The celebration was led by Archbishop Stanislav Zore in concelebration with Bishop Josip Mrzljak, Slovenian and Croatian bishops and priests.
Stična, (IKA) – On Saturday, October 14, at the ancient Cistercian abbey, in the church of Our Lady of Sorrows in Stična, Slovenia, an encounter of Croatian and Slovenian Catholics was held, this year in commemoration of the great celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, with the motto: “To Live the Call of Mary Together.” The encounter began in the morning hours with a spiritual program that was animated, together with the Slovenian and Croatian faithful, by guests from Fatima. The main celebration of the Mass was led by Archbishop Stanislav Zore of Ljubljana, in concelebration with Bishop Josip Mrzljak of Varaždin, as well as Slovenian and Croatian bishops and priests.
Over 4,000 believers gathered for the Croatian-Slovenian pilgrimage, with over 1,000 from the diocese of Varaždin. Besides the many lay faithful, the Diocese of Varaždin was represented by priests led by Bishop Josip Mrzljak and Vicar General Msgr. Antun Perčić. A total of five bishops from Croatia participated: Bishop Mrzljak, Bishop Vjekoslav Huzjak of Bjelovar-Križevci, Bishop, Zdenko Križić of Gospić-Senj, and Auxiliary Bishops Mijo Gorski and Ivan Šaško of Zagreb. Over 40 busloads of pilgrims arrived from Croatia, as well as the same number from Slovenia. Many also arrived in private vehicles. They showed that there are no petty interests that could divide the two nations or cause them to quarrel but that in their personal, family and existential afflictions they are one beneath Mary’s mantle. In the introductory program, the Croatian pilgrims were welcomed by Bishop Stanislav Lipovšek of Celje, chairman of the Preparation Committee for the Joint Celebration, who sang the Croatian hymn to our Heavenly Mother, Rajska Djevo.
Our Lady’s messages from Fatima reverberated during the introductory program in Stična, as well as in the parishes of Slovenia. During the past six months, the Slovenians have had an intense program that culminated with the celebration in Stična. A statue of Our Lady of Fatima traveled among the Slovenian parishes, where the faithful eagerly assembled in prayer. On October 13, representatives from Fatima, who had brought the statue of Our Lady of Fatima with them, arrived in Stična, where the statue was exposed for adoration all night. At the beginning of the Mass, the pilgrims were greeted by the prior of the Cistercian abbey, Fr. Maksimilijan File, who noted that for over 880 years Stična has been a place where people, nations, ideas and cultures have intersected with God and “this day it became a place of intersection for two nations who have the same roots and strive for the same values.”
In the homily, Archbishop Zore spoke about the events that occurred in Portugal in 1917, when Mary appeared to three children. All of this took place during the First World War, which left behind 37 million dead, wounded and missing; when the Bolsheviks in Russia were preparing for a revolution, which in the coming decades would result in a total of 94 million victims. Memories of the blood and tears have not been forgotten and we read and hear from day to day about the ease with which people are showing their power, not sparing threats and rattling weapons. All of us remember the war and the early 1990s in the former Yugoslavia. So much fear, suffering and death! We are capable of starting a new war, cautioned the archbishop, pointing out that for this reason the Fatima message is so important. We must listen to it and follow it. If we forget about God, we will be expelled from Paradise in a terrible manner. As the first sin by Adam and Eve turned one against the other, today we are also capable of quarreling among ourselves. Without God, we become selfish, with the eternal fear that we have too little. We forget how to live and “to be.” … “we must act as the Apostles did. Persistent common prayer prepares us for the revelation of the Holy Spirit, the Lord, who restores us to life and teaches us about everything that Jesus himself proclaimed,” said Archbishop Zore, among other things, in his homily in the Slovenian language. The homily in the Croatian language was delivered by Bishop Josip Mrzljak, chairman of the Croatian Committee for the Organization of the Encounter. He pointed out that the message from Fatima, although it occurred a hundred years ago, has not become outdated but is also relevant today. We are witnesses to how states and nations compete in terms of who has the best weapons, thinking that weapons can prevent some of the new conflicts among nations. Then we can say that we have the strongest weapon, that is, the rosary, a weapon that can destroy every evil. The rosary can destroy hatred and spread love. Our Lady of Fatima’s message is so clear and great, which she is telling us today. Therefore, we are here today, because we want to hear that voice. We want to live in peace and friendship and, therefore, I am pleased that today I can say that we Croats and Slovenes are neighbors. For centuries, we have always had good neighborly relations and visited each other at our shrines, especially Marija Bistrica, Brezje, Ptujska Gora and Trsat. These are gathering places where nationality does not matter but we recognize each other in how we stand before the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and how much she has to say to us today, said Bishop Mrzljak to the pilgrims.
After the homilies, the two neighboring nations dedicated themselves to Our Lady with a devotional prayer of the Croatian and Slovenian faithful, prayed by all those present, each in his or her own language. Slovenian and Croatian faithful wearing traditional folk costumes participated in the presentation of the offering of the gifts. Croats presented a basket with fruits of the earth decorated with Licitar hearts marked with the symbol of Marija Bistrica, where the joint pilgrimage began, as well as a statue of Our Lady of Bistrica and a votive candle for the Year of St. Joseph in the Archdiocese of Zagreb. The Slovenes presented a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the chapel and a basket containing products from the Cistercian abbey in Stična. Bishop Križić introduced the Lord’s Prayer, saying that as Christians we are not only called to learn this prayer by heart and recite it but also to pray it sincerely and, most of all, to live it.
At the end of the Mass, those present were once again addressed by Msgr. Zore and Msgr. Mrzljak, who thanked everyone who had participated in the celebration. Following remarks by the bishop of Varaždin that they were already thinking about the next Croatian-Slovenian encounter of Catholics and that Krašić and Zagreb are being mentioned as possible venues, after “Blessed Alojzije Stepinac is proclaimed a saint,” there was thunderous applause, indicating approval. Then there was a procession with Our Lady’s statue around the church and the Cistercian monastery, during which the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary was chanted. The Eucharistic Celebration was enhanced by a choir consisting of singers from the Slovenian parishes of Stična, Višnja Gora, Krka and Šentvid (Ljubljana). It is hoped that this joint pilgrimage of two neighboring and friendly nations will contribute to a peaceful resolution of difficulties and disagreements, in the spirit of the message of prayer and peace that Our Lady has brought to the whole world, especially to the faithful through the apparitions in Fatima.