Foto: Dario Zurchauer // Dvadesetpeta obljetnica beatifikacije blaženog Alojzija Stepinca u Mariji Bistrici
On Saturday, September 30, in commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the beatification of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, Archbishop Dražen Kutleša of Zagreb celebrated Mass at the Croatian National Shrine of Our Lady of Bistrica in Marija Bistrica.
During the entrance procession, the postulator for the cause of the canonization of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, Msgr. Juraj Batelja, placed the blessed’s relics before a painting that was unveiled in the Shrine of Our Lady of Bistica at the moment of the proclamation of his beatification on October 3, 1998.
At the beginning of the celebration of the Mass, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Republic of Croatia, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, placed a pallium on the shoulders of Archbishop Kutleša, indicating his metropolitan service. “The pallium that the Pope’s representative will place on the shoulders of the Most Reverend Archbishop Dražen Kutleša is a symbol of special communion with the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis wanted pallia to be placed on the shoulders of archbishops in their archdioceses in order to encourage suffragan bishops and the people of God to participate in liturgical celebrations as a whole community that must renew its unity of thought and life with the Roman bishop,” said Nuncio Lingua.
In the homily, Archbishop Kutleša pointed out that Blessed Alojzije, a man like ourselves, loved life and respected everyone’s life, regardless of national, ideological, racial or class distinctions, but he also knew that the value of life is not only connected with the horizon of this world. He knew that God is the foundation of life and we exist according to him. He created us and wanted us. From this foundation comes the inviolable dignity of every human being,” he said.
Over eighty years ago, Blessed Alojzije denounced the greatest weakness of contemporary Europe—the loss of its Christian identity, its spiritual roots, heritage, customs, historical truths and Christian symbols in the public area. Europe is trying to practice humanism without God, forgetting that the social virtues, social justice and solidarity, concern for one’s neighbor, concern for nature and ecology are profound Christian values,” said the Archbishop of Zagreb.
At the end of his homily, Archbishop Kutleša expressed his gratitude to the Holy Father for the confidence he has demonstrated. “What would our history look like if the Catholic Church and our nation did not have this great and holy man?! Precisely for this reason, together with you, I pray today for the intercession of Our Lady of Bistrica, Blessed Alojzije Stepinac and all the saints and blesseds of our Croatian nation, to receive an abundance of Stepinac’s spirit (cf. 2 Kgs 2:9), that I may never ignore the voice of Christ the Good Shepherd, and that I will always and in every circumstance be able to be a servant of grace through the Heart of Jesus,” he concluded.
Following the prayer after Communion, Archbishop Kutleša prayed for the canonization of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac before his relics.
Prior to the conclusion of the celebration, on behalf of the bishops of the Zagreb ecclesiastical province, Bishop Vlado Košić congratulated Msgr. Kutleša on receiving the pallium. “The pallium is a sign of the pastoral service of an archbishop. Therefore, I want you to perform this service for the joy of the priests, nuns and God’s people, and for your own consecration. May you inspire and lead by your example and the intercession of our holy Blessed Alozije Stepinac, the twenty-fifth anniversary of his beatification we have just celebrated. He was a man of conscience and trust in God, as recently described by our Cardinal Josip Bozanić. May you, who have taken the same motto for your episcopal service, ‘In You, God, I Trust!’ be led by a clear conscience and trust in God, who does not abandon his own,” said Bishop Košić.
On behalf of the Archdiocese of Zagreb, Auxiliary Bishop Mijo Gorski of Zagreb thanked all who had participated in the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the beatification of Alojzije Stepinac. He was the Archbishop of Zagreb but the blessed of the entire Croatian nation and the faithful of other nations, as constantly confirmed by the spread of his veneration and the search for his relics. Today we have experienced the beauty of togetherness, which can only be made possible by prayer. Gathered from different regions, states and nations, our voices rose as one in gratitude for this beautiful day, for the gift of our Blessed Alojzije, a magnificent role model and advocate,” said Bishop Gorski.
Together with Nuncio Lingua, the Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Emeritus Cardinal Josip Bozanić, the bishops of the Zagreb ecclesiastical province, (arch)bishops of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, (arch)bishops from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia, religious provincials and several hundred assembled priests. The liturgical singing was led by the Choir of the Parish of Saint Nicholas Tavelich from Zagreb-Kustošija.
Faithful from the parishes of the Archdiocese of Zagreb also participated in the celebration of the Mass and prayer program devoted to Blessed Alojzije Stepinac. Parishioners from the Parish of Velika Gorica recited the Stations of the Cross and choirs from Bestovje-Novaki-Rakitje led the singing during devotions. The prayer of the Rosary prior to the celebration of the Mass was led by parishioners from Duga Resa, while the Mass readings were read by parishioners from Trnjanska Savica.