Local media reported that the priest, Sime Nimac, in the Adriatic town of Baska voda sold 40,000 square metres of church property, then withdrew the money from the bank before vanishing.
Nimac, 34, was reported to have absconded with a female banker and his whereabouts were unknown. As police opened an investigation, church officials issued a public apology over the incident, which they ascribed to "the insatiable egoism of an individual”.
But Zagreb daily Jutarnji list said in an editorial on Wednesday that the problem wasn’t just Nimac but also a lack of transparency in the heavily state-subsidised church and its finances.
Media reports said Nimac drove an expensive car, wore designer clothes and was adored by the women of his parish.
“If he did steal the church's money, it is a cathastrophe in a human and religious sense,” a local resident was quoted as saying.