Zagreb, October 11–13, 2016
The 53rd plenary session of the Croatian Conference of Bishops was held in Zagreb from October 11 to 13, 2016, and was chaired by the President of the CCB, the Archbishop of Zadar, Msgr. Želimir Puljić. In addition to the members of the CCB, the participants included the Apostolic Nuncio in the Republic of Croatia, Archbishop Alessandro D’Errico, the Delegate from the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Military Ordinary TomoVukšićand, as a guest from the International Bishops’ Conference of SS. Cyril and Methodius, Bishop Ivan Penzeš of Subotica.
Greeting those present at the beginning of the session, Archbishop Puljić particularly welcomed the two newly installed bishops, the Bishop of Gospić-Senj, Msgr. ZdenkoKrižić, and the Bishop of Šibenik, Msgr. Tomislav Rogić, as well as their retired predecessors, Bishop Emeritus Mile Bogović and Bishop Emeritus Ante Ivas.Thanking the retired bishops for all the good they have done in their episcopal offices, Archbishop Puljić warmly welcomed their successors in communion with the Croatian Conference of Bishops and encouraged them to enrich the conference with their observations and suggestions.
During the working portion of the session, the bishops were familiarized with the initial work of the Mixed Commission of Croatian and Serbian Experts, who have the task of jointly considering the role of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac prior to, during and after the Second World War.At their first two-day meeting in Rome, July 12–13, 2016, the procedure to be followed was established according to the methodology of the historical sciences, based upon the available documentation and its contextualization. The work of the commission will not have any impact whatsoever on the process of the canonization of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, which is solely under the authority of the Holy See. The Mixed Commission will meet six times within 12 months. The time limitation is an indication that the Holy See, which is presiding over the work of the commission, expects its work to be effective. Following the first meeting in Rome, the next meeting of the Mixed Commission is scheduled to be held in Zagreb on October 17–18 of this year.
The bishops devoted particular attention to furthering the project of preparation for marriage. The proposals of the Council of the CCB for Life and the Family have been accepted for the revitalization of this project in a systematic manner to include the long-term, short-term and immediate preparations, ensuring the continued monitoring of couples even after they are married. It was decided to establish a working group that, in addition to the representatives of the Council of the CCB for Life and the Family, experts and practitioners engaged in the pastoral ministry of marriage preparation, will include members who will be proposed by the Committee of the CCB for the Young and the Council of the CCB for Catechesis and New Evangelization. The preparation of new pastoral guidelines is expected, on the basis of the post-Synodal exhortation of Pope Francis, Amorislaetitia, with modifications according to the specific situations in individual dioceses.
In connection with the situation in the Croatian society, among other things, the bishops discussed issues related to attitudes toward the mystery of life, the problem of demography and emigration of entire families from Croatia, as well as the economic situation and judicial issues. They particularly discussed the inappropriate attitude toward the past, which is then reflected in our present. This specifically relates to three topics: the victims in the Jasenovac camps, the victims of communist dictatorship and the victims in the Homeland War.
In fact, it has recently become increasingly obvious that attempts are being made to continue to manipulate the circumstances and the number of casualties during the Second World War through untrue and unfounded assertions with regard to the camp in Jasenovac. On the other hand, the bishops consider the current attitude by the competent Croatian institutions and the Croatian state in general toward the victims of the communist regime to be unacceptable and harmful, especially with regard to the mass graves and remains of the victims, both in Croatia and other countries, notably in the Republic of Slovenia. It is obvious that the embellishment of the well-known myth of Greater Serbia ignores the suffering of the Croatian population during the Homeland War and the destruction of property, including cultural and spiritual goods, as well as insufficient appreciation of the role of the Croatian defenders in achieving freedom and independence.
The bishops, therefore, urge the competent bodies of the Croatian state to invest the necessary effort in order to shed light on the truth about the Jasenovac camps as well as the events and casualties after the Second World War in a transparent manner, which means according to the best modern scientific methods and cultural approaches.This will show due respect to the victims and through the truth bring greater peace into the lives of the families whose members were killed. It is important to emphasize this because in past decades we have experienced how much evil can result from ideologies supported by political myths because they are not based on facts or historical truths, and often represent the Croatian people and state as genocidal and criminal.
