost to communicate to us that there is only one peace that can be achieved, it begins in the heart. For division and strife we will always have as long as original sin exists. Jesus said as much in Luke 12: 51, "Do you think that I came to give peace upon the earth? No, I tell you, but division." It was another confirmation that we're not going to skate through this world on the easy path; nor are the answers in safe refuges where the faithful might be preserved from persecution. No matter what chastisements are ahead, if we place our trust in our finite leadership we have much to fear, but we have nothing to fear if we place our total trust in the Infinite and are rooted in Jesus for He said in John 14: 27, "Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, or be afraid."
There you have it, folks. Straight from the Lord's mouth. So fear not. Peace can only be achieved through total commitment to Him by disgarding the world's notion of peace which can be nothing but a "false peace." The people of the Balkans, throughout Africa and South America, in Indonesia and elsewhere around the world have realized this just as the millions of martyrs over the centuries from the early Christians onward understood and accepted this truth. Our Lady says it won't be long until America realizes and experiences severe chastisements. Rather than fearing what is to come, we should stop, pause, pray and open our arms in invitation to "bring it on" and then reach out to help others, not in a humanitarian way but in the spirit of Christ, because the only way to true peace is by embracing persecution for persecution is a poignant part of the purification process!
That says volumes when one looks at the political climate in Europe at this time in history. The enlightenment had caused man to become more brash in questioning authority and ushered in a new philosophy of life - a pagan one called humanism. For centuries the Church had stood as thee authority with respect earned but in the last part of the fifteenth century and the early part of the sixteenth century that respect eroded because of the worldliness and debauchery of some of the Church's leaders. Thus these questionable popes and prelates opened the door for this humanistic enlightenment to gain a foothold for those who disagreed with what was going on in the Church to take matters into their own hands. When we better understand this climate and the causes and effects of the times, we can better understand how Martin Luther came to the forefront. Hopefully we will not scandalize anyone when we say that many of the things Martin Luther stood for were right. That's right, because this Augustinian monk was dead set against the way indulgences were being bought and sold like favors. It is no secret that the popes of these times were literally selling God and that was wrong. Many of the reforms Luther proposed were indeed enacted at the Council of Trent, but it was like closing the barn door after the horses were out.
Luther was right in many of his theses, just as Archbishop Marcel Lefebrve was right on many of his issues regarding maintaining the Traditional Latin Mass and providing for those who wanted to retain the Orthodoxy of the faith as decreed at Trent which Pope John Paul II did with Ecclesia Dei afterwards. But the problem with both was the matter of obedience. When push came to shove both men said "non serviam." They failed to remember Christ's words in Matthew that He would be with His Church always and "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Luther and many other held out great hope when Leo opened the sixth session of the 18th Ecumenical Council called by Julius II. But after after the eighth and ninth sessions, it was all to evident that any reforms approved by the council would not be enforced. When he closed the Council on March 16, 1517 it was also quite evident that Leo didn't have a clue. He didn't want to be bothered with serious matters. He was basically living in la-la land, thinking that being pope meant furthering culture and lavishing the Vatican with more artistic treasures as the Vatican Library began to swell with gifts, many not as valuable as many thought due to the second-hand work of inept artists who rode the coat-tails of other more accomplished artisans. As mentioned earlier, he sold indulgences to raise more money and when he decreed that this would be universal and encouraged that this be preached Luther took exception to one Father John Tetzel, O.P. who was preaching the Pope's wishes in January 1517. Luther took exception and posted his famous or infamous 95 theses on the door of the church at Wittenburg in the fall of 1517. When word reached Leo in early 1518 he was insensed, not so much for the disobedience aspect but because Luther's actions had definitely made a dent in Leo's plans and was hampering sales of indulgences as well as fracturing various political alliances forthe alignment of powerful European princes with the Protestant sympathisers was weakening what strength he had. While many have long considered the Protestant Reformation a religious issue, it should be noted that politics played more of a major part than religion per se, for politics were the cause and the effects were the faith. Therefore Leo ordered Luther silenced, not directly but through the Superior General of the Augustinians. When that failed Leo tried to persuade the Elector Frederick of Saxony, Luther's protector to stop Luther. That also failed. He then sent theologian John Eck to Leipzig, Germany in 1519 to debate Luther. When that did not convince Luther to cease and desist or his growing number of followers Leo painted himself into a corner. To save his own face he published the bull Exsurge Domine on this very day June 15, 1520. It condemned Luther on forty-one counts, but not yet handing him the bell, book and Rather than repent, Luther sold his soul to the devil by burning the bull. Leo followed that with another bull Decet Romanum pontificem on January 3, 1521 which this time did excommunicate the rebellious Augustinian monk. This further alienated Luther's supporters. In effect Leo's final action provoked war on the Church as the political camps were delineated, a war that would take its toll in the ensuing centuries. Also, in effect, Leo's failure to act promptly allotted the enemies of the Church to regroup, to dig in and to build up a formidable fortress.
It was no secret Leo was Italian to the core and wanted no foreign intervention in his homeland and city of Florence where the de' Medici family was so powerful. But the same held true for all of Europe who resented the mannerisms of Leo and his resentment of everything non-Italian. France manipulated its way back into Italy by playing on Leo's weaknesses and Leo essentially sold some of his country down the river by surrendering to the French in cahoots with the Venetians the territories of Milan and Naples in return for assurance that Florence would be spared. Spain, led by Emperor Maximilian I and England naturally aligned against France, giving Leo an ally for Italy. The Holy Roman Empire or Germany opted to remain independent but it was no secret the majority of protestors were turned off by the Italian influence and Leo's actions played right into Luther's strength politically. Despite Spain and England's alliance against France, Leo went against common sense and his advisors' advice and called for conference with King Louis XII successor King Francis I receiving the French assurance that the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges would be revoked and a special concordat be signed that would greatly favor the French interests in regards the Holy See. This did not sit well with his own curia. Spain, meanwhile, was in the throes of a succession from grandfather to grandson in Charles V of Haptsburg who would play an integral role in the Reformation battles to come. Covering his backside, Leo proclaimed the king of England Henry VIII as "Defender of the Faith" to add another "prestigious name" against Luther in his war of words with the deposed German monk. The accolade would also keep Henry at bay as he relished the acclamation, a proud, vain man. More vices that would be Henry's own downfall. What Leo was doing, in effect, was laying the groundwork for more rebellion by downplaying the commandments and true essence of the faith. Like many of his predecessors, he used the office of the Supreme Pontiff to "get even" by executing his enemies within the Church and blanketing the Conclave with relatives who were not qualified to be cardinals, let alone be bishops or priests.
In the end, Leo was left without any allies for all used him just as he used them. When he died of malaria on December 1, 1921 Italy was once again in political turmoil, the treasury was bare and the moral coffers badly lacking as well. Northern Europe was on the verge of all-out rebellion against Italy and the Church whom most Europeans looked upon as synonymous. This was truly the darkest of times for the Church and it would get much worse very, very soon.