The main Eucharistic celebration of the Third National Encounter of Croatian Catholic Families was held at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island in Solin, led by Archbishop Marin Barišić, who said: "The family must not have opposition!" The Fourth National Encounter of Croatian Catholic Families in 2021 will be held in Ludbreg.
Solin, (IKA) – On Sunday, September 16, with the motto Family: The Source of Life and Joy, the central event of the Third National Encounter of Croatian Families, the celebration of Holy Mass, was held on the meadow of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island (Gospa od Otoka) in Solin.
In addition to the main celebrant, Archbishop and Metropolitan Marin Barišić of Split-Makarska, twenty-one (arch)bishops led by the President of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar, numerous provincials and approximately two hundred priests also participated. Approximately 20,000 of the faithful from all the dioceses of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Vojvodina and the Croatian Catholic Missions of Europe and elsewhere in the world attended.
Welcoming the pillars and future of the society and Church—fathers and mothers, children and young people, grandfathers and grandmothers, Archbishop Barišić greeted Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, other senior government officials, as well public and cultural figures. He expressed particular greetings and gratitude to the Croatian soldiers assigned to keeping order at the encounter, the approximately 120 volunteers, choir members, performers, participants and everyone who contributed to the celebration, and also greeted all those who followed the Mass via Croatian Radio Television and Croatian Catholic Radio, especially the aged, sick and infirm.
During the homily, Archbishop Barišić recalled how “on this holy soil of Our Lady of the Island, a place of our identity and baptismal rebirth, during the time of Queen Jelena, mother of orphans and protectress of widows, the first church in Croatia consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary was built. Centuries later, in 1976, it was here that we began our journey of awakening awareness for the future of the Croatian nation that is still growing today at this encounter of families. We persevered and finally entered the world stage. We have existed for fourteen centuries, owing to the strong faith in God we received from our ancestors and because we have protected and defended the family, which is the source of life and joy. This same journey of family and faith guides and assembles us today,” said Archbishop Barišić. He stressed that during these times, we need “such encounters that neither express rebellion nor are directed against anyone. We need encounters as vivid testimony to the beauty of life that is hidden and born within marriage and the family. We often forget this and even more often we are confronted with the opposite image of family life, with families being given the least opportunity to speak truthfully about their daily lives.”
He noted that we live during a dynamic time of numerous challenges and rapid changes, as well as many insecurities and ambiguities, “which confuse us and call into question what has always been clear to everyone. We knew what male and female are. We knew what the family is! However, today we are no longer certain of this. Children recognize their father and mother as two faces of the same love and want to grow and rejoice in life on the shoulders of their daddy, in the embrace of their mommy, and on the knees of their grandpa and grandma. The universal and historical experience of the human race testifies that marriage is the union of a man and woman, and a family is a community of parents and children. This must not and cannot change, warned the Archbishop of Split-Makarska, adding: “The yearning to belong to one’s family and to have parents and a genealogy cannot be extinguished by any conventions, the removal of parents’ names from school certificates or the introduction of numbers instead of names for children when they are of preschool age. No one remembers mere numbers but only names and faces. A person is not a faceless number but instead each of us is unique and inimitable in God’s plan of creation. Only man is in the image of God and has the desire, as a unique and inimitable being, to love and be loved, heart and soul.” We are witnesses that the family today is increasingly threatened by various ideologies, devastating relativism, callous hedonism, dangerous individualism and possessive egoism. Moreover, when speaking about the family, the discussion is most often about its crisis, problems and difficulties, and even the family as a problem. Therefore, marriage and the family, continued the archbishop, “are represented as unpleasant places for life, that diminish happiness and freedom, and bring only unnecessary daily and legal burdens. Marriage is viewed as something incidental, temporary and fleeting. We could say that the battle for life and the future of man is taking place to the greatest extent in the battle for or against the family. Despite alleged forecasts that these battles will have an unfavorable outcome, the family cannot be defeated because in its foundation is the love that Christ himself bears toward the Church, which overflows into the strength to keep the marital promises that you made to each other at your wedding. Marital love is irrevocable because it has its foundation in the irrevocable love that Christ has for the Church.”
