Zagreb, Croatia
Zagreb, Croatia Thinkstock

The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center slammed on Monday a Mass in Zagreb to commemorate Croatia's World War II pro-Nazi
leader, calling it a "badge of shame" for the Catholic Church.

"It's hard to believe that in the center of the capital of a member of the European Union, very close to Zagreb's Jewish community, hundreds of people gathered yesterday to commemorate the memory of one of Europe's biggest mass murderers," the head of the center's Jerusalem office said in a statement.

Efraim Zuroff labelled the service marking the 55rd anniversary of Ante Pavelic's death an "insult to the memory of Pavelic's hundreds of thousands of innocent victims", and a "badge of shame for the Catholic Church".

Masses on the anniversary of Pavelic's death are regularly held in a basilica in downtown Zagreb and in Split, on the Adriatic coast.

Pavelic headed a Nazi-allied Croat state from 1941 to 1945. He died in Madrid on December 28, 1959, reportedly from wounds inflicted in an attack on him two years earlier in Buenos Aires, where he had fled after the Axis defeat in 1945.

Pavelic's World War II Ustasha regime killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascist Croatians in concentration camps.

Almost 90 percent of Croatia's population of 4.2 million are Roman Catholics.

The former Yugoslav republic joined the EU last year.

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