Religion had no place in the communist society Marx dreamed of and in accordance with his theories, religion is officially discouraged in the countries of Eastern Europe.
Religion had no place in the communist society Marx dreamed of and in accordance with his theories, religion is officially discouraged in the countries of Eastern Europe. But in Yugoslavia, "the opiate of the masses", as Marx termed religion, still flourishes.
Relations between the Yugoslav communist party and the major religious groups have, however, deteriorated somewhat over the past year following President Tite's call for a harder party line and stronger party influence in all spheres of life. Religious training for young people has come in for particular criticism, and both Yugoslav's major churches have felt the chill of the party's disapproval.
The Serbian Orthodox Church - with 10 million followers - is the major faith in Yugoslavia. The Roman Catholic church, with eight million members, rates second. Slovenia, one o Yugoslavia's six republic, is predominately Roman Catholic, and well over 2 1/2 thousand churches testify to its strength in this part of the country. Many of the churches are still on use, and others are protected by the state as important historic monuments.
Roman Catholics have been the most outspoken so far in their opposition to the mounting pressure being directed against the churches. One Roman Catholic publication, Glas Koncila, published a letter last October from a group of bishops, attacking official policy for allegedly discriminating against Christians and others who believe in God. The thirty bishops who signed the latter also alleged that a theory had been proclaimed that religion was dangerous to society.
The letter brought a sharp response from the press but no official complaint was apparently made. According to the communist party programme, "religious feelings of citizens are their private affair" and they are free to express them, but "the church should be strictly divided from the state, and school from the church".
In Slovenia, this allows the church to continue its activities much as it would in any other society. On Sundays there are often good attendances at the village churches and in the town of Ljubljana there is a new theology seminary. Priests move freely among their congregations, and children are able to participate in religious instruction and traditional rituals.
Several religious publications have been banned recently in Yugoslavia, but in Slovenia, local religious publications continue to thrive. "Druzina" a religious weekly, boasts the second highest circulation in the region.
New churches are also going up, and two have been built in the centre of Ljubljana in the past few years.