Recalling the words of Pope Francis in the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitiae, that God’s love is present in the temple of marital communion, Msgr. Barišić said: “Only together, each in his own office, can we approach the burning issues of devastating demographics, low wages, unemployment, non-working Sundays, abortion, schools without first-graders, the emigration of the young… The family is a school of togetherness in which Christ is present, a place where, at the time of a child’s earliest steps, he learns righteousness that is filled with mercy! By imitating Christ in divine righteousness, we can oppose all the forms of social relations that make some rich without effort and some exhausted and impoverished, who are barely surviving by the end of the month.”
Addressing courageous fathers and fearless mothers, he said that the gift of life they have received through their children opens and connects them in a mystical relationship with God, the Giver of Life. “Dear parents, without belittling your efforts to secure everything your children need for a normal life, do not forget the most important thing, which children need the most. In addition to bread, they need your proximity and support. They need guidance in order to become more secure and develop into mature and responsible people.”
Archbishop Barišić quoted the words of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac: “There is no healthy nation without healthy, strong and happy families!” This is especially true today. The family is our finale, our common denominator. The family must not be opposed! Therefore, from this place I repeat the words Pope Francis said several days ago in Ireland, only changing the name of the country: “It is my prayer that Croatia, in listening to the polyphony of contemporary political and social discussion, will not be forgetful of the powerful strains of the Christian message that have sustained it in the past, and can continue to do so in the future.” The strongest voice of this melody is you, dear families, the witness of your lives and the living of your faith. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for you to become more involved in our society for its humane growth and development. Your role is irreplaceable and unique in the lives of your children and for the betterment of the homeland.”
The homily concluded with the thought that the family is the diagnosis and remedy of our Croatian society. “The family that is open to life and respects life! It bears the future and joy. Therefore, let us strive to make this Third National Encounter of Croatian Catholic Families a new step forward. May it provide strong encouragement to all of us in the Church and society, for our family to be the center of our attention and mutual responsibility; for Jesus and his mother Mary, sources of life and happiness, to be present in the center of our families.”
At the end of the celebration of the Eucharist, Archbishop Puljić, President of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, expressed his gratitude, reminiscing about previous large celebrations at the shrine in Solin: “In concluding this celebration of our third encounter, I am reminded of Peter’s words on the Mount of Transfiguration: ‘It is good that we are here.’ It is good to listen to the murmur of the river Jadro, which symbolizes our Croatian Jordan, and our Adriatic Sea, which washes the white stones, drenched with the red blood of so many martyrs from this diocese and the entire homeland, with its blueness. It is good to be here and we feel at home with you, dear families from near and far, from the homeland and elsewhere, because you are the ‘true source of life and the reason for our joy,’ as the logo of this meeting says.”
Human life is sacred and inviolable, from conception to its natural end. It must be defended in all areas: religious, social and legislative. Families are God’s gift and called to be “a spiritual nest” and “hearth of life,” said Msgr. Puljić. He then announced that the Fourth National Encounter of Croatian Catholic Families will be held in 2021 in Ludbreg, which is part of the Diocese of Varaždin.
Pope Francis’ apostolic blessing on the occasion of the Third National Encounter of Croatian Catholic Families was read by the Secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in the Republic of Croatia, Msgr. Janusz Stanislaw Blachowiak.
The Mass concluded with the singing of the Croatian anthem, Our Beautiful Homeland (Lijepa naša), and the hymn Hail, Virgin (Zdravo, Djevo) by a large mixed choir conducted by Fr. Šime Marović, accompanied by the Split Brass Quintet and the organist Fr. Ivan Urlić.
During the celebration, many volunteers provided the pilgrims with water, liturgical guides to the celebration, caps and other souvenirs of this magnificent event. Following the Mass, the participants continued to socialize, enjoyed refreshments and listened to a concert of religious music.
The program prior to the Mass was prepared by the dioceses of the Metropolis of Split: the Diocese of Šibenik, the Diocese of Hvar, the Diocese of Dubrovnik and the Diocese of Kotor. Representative of each diocese under the leadership of the heads of their offices for the family addressed individual family topics through meditation, song and prayer. A press center for journalists was set up at the Zvonimir Cultural Center in Solin and there were stands for the collection of donations. All the revenue from souvenirs went to the fund for the purchase of an endoscopy column to be used in surgical procedures on children at the Department of Pediatric Surgery, Clinical Hospital Center of Split.