Zagreb, October 10 to 12, 2017
The fifty-fifth plenary session of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, chaired by the president of the CCB, Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar, was held in Zagreb on October 10‒12, 2017. In addition to the members of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, the participants included the apostolic nuncio in the Republic of Croatia, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto; the delegate of the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Military Ordinary Tomo Vukšić; Bishop Ivan Penzeš of Subotica and Bishop Đuro Gašparović of Srijem.
During introductory remarks, Archbishop Puljić especially greeted and welcomed the new apostolic nuncio in the Republic of Croatia, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, who was participating in a session of the CCB for the first time since taking office. The president of the CCB spoke about the events since the previous session in April 2017 and outlined the main topics to be discussed during the current session. He particularly noted that we are commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Požega, the Diocese of Varaždin and the Military Ordinariate this year. In addition to congratulations, Archbishop Puljić expressed the hope that their pastors would be committed heralds of the Word of God and successful educators of the people entrusted to them.
Then the guest bishops from other bishops’ conferences briefly presented the activities and challenges faced by the Catholic Church in their countries.
In the working part of the session, regarding the evangelical-catechetical activity of the Church, the bishops devoted particular attention to the following topics: analysis of the comments received on the working document That Your Joy May Be Complete, pastoral-catechetical colloquia for priests as part of their continuing theological-pastoral education, and Catholic religious education in elementary and middle schools, with the aim of reviewing the development of its program as part of the overall curricular reform.
Thanking all who had participated in the synodal consultation concerning the working document That Your Joy May Be Complete, the bishops analyzed the comments received in which the concern and desire for us as a Church to build a new face for our parish communities are apparent. These parish communities should be true places for the proclamation of the Gospel and education in faith. In view of the incorporation of the comments received into the existing version of the working document, it is anticipated that the Council for Catechesis and New Evangelization will continue to work within the accepted flow chart for the preparation of the final text of the working document of the Croatian Conference of Bishops.
At the coming seventh pastoral-catechetical colloquium for priests, to be held on March 6‒7, 2018, with the topic The Priest and Sunday, the bishops analyzed the content emphasis and pastoral-catechetical guidelines of the previous colloquia for priests. This project is intended to present certain current ecclesial-pastoral and catechetical issues to priests. A particular feature of these encounters is that representatives of deaneries are invited, who would speak with the priests from their deaneries prior to the colloquium about the announced topic. Then they would participate in the colloquium with questions from the field. After returning to their deaneries, they will present their reflections, guidelines and the results of the colloquium The bishops want their unique commitment to improve the quality of the pastoral-catechetical activities of our Church to be evident through this encounter and the work by the priests.
The bishops were informed about the results of public discussions held on the Istanbul Convention and expressed their support for laws that protect women and families from the violence that, unfortunately, is increasing in our country. However, the bishops do not support the convention that, in addition to its noble intentions of defense from violence, implements the terminology of “gender ideology,” which Pope Benedict XVI has called an attack on the “the true structure of the family made up of father, mother and child.” At a meeting with young people in Poland (August 12, 2016 ), Pope Francis said it was “ideological colonization.” The Church is committed to the freedom of individuals and nations, and does not accept any type of colonization that would infringe upon the anthropology upon which we create and build our identity. The bishops urged those responsible and public officials in society not to submit to seductive, unclear and questionable offers, according to which laws are sometimes adopted. For centuries Europe, like Croatia, has had its own philosophy, anthropology and ethics, upon which political and public activity are based.
Pursuant to the instructions and guidelines of the Ministry of Science and Education in reference to the implementation of the comprehensive curricular reform, which was discussed at a meeting with the heads and representatives of the expert working groups on September 29, 2017, the bishops were informed about the process and work. The bishops were particularly interested in Catholic religious education in elementary and middle schools. It is expected that the expert working group for Catholic religious education, after responding to the opinions and commentaries received, will complete work on the plan and program of Catholic religious education within the given deadlines, so that, together with other subjects, according to the instructions of the Ministry, it will be able to review what has already been achieved. Since education is a project that must be incorporated in the foundations of the new society and its future, the bishops expect a transparent selection of professional and scientific personnel in various areas, especially for subjects within the educational system that are specific to Croatia and Croatian identity. Naturally, this refers first of all to the Croatian language, history and then those subjects that in any way whatsoever protect and develop all the good achieved in the distant and recent history of our nation and homeland. It is expected that the Ministry of Science and Education will have support in this regard from those scientific institutions that are considered to be the pillars of the Croatian society, such as the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and other relevant institutions devoted to our language, history and identity.
The bishops were also informed about the final preparations for the launching of the Croatian Catholic Network (HKM), which will consolidate all the existing media institutions of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, Croatian Catholic Radio and the Catholic Press Agency—IKA, and also expand its operations in the area of the new digital media. The Croatian Catholic Network must have a vision and mission concerning communication in order to contribute to improving Church communication, both inwardly and outwardly, and thereby strengthening the presence of the Church in society.
At the session, there was also discussion on the presence of the Church in the educational system through Catholic elementary and middle schools, and institutions of higher education through which the Church wants to contribute to the general good of the individual, nation and society as a whole. The bishops expressed their support for efforts to improve the functionality of the educational system as well as a more detailed definition of the status of Catholic schools. It was decided to extend the validity of the basic document, Provisions of the Croatian Conference of Bishops on Catholic Elementary and Middle Schools, which was adopted in 2013, ad experimentum, and regulates this area. In the Republic of Croatia, 10 Catholic elementary and 12 Catholic middle schools are currently in operation.
