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Cardinal Bozanić: That the Darkness and Evil Shall Never Occur Again

Zagreb (IKA)

On Thursday, January 24, a prayer-commemorative gathering in anticipation of International Holocaust Remembrance Day was held in front of the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary in Zagreb, under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Zagreb and the Hatikva Jewish Information Education Center.

The gathering began with the Croatian anthem and Psalm 16, sung by seminarians from the Archdiocesan Theological Seminary in Zagreb and members of the Jewish community.

Those assembled were addressed by the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, who said that a commemoration is a living link in both Judaism and Christianity between the past and the present, because when we commemorate the victims of inhumane treatment and attempts to destroy the Jewish people, we encounter the mystery of evil. However, we do not view evil solely within the context of the past but are also aware of it in the present.

The ideology of racism, directed against God and man, was based on untruths about man and the Jewish people, spread through hatred, and led to unutterable suffering, which neither words nor images can express, said the cardinal. He noted that the date chosen for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a symbol of the loss of six million Jewish lives, a symbol of all the Nazi and fascist concentration camps throughout Europe. Therefore, we must focus particular attention to what occurred in our midst, in Croatia, without holding anything back concerning the truth about the horrors of Jasenovac and other camps where innocent people lost their lives.

Cognizant of the power of evil, continued the cardinal, at this commemoration let us contemplate the values of goodness, selflessness and love. This is a value system that we Christians share with our older brothers, the Jews. We are here, in a community of remembrance, and speaking about what a person is capable of doing to another, to his brother and sister. We are here in order to be able to recognize evil and hate speech, and to resist them. We are here to build mutual respect and love, for the good of our Croatian society and all humanity.

Regarding the gift of human dignity, we feel that we are called and obligated to protect every person created in the image of the Creator. The Lord has given us his Spirit. He has given us a conscience and the responsibility to choose good and not evil.

The cardinal emphasized that seventy-four years after the end of World War II, we are also commemorating the great suffering endured by the Croatian Jewish community, especially the Jews of Zagreb, who had been deeply interwoven into the life and culture of our city. According to statistics, out of 11,000, only 2,000 survived.

The cardinal said that we believe in God, who revealed himself as compassionate and merciful. In our thoughts and prayers, we empathize with the surviving Jews who bear the burden of their personal experiences of human cruelty, their families and descendants, and all the Jewish people.

Therefore, the cardinal said that today it is unacceptable to permit the reemergence of any form of anti-Semitism whatsoever. It is completely clear to us Christians, as Pope Francis said, that a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite. Christianity and any form of hatred toward another person or nation are mutually exclusive.

Noting that today those who opposed the forces of evil, who risked their lives to stand up to an unjust and inhumane system in order to defend and protect the lives of others, are valued role models, moral compasses, the cardinal reminded his listeners that they were in a place that has witnessed much turmoil through the centuries but has preserved and stood up for the truth about the dignity of man, who comes from God and belongs to God. Here, as everyone knows, even during the period of the Holocaust, a clear voice was heard that bore vivid witness and rose up against the extermination of the Jewish people, said the cardinal.

At the end of his remarks, the cardinal expressed the hope that this gathering would be more than a mere conversation between Catholics and Jews, and would provide encouragement, genuine assistance, cooperation, acceptance and love.

We are particularly pleased that our young seminarians and students are with us today. We want them to learn to recognize true values, always stand up for the truth and resist every evil. They need to see and sense this, first of all in the reflections, speech and behavior of those of us who are older. Dear friends, there are evils that leave us speechless. Pain, tears and silence remain. There are also examples of goodness that do not need words because closeness, gratitude and blessing are enough. On our cathedral tower, we have placed a memorial banner as an image of tears for the victims of the Holocaust, an image of our outcries against man’s sins. The inscription on this banner is a prayer that invokes a heavenly blessing upon those of us who pledge to stand up for the truth and for the light, so that darkness and evil shall never occur again,” concluded Cardinal Bozanić.

Prayers were then recited by Cardinal Bozanić and a representative of the Jewish community, Eshchar Gad. The assembled were also addressed by Julija Koš, the representative of Chief Rabbi Dr. Kotel Da-Don.

This prayer gathering in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day concluded with the singing of the anthem of the State of Israel and Psalm 85, Show Us, Lord, Your Mercy.

The gathering was attended by Auxiliary Bishops Msgr. Ivan Šaško and Msgr. Mijo Gorski of Zagreb; Kristijan Lepešić of the Hatikva Jewish Information Education Center; representatives of the Jewish community, the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Gordan Jandroković; the representative of the President of the Republic Croatia and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia, Mate Granić; the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Marija Pejčinović Burić; the Minister of Culture, Nina Obuljen Koržinek; the Mayor of Zagreb; Milan Bandić; ambassadors, representatives of the World Jewish Congress, members of the Jewish community and families of Holocaust survivors.

A 50-meter-long and 8-meter-wide banner was affixed to the southern tower of the cathedral in Zagreb, with inscriptions in the Croatian and Hebrew languages: “January 27, A Day of Remembrance for Victims of the Holocaust—International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and a quotation from the Book of Isaiah (56:5): “I will give them, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name … an eternal name, which shall not be cut off will I give them,” reported the Press Office of the Archdiocese of Zagreb.