The twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Contract on the Position and Activities of the Catholic Faculty of Theology within the University of Zagreb
Zagreb, (IKA) – A formal session of the Faculty Council of the Catholic Faculty of Theology, University of Zagreb, was held on Friday, March 11, at the Interdiocesan Seminary in Zagreb on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Contract on the Position and Activities of the Catholic Faculty of Theology within the University of Zagreb (1996–2016). The Dean of the Catholic Faculty of Theology, Prof. Dr. Tonči Matulić, particularly welcomed the representatives of the institutes of the signers and cosigners of the contract; the Grand Chancellor of the Catholic Faculty of Theology, Archbishop Cardinal Josip Bozanić of Zagreb; the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Academician Prof. Dr. Željko Reiner; the Rector of the University of Zagreb, Prof. Dr. Damir Boras; and the Minister of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia, Prof. Dr. Predrag Šustar, as well as all the council members, staff of the Catholic Faculty of Theology and other guests from university, scientific, cultural and religious life. The Dean greeted the “living” witnesses to the signing of the contract, the Rector Emeritus of the University of Zagreb, Prof. Dr. Marijan Šunjić and the Dean Emeritus of the Catholic Faculty of Theology, Academician Prof. Dr. Franjo Šanjek. We also fondly remember the late Cardinal Franjo Kuharić, whom God took to himself on this date; and the late Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Academician Prof. Dr. Vlatko Pavletić, as cosigners of the contract, said Dr. Matulić. He pointed out that the recollection of historical events is not merely an opportunity for examining history but also for personally opening oneself to a special inspiration that provides an example and direction for the development of the faculty in the near future.
Cardinal Bozanić recalled that it was on this date, March 11, 1869, that the Croatian Parliament passed the legislative article on the establishment of the university in the capital city of Zagreb. The legislative act of the Croatian Parliament was ratified by Emperor Franz Joseph on April 8, 1869, thereby establishing the modern Croatian University of Zagreb with four faculties: Philosophy, Theology, Law and Medicine. On October 19, 1874, the University was officially opened by the Croatian Ban Ivan Mažuranić. The first rector was the priest and professor Matija Mesić. The University of Zagreb had the Faculty of Theology as a constitutive component in all the legislative acts on its establishment, noted Cardinal Bozanić. The history of higher education in Zagreb is closely linked with the (Arch)diocese of Zagreb and the process of development initiated in the thirteenth century by Bishop Stjepan II Babonić of Zagreb, who established philosophical and theological studies. Cardinal Bozanić mentioned that one of Babonić’s successors, Blessed Augustin Kažotić, founded the Cathedral School with emphasis on the study of classical authors of antiquity, Church Fathers and theologians of the Scholastic period. The Cardinal also mentioned the establishment of the Academy by Emperor Leopold I, who issued a charter on September 23, 1669, granting privileges and university rights equal to the general studies in the countries of the Hapsburg Monarchy. After the abolition of the Jesuit order, Empress Maria Theresa reestablished these studies at the Royal Academy of Science with three faculties: Philosophy, Theology and Law. Cardinal Bozanić also mentioned that Emperor Joseph II established the central seminary at Kaptol in 1784, within which was the Faculty of Theology, Facultas regia theologica. It was here that in 1853 Archbishop Juraj Haulik organized a two-year study of theology. Therefore, we can say that through the centuries the University of Zagreb has developed within the cradle of the Diocese or Archdiocese of Zagreb, observed Cardinal Bozanić. Speaking about the contract, he noted that it was signed twenty years ago on this date with the approval of the Parliament of the Republic of Croatia and the Croatian Conference of Bishops, as well as the consent of the Holy See, because it is a Church educational institution. He noted that the contract regulates the specific position of the Catholic Faculty of Theology within the University of Zagreb and has become a model for similar contracts concluded subsequently between other Croatian faculties of theology and the University. The signing of the contract signified the rectification of the decision to exclude the Catholic Faculty of Theology from the University, said the Cardinal, and recalled the unfortunate event of January 29, 1952, when the Government of the People’s Republic of Croatia adopted the Resolution on the Abolition of the Roman Catholic Faculty of Theology of the University of Zagreb, which the Executive Council of the Parliament of the Republic of Croatia declared null and void on July 23, 1990.
The Rector of the University of Zagreb, Prof. Dr. Damir Boras, said that the contract signed twenty years ago on today’s date shows that after 330 years the University has again united all those components that it had when it was established. The attempt to alter history was legally nullified but “we certainly need to be aware that such events are constantly recurring,” said Prof. Boras, and particularly stressed the importance of the autonomy of the University. The importance of the community over the political situation, as maintained by the Church, unites us in the quest for the truth, he added, noting that the largest university in Croatia is the bearer not only of the scientific-educational identity but also the cultural identity. Without sufficient funding, without the awareness that even Europe requires, without the joint promotion of these values, we shall not succeed in the foreseeable future, he said.
The Minister of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia, Prof. Dr. Predrag Šustar, spoke about some of the values espoused by the Catholic Faculty of Theology that are most needed in Croatia, including a critical attitude, without which a well-ordered modern European society cannot function. This critical attitude must be harnessed in dialogue form. Dialogue is clearly emphasized in the description of values. Dialogue imposes rules that make criticism focused and directed. There is also prudence, which is very necessary for us in Croatia. This means a sense of proportion, and I think that the Catholic Faculty of Theology should teach this to all of us, and it knows how to do so, said the minister, and called for cooperation.
The Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Academician Prof. Dr. Željko Reiner, said that he was glad to participate in this gathering on the occasion of this important anniversary, by which the great injustices inflicted upon the Catholic Faculty of Theology in 1952 by the communist regime in excluding it from the University of Zagreb have been corrected. This unfortunate event signified a crude interruption, as did many other similar events, in the history of the development of the Croatian university and sciences. It was also an attempt to break with the tradition of the Croatian nation, an attempt to eradicate the Christian spirit and heritage in which for centuries Croats had built their values and their identity, he emphasized, and mentioned the significant role of the Croatian Parliament in the correction of this historical injustice. The best corroboration of the rightness of the decision for the Croatian Faculty of Theology to return to the fold of the University within its former framework has been the interest shown in the studies at the Catholic Faculty of Theology. Only a nondemocratic government could be opposed to the promotion of ecumenical, interreligious and intercultural dialogue and the charitable-social approach, which are fundamental doctrines of the Catholic Church and promoted by the Catholic Faculty of Theology, he added, and concluded: “Following Bishop Strossmayer, who in a way introduced Croatia to the circle of European civilization, Blessed and, we hope, soon to be Saint Alojzije Stepinac, who condemned injustice and violence in the name of class, racial and national theories, and Cardinal Franjo Kuharić, who wisely led the Church during the difficult periods of communism and the Homeland War, you are that anchor and that lighthouse saving Croatia from becoming broken and sinking in the storm.”