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Statement from the Fifty-Eighth Plenary Session of the Croatian Conference of Bishops

Zagreb (IKA)

The Fifty-Eighth Plenary Session of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, Chaired by the President of the CCB, Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar, was held in Zagreb from May 14 to 16, 2019.

In addition to the members of the CCB, the session was attended by the delegate from the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Msgr. Ratko Perić, Bishop of Mostar-Duvno and Apostolic Administrator of Trevinje-Mrkan; the delegate from the Slovenian Bishops’ Conference, Msgr. Andrej Glavan, Bishop of Novo Mesto; and Msgr. Ivan Penzeš, Bishop of Subotica.
Greeting those assembled at the opening of the session, Archbishop Puljić spoke about events that have occurred since the previous session and briefly presented the main topics of the current session. He particularly welcomed the two new members of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, Msgr. Milan Stipić, Apostolic Administrator of the Eparchy of Križevci; and Msgr. Ivan Ćurić, Auxiliary Bishop of Đakovo-Osijek.

In the working part of the session, the bishops became acquainted with the details and main messages from a meeting Pope Francis held in the Vatican from February 21 to 24, 2019, with representative of the bishops’ conferences, heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches, heads of the men’s and women’s religious communities, and the heads of the discasteries of the Holy See on the protection of minors in the Church. At this meeting, which assembled 190 participants, there were discussions and deliberations on responsibility, co-responsibility and transparency regarding the protection of minors in the Church, which were conducted in the presence of victims, who presented their testimonies. At the end of the meeting, the Pope delivered a noteworthy address in which he stressed the “need to turn this evil into an opportunity for purification,” and appealed to all authorities for “an all-out battle against the abuse of minors, both sexually and in other areas,” emphasizing that these are “abominable crimes that must be erased from the face of the earth.” As a result of this meeting, an apostolic letter, You Are the Light of the World, was issued motu proprio by the Pope on May 7, 2019, with specific provisions and guidelines for the prevention of child abuse and violence in the Church, which will be incorporated in the existing guidelines of the Croatian Conference of Bishops.

Analyzing the ad limina apostolorum visit of November 12 to 17, 2018, the bishops discussed meetings they had on this occasion with the Holy Father and officials from individual discasteries of the Holy See.
At the session, the bishops deliberated on the topic of the “purification of memory and commemoration of martyrs,” about which Saint John Paul II spoke and wrote on the eve of the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Church in 2000, urging the faithful to overcome the evils of the past in a Christian way. On several occasions during his pastoral travels, he apologized for the scandalous acts and wrongs committed by sons of the Church and taught that “purification of memory” does not mean to forget the past but to remember in a purified way; atoning for the evil inflicted by members of one’s own people or the Church, asking forgiveness from those upon whom evil has been inflicted and forgiving those who have inflicted evil upon us. Otherwise, if we remember evil inflicted upon us with feelings of hatred, we are prisoners of evil. The dignity of the victim “requires that we purify our memory with forgiveness and atonement.” It was pointed out that there was a particular response to the Pope’s words in the parish church in Jasenovac, where every year on the Friday of Sorrows before Palm Sunday, the Bishop of Požega conducts a Requiem Mass for all the victims in the presence of the Serbian Orthodox Bishop. Moreover, an ecumenical meeting of representative of the Croatian Catholic Bishops with the Metropolitan and bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church who are active in the Republic of Croatia was held in Požega in January. The importance of such meetings was emphasized in the spirit of mutual respect and evangelical benevolence, in order to overcome misunderstandings and prejudices and to build relationships befitting heirs of Jesus Christ.

The bishops became acquainted with the work of the Synod of Bishops on Young People, with the motto “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment,” which was held in the Vatican from October 3 to 28, 2018. The participants included 267 Synod Fathers, 49 auditors, including 34 young people from all the continents, 23 experts and 8 fraternal delegates, members of several non-Catholic Christian confessions. During the two years of preparations for the Synod, experiences were collected on work with young people from all parts of the world. Following intense work at the general sessions, where reflections of the Synod Fathers were presented and the participants were divided into working groups on the basis of language, a final document was prepared, which was submitted to Pope Francis for approval. It was emphasized that the Synod demonstrated the openness of the Church toward young people, as evidenced by the participation of around fifty young people at all the general sessions and in the working groups, as was not the case previously. Pope Francis was present at all the sessions and during the Synod. In all his sermons and interventions, he consistently emphasized that it is necessary to listen to young people, have confidence in them, be open to new models of pastoral ministry and lead young people to encounter Christ, which should be the focus of all catechesis, models and encounters. A fruit of the Synod was the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christus vivit, issued by Pope Francis on April 2, 2019. The Croatian bishops stressed that this document should be thoroughly studied and the Pope’s initiatives should be implemented in concrete pastoral activity.

Several issues regarding religious education and catechesis were discussed at the session. The bishops approved textbooks and method manuals for regular use in Catholic religious education for the first and fifth grades of elementary school and the first year of secondary school, as well as the development of experimental teaching materials for the second and sixth grades of elementary school and the second year of secondary school, which will go into use in the coming 2019/2020 academic year. It was decided that the Ninth Pastoral-Catechetical Colloquium for Priests will be held on March 3 and 4, 2020, on the topic “Catechumenate—Inspiration for the Catechesis and Evangelization of Adults.”
Next year there will be a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the first Croatian saint, Nicholas Tavelich, with a celebration of this great jubilee to be held in Šibenik on June 21, 2020. There was also discussion of commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the martyred death of St. Marko Križevčanin (St. Marcus Stephanus Crisinus) (2019), and the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. Jerome (2020).

The presidents of the individual bodies, commissions, councils and committees of the CCB submitted regular annual reports. The bishops adopted the statutes of Croatian Catholic Radio and the Croatian Catholic Press Agency.
The Seventh Encounter of Catholics from Croatia and Slovenia will be held in Krašić on October 19, 2019. The celebration of the Mass will be conducted by the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić.
At the session, decisions were issued on certain mandates in the bodies of the CCB. The Bishop of Hvar, Msgr. Petar Palić, was appointed as the President of the Committee of the CCB for Social Communication; the Apostolic Administrator of the Eparchy of Križevci, Msgr. Milan Stipić, was appointed as the President of the Committee of the CCB for Pastoral Ministry to Prisoners; the Auxiliary Bishop of Đakovo-Osijek, Msgr. Ivan Ćurić, was appointed as the President of the Council of the CCB for the Clergy. Prof. Stjepan Baloban, Chairman of the Department for the Social Doctrine of the Church at the Catholic Faculty of Theology, University of Zagreb, was appointed as the Head of the Center for the Promotion of the Social Doctrine of the Faith.
In the coming period, the calendar of events of the Croatian Conference of Bishops includes a meeting of the members of the CCB with the superiors of religious orders on June 17, 2019, and a special session of the CCB on June 18, 2019. The Fifty-Ninth Session of the CCB will be held from October 16 to 18, 2019, in Zagreb.

Secretariat of the Croatian Conference of Bishops