World Report

ROME (JTA) — Pope John Paul II has beatified a controversial cardinal revered by Croatians as an anti-Communist martyr but reviled by others as a fascist collaborator.

The pope, on a two-day visit to Croatia over the weekend, proclaimed Zagreb's World War II archbishop Alojzije Stepinac a "blessed" of the Roman Catholic Church — the step before sainthood.

The beatification took place despite protests by the Serbian government and a call by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to put it off "until after the completion of an exhaustive study of Stepinac's wartime record."

As archbishop of Zagreb in 1941, Stepinac had supported the Ustashe regime. By 1942 he withdrew his backing and denounced its policy.

Yugoslavia's post-war Communist government jailed the anti-Communist Stepinac for collaborating with the Ustashe regime, which staged forced conversions and wholesale massacres of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies. He died under house arrest in 1960.

Austria will confront property confiscation

VIENNA (JPS) — Austria's leaders decided last week to create an official commission of inquiry to examine the issue of Austrian Jewish property confiscated during World War II.

The commission will investigate the historical record and weigh the question of restitution of confiscated property, or compensation for it.

Government leaders were responding to demands by the chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Austria.

Jewish property in Austria before the 1938 Anschluss was estimated in 1953 at 2.4 billion Reichsmarks — around $10 billion. In Vienna alone, more than 70,000 apartments and houses were owned by Jews along with more than 33,000 businesses.

Since the war, the Austrian authorities have done little to return property to Holocaust survivors or their descendants.

Uzbekistan denies visa for U.S. rabbi

MOSCOW (JTA) — Uzbekistan has refused to renew the visa of an American rabbi who serves as the head of the Jewish community in Tashkent, the former Soviet republic's capital.

Rabbi Abba David Gurevitch, a Chabad emissary who was born in Russia and holds a U.S. passport, has worked in Uzbekistan since 1990.

His visa was regularly renewed until its most recent expiration a month ago. The Foreign Ministry wouldn't explain why it rejected his renewal application.

Since his arrival in this Central Asian state, Gurevitch has played a crucial role in the renewal of Jewish life there. He has opened several Jewish educational institutions, including a Jewish day school in Tashkent. Some 30,000 Jews live in Uzbekistan, most of them in the capital.

Wallenberg search comes up empty

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Jewish Post & News) — After two years trying to uncover what happened to Raoul Wallenberg, Winnipeg human-rights lawyer David Matas has admitted he made little headway.

Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat credited with saving up to 100,000 Jews from death in the Holocaust, was arrested by occupying Soviet troops in Hungary in 1945. His fate is unknown.

Last month, Matas released a 75-page report of findings from his fact-finding mission, for which he received a $5,000 federal grant through Lloyd Axworthy, a federal cabinet minister. Matas, who traveled to six countries, blamed international bureaucratic stonewalling for most of the problem.

Matas, however, insists the search must continue for the precise facts about Wallenberg, who is presumed dead.

Grenade discovered at Israeli embassy

BRUSSELS (JTA) — A hand grenade was found last week under a car parked in front of the Israeli Embassy in Brussels.

An embassy security guard found the grenade and notified the police, who removed the explosive and safely detonated it at another site. Local authorities are investigating the incident.

Russian governor slams Jews, Masons

MOSCOW (JTA) — The governor of a region in southern Russia is once again making waves with his anti-Semitic remarks.

The governor, Nikolai Kondratenko, was sued recently after calling the administration of the region's largest mayor, Valery Samoilenko, a "Zionist nest" and a "Judeo-Masonic mafia."

Kondratenko has repeatedly made anti-Semitic, racist and anti-Western statements. Sources in Krasnodar, a largely agricultural region of 5.5 million people, say that he regularly peppers his speeches with attacks on Zionists and "Judeo-Masons," whom he blames for all of Russia's troubles.

People close to Kondratenko say he strongly believes in the existence of a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. About 3,000 Jews live in Krasnodar.