Croatian President Mesic and church exchange blows

Zagreb, Croatia - Croatia's powerful Catholic Church is launching a war of words against President Stjepan Mesic since he announced plans for an initiative to remove the crucifix from army barracks and police stations, the Vecernji List daily said Thursday. Mesic made his remarks about the crucifix in a radio interview on Monday.

"It reminds me of Stalin and his moves. The cross is not only a religious symbol but a symbol of Western culture," a leading theologist, Adalbert Rebic told the mass-circulation daily.

The conflict over the crucifix, however, is just the latest in the ongoing dispute between Mesic and the church. In June, a column in the church newspaper Glas Koncila (Voice of the Council) referred to Mesic as a "traitor."

Mesic demanded an apology from the publication and Cardinal Josip Bozanic. But instead of offering one, Glas Koncila said in its latest edition, August 15, that the head of the Croatian state should be a "healthy and balanced person."