Kardinal Josip Bozanić
On Monday, March 23, in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Zagreb and the surrounding area on Sunday, March 22, the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, provided words of encouragement to the faithful and citizens of Croatia, expressing his human, Christian and episcopal closeness to all who are suffering.
At the beginning of his address to the faithful via Croatian Catholic Radio (HKR) and Croatian Radio-Television (HRT), Cardinal Josip Bozanić expressed his solidarity and closeness to all those who were afflicted these days by the earthquake and the threat from the infectious coronavirus, noting that all of us are facing a challenge. “I express my human, Christian and episcopal closeness to all who suffer. Especially at this moment, I am thinking about the critically injured high school girl who has suffered the most, pray for her and express my closeness to her parents. I thank God that the earthquake did not result in the loss of human life. God protected us. This is a challenge and sign for all of us, but also a call for solidarity, community and closeness. I am one of those who are not in their homes or apartments these days. I could not remain in the Archbishop’s Palace because it is damaged. However, we are living in fellowship.”
“I was on my feet when the earthquake struck, praying to God,” revealed Cardinal Bozanić. In addition to the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary in Zagreb, the Archbishop’s Palace was also severely damaged, said the cardinal, and is in rather poor condition. “The statics are poor. We first need an expert opinion before any decisions can be made.”
The cardinal said that it appears that the cathedral interior did not sustain major damage. “The south tower was the most severely damage. Not only did the cross fall off but everything ten meters below it broke off. We still have not found the cross. We do not know whether it is buried beneath rubble or is on the roof of the Archbishop’s Palace. There is a lot of rubble and debris around the cathedral.”
The question of repairs is still to come, said Cardinal Bozanić, pointing out that the most important thing today is to speak about people. “I sympathize with everyone who shares this fate. First of all, we have to think about the families who have been left without apartments, without homes. There are also damaged churches and rectories in Zagreb and the surroundings. I have heard from pastors. All of us need to show solidarity. The person is in the first place. The neediest must be helped first. Everything else will have its turn.”
Message of Support to the Faithful and Citizens of Croatia
Cardinal Bozanić asked all the faithful to pray. “I wish to point out that our God loves us all very much. Even in this, we need to see a sign of God’s closeness. The situation with the coronavirus is a challenge. We must be serious, obey the rules and, thereby, help each other. Let us have greater solidarity and be closer to each another. A person shows his greatness when confronting a challenge.” The priests are celebrating the Eucharist every day and the people are called to be spiritually connected to the priests, said the cardinal.
“Yesterday, I was thinking about what would have happened if the bishops had not ordered the churches to be closed last week. That morning, on Sunday, at six o’clock, the church would otherwise have been open and people would have been inside. In the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the ceiling caved in. How many people could have been killed? Thus, God has preserved us in another way. On the other hand, Jesus is always present among us in the Eucharist. I should like to point out something else of significance. In the program for the forthcoming Encounter of Catholic Youth, we had designated two churches protected by beati, Blessed Alojzije Stepinac and Blessed Ivan Merz, as churches for reflection, contemplation, pilgrimage and confession. These two churches, the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, have in some ways become signs. We certainly have the intercession of Blessed Stepinac and Blessed Merz from heaven, especially for Catholic youth. The forthcoming encounter will be marked by these two beati, although we may still have to consider postponing it.”
Yesterday, Cardinal Bozanić celebrated Mass at the seminary where he is temporarily living. “I celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving after yesterday’s earthquake because God had protected lives. The person is the most important. Human life is the most important. We do not know all of God’s plans and or the paths and signs by which he leads us. The Feast of the Annunciation is on Wednesday. The Pope invites us to be especially connected to Mary, who brought us Jesus, and to pray earnestly for all the sick and for stopping the threat of coronavirus. We in Zagreb shall also have to pray for all those afflicted by the earthquake.”