At the end of the second day of the session, on the Memorial of St. Pope John XXIII, October 11, the bishops and the new apostolic nuncio in the Republic of Croatia, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, concelebrated Mass at the cathedral in Zagreb. The Mass was conducted by Nuncio Pinto, who introduced himself to the Croatian faithful and public on this occasion. At the beginning of the Mass, the archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, noted that the Second Vatican Council was formally opened fifty-five years ago, precisely on October 11, 1962, which had been convened by St. John the Good. “The Council was a great grace bestowed upon the Church in the twentieth century” (St. John Paul II). Cardinal Bozanić spoke about the shameful conviction of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, which on October 11, 1946, was pronounced by the communist court at a sham trial, which marked the beginning of the martyrdom of the Beatus. Greeting the nuncio, the cardinal welcomed him in his new office in the Republic of Croatia and invoked the “heavenly assistance of the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, the Mother of the Church; St. Joseph, the patron saint of Croatia; and Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, a witness of pure conscience. In Msgr. Pinto’s homily, he conveyed greetings from Pope Francis, noting that he mentions us in his prayers, shares in our joys and difficulties, and warmly gives us his apostolic blessing, which extends to our families, the old and the sick, invoking the maternal protection of Our Lady of Bistrica, the “Advocate of Croatia,” St. John XXIII, St. John Paul II and Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac.
Following the post-communion prayer, the first secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature, Msgr. Janusz Stanislaw Blachowiak, read a letter of recommendation from the Pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, addressed to the president of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, Archbishop Želimir Puljić, which was personally delivered to him by Nuncio Msgr. Giuseppe Pinto. Then Msgr. Želimir Puljić welcomed the new nuncio. He noted that canon law views the office of nuncio on three levels: the diplomatic level with a state or organizations where the Holy See is represented, the Church level in regard to the coordination and linking of particular churches with the Holy Father and the central institutions of the Holy See, and the ecumenical and interreligious level. With this Eucharistic Celebration, Apostolic Nuncio Giuseppe Pinto introduced himself to the Catholic Church in Croatia and began his mission in the name of God as the representative of the Holy Father Pope Francis and the Holy See. Furthermore, he referred to the centuries-old bond of the Roman Popes with the Church in Croatia and the Croatian rulers, from the time of their arrival in these regions. Archbishop Puljić pointed out that we particularly felt the closeness, understanding and protection of the Holy See during the Homeland War, when Saint Pope John Paul II occupied the Chair of St. Peter. With gratitude, he recalled the Mass in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome on April 30, 1979, which St. John Paul II, the first Slavic Pope, celebrated in the Croatian language and on that occasion uttered words that reverberate even today: “Like Pope John VIII, I now rejoice in your faith and love, your fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church. The Pope loves, embraces and receives you. The Pope blesses you!” In conclusion, the president of the CCB once again expressed a “warm welcome on behalf of the bishops and the faithful entrusted to them” to the new nuncio and the hope that his activity on behalf of Pope Francis and the Holy See would be successful on all three aforementioned levels, “accompanied by our prayers and abundant celestial intercession.”
At the session, the presidents and chairmen of the individual Commissions, Councils and Committees of the CCB submitted reports on their work.
The bishops were informed of the episcopal ordination (cheirotonia) of the new Serbian Orthodox Epscopus electus of Dalmatia, His Grace Nikodim Kosović, which was attended by two members of the Croatian Conference of Bishops: Archbishop and Metropolitan Marin Barišić of Split and Bishop Tomislav Rogić of Šibenik. In light of everything that the Croatian bishops did and said during the Homeland War in the evangelical and ecumenical spirit, the bishops consider the public attacks on the Catholic bishops and faithful by Serbian Patriarch Irinej to be inappropriate and unfounded, and do not recognize themselves in the Patriarch’s words. The Catholic bishops, in the spirit of the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council, shall continue to cultivate good relations with members of all religions, especially those who confess the name of Jesus, without ceasing to pray for the intention that Christ uttered at the Last Supper as a new commandment, to love one another as He loved us (cf. Jn 13:34) and strive for all to be one (cf. Jn 17:21).
On the first day of the session, October 10, 2017, the bishops re-elected Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar as the president of the Croatian Conference of Bishops and discussed the mandates of the individual bodies of the CCB.
Archbishop and Metropolitan Đuro Hranić of Đakovo-Osijek, a member of the Permanent Council of the CCB, was chosen as the president of the Justice and Peace Commission. Archbishop Antun Škvorčević of Požega was chosen as the president of the Council of the CCB for Ecumenism and Dialogue, and the former president of that council, Bishop Vlado Košić, was chosen as the president of the Council of the CCB for the Doctrine of the Faith, following the retirement of Auxiliary Bishop Valentin Pozaić of Zagreb, who had formerly held that office. Bishop Dražen Kutleša of Poreč and Pula, also a member of the Permanent Council of the CCB, will remain the president of the Legal Commission of the CCB for an additional mandate. Msgr. Dr. Ivica Pažin was re-appointed as the head of the National Catechetical Office of the CCB.
After the bishops had submitted reports on the work of individual bodies of the CCB, they agreed on the schedule of sessions for next year. A special session of the Parliament of the CCB will be held on January 22, 2018. A pastoral catechetical colloquium for priests will be held on March 6‒7, 2018. The fifty-sixth spring session of the Parliament of the CCB will be held on April 10‒12, 2018. A meeting between the members of the CCB and the religious provincials will be held on June 18, 2018. The Third National Encounter of Croatian Catholic Families will be held in Solin on September 15‒16, 2018. The fifty-seventh autumn session of the Parliament of the CCB will be held on October 9‒11, 2018, in Zagreb. From November 12 through 17, 2018, the Croatian bishops will participate in a visit ad limina Apostolorum to Rome.
Secretariat of the Croatian Conference of Bishops