Therefore, the bishops urge the people and society to be unified and mature, in order to have the strength to cope with recent attempts to create myths and spread untruths. This is not a call to “return to the past” but an incentive and desire to free ourselves from the weight of the past that burdens the present and blurs the view of the future.
The bishops spoke with gratitude about the 25th anniversary of the return of religious education to the Croatian educational system, which was only possible to achieve after the fall of the totalitarian communist system and the democratic changes in the early 1990s. On this occasion, a commemoration was organized at the Croatian National Theater, which was attended by members of the Croatian Conference of Bishops; the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Dr. Željko Reiner; and a number of other distinguished guests. At the commemoration, the importance of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Agreement between the Holy See and Republic of Croatia on collaboration in the areas of education and culture (December 19, 1996) was noted. This agreement provided a legal framework for the activity of the Catholic Church and is based on three principles: the principle of religious freedom, the principle of the difference between the areas of the activity of the Church and state, and the principle of the need for cooperation between these two institutions.
At the session, two future blesseds of the Croats were presented, Fr. Serafino GlasnovićKodić of Janjevo and Fr. Anton Muzić of Vrnavokol-Letnica, who were among the 38 martyrs killed in Albania owing to hatred for the faith from 1945 to 1974. Fr. Serafino and Fr. Anton will be beatified on November 5, 2016, in Shkodra. The bishops urge all who are able to participate in the ceremony of beatification and become acquainted with the lives of these to new Croatian beati.
The bishops mentioned the 40th anniversary of the beginning of preparations for the celebration of thirteen centuries of Christianity among the Croats. Namely, after the extinguishing of the Croatian Spring movement, the Church launched pilgrimages and gatherings of the faithful. The first was in Solin in 1976, at the 1,000th anniversary of the death of Queen Jelena, and the second was two years later, 1978, in Biskupija near Knin, where the statue of Our Lady of the Great Croatian Vow was found. The next year, 1979, there was a commemoration in Nin of the historical bond between the Holy See and Pope John VIII, who in 879 “blessed the Croatian duke Branimir, all the people and his land.” The culmination of the celebration took place in Marija Bistrica in 1984, where approximately half a million people from all the places where Croats live assembled at the National Eucharistic Congress. Aware of the significance and far-reaching consequences of these events, as well as the importance of their messages for our time, the bishops will soon issue a request to religious communities for prayer and thanksgiving for the mighty works that the Lord has done for us.
Following the expiration of the mandates and retirement of former presidents and members of some of the bodies of the CCB, some mandates were extended and new appointments were made. The mandate of the President of the Council for Ecumenism and Dialogue, Bishop VladoKošić of Sisak, was extended. Bishop ZdenkoKrižić of Gospić-Senj was appointed as the new President of the Council of the CCB for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life,and Bishop Josip Mrzljak of Varaždin was named the President of the Committee of the CCB for Pastoral Ministry to the Roma. Bishops ZdenkoKrižić and Tomislav Rogić were appointed as new members of the Episcopal Commission for the Liturgy. The retired members of the Mixed Commission of the Croatian Conference of Bishops and the Croatian Conference of Religious Superiors were replaced by Military Ordinary Jure Bogdan and Msgr. ZdenkoKrižić.
The mandates for the Delegate of the CCB to the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, and the Deputy Delegate, Bishop VjekoslavHuzjak of Bjelovar-Križevci, were extended.
At the session, the presidents of the commissions, councils and committees of the CCB submitted reports on their work.
In addition to the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of Vukovar, at the invitation of the local bishop, Msgr. Đuro Hranić, the bishops of the CCB will assemble in that city on November 18, when a Mass will be celebrated by CardinalJosip Bozanić. On the same day, on the 25th anniversary of the massacre in Škabrnja, a Mass will be celebrated there by the President of the CCB, Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar.
The calendar of events for next year was planned. There will be a joint session of the Croatian Conference of Bishops and the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina on January 23, 2017, in Zagreb, and a special session of the Assembly of the CCB will be held two days later, on January 25, 2017.
A pastoral-catechetical colloquium for priests will be held on March 7 and 8, 2017. The spring 54th session of the Assembly of the CCB will be held from April 26 to 28, 2017. The National Catholic Youth Encounter will be held in Vukovar on April 29 and 30, 2017. A meeting of the members of the CCB with the religious provincials will take place on June 19, 2017.In the autumn, the 55th session of the Assembly of the CCB will be held from October 10 to 12, 2017, in Zagreb.