The Fifty-Second 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 April 5 to 7, 2016. In addition to the members of the CCB, the session participants also 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 Tomo Vukšić; the President of the Slovenian Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Andrej Glavan of Novo Mesto; the Delegate from the Italian Episcopal Conference, Bishop Giuseppe Pellegrini of Coccordia-Pordenone; the Delegate from the International Bishops’ Conference of SS. Cyril and Methodius, Msgr. Ivan Penzeš; and Bishop Đuro Gašparović of Srijem.
At the beginning of the session, the President of the CCB particularly welcomed the newly ordained Military Ordinary, Msgr. Jure Bogdan, who was attending a plenary session of the CCB for the first time. He mentioned that since the regular autumn session held last year, there had been two meetings: the Extraordinary Session of the CCB and the Regular Joint Session of the Croatian Conference of Bishops and the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover, Theological-Pastoral Week, the Fifth Pastoral-Catechetical Colloquium for Priests, numerous catechetical meetings and priestly recollections were held, which, inspired by two synods, were devoted to the topic of the family. The President of the Croatian Conference of Bishops spoke about Pope Francis’ historical meeting with Patriarch Kiril of Moscow during the middle of February in Cuba, from which the two religious leaders issued a joint statement in which they spoke in a particular way about their shared positions on the family and the suffering of Christians in various parts of the world. In conclusion, he briefly presented the most important topics that the bishops would discuss at the session.
On the second day of the session, the bishops were joined by the newly appointed Bishop of Gospić-Senj, Fr. Zdenko Križić. The President of the CCB welcomed him and noted that his mission was to serve the faithful of the Diocese of Gospić-Senj and beyond. Through the mystery of the episcopal mission, bishops are united in the common task of proclaiming the Word of God, administering the holy sacraments and rearing the people of God. Although before such tasks we can be seized by feelings of fear, the President of the CCB urged Msgr. Križić not to be afraid because so many people are accompanying him in their prayers.
During the working portion, the bishops were informed about a meeting held in Rome during early March of the members of the Permanent Council of the CCB with Pope Francis, the Secretary of State of the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin; and the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch. It was reiterated that the working body under the auspices of the Holy See composed of representatives of the Catholic Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church will not enter into the cause of the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, which has already been concluded by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The Holy Father and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, as well as the other participating bishops in the Vatican, are not calling the saintliness of the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac into question. This is merely a matter of a postponement, which the bishops do not believe will last long.
At the session, the bishops discussed drafts of two documents that were sent, after fruitful discussions and proposed changes, for further refinement. The first document has the working title of Education in the Faith: Catechesis in the Context of the New Evangelization. In five chapters, the document reflects, among other things, upon the catechetical mission of the Church under the changing circumstances. Furthermore, it attempts to answer the questions for whom parish catechesis is intended and how catechesis should be conducted, and stresses the importance of organizing and coordinating proclamation and catechesis at all the levels of the Church. There was also discussion on the Regulations of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, which have the objective of improving the regulation of the procedures, tasks and authorities of the various bodies within the CCB.
The bishops were also familiarized with the basic emphases of the Comprehensive Curricular Reform, as published in the working texts of the Framework Curriculum and other national curricula. The bishops were particularly interested in Catholic religious education in the schools within the specific reforms, with the aim of preserving their confessional and catechetical identities as defined by the Agreements between the Republic of Croatia and the Holy See. Since the National Curriculum Framework emphasizes that the changes proposed by the Comprehensive Curriculum Reform are not merely of a “cosmetic nature” but rather the beginning of meaningful, systematic and profound changes in the educational system, the bishops invite all the scientific and professional circles, as well as the parents of schoolchildren and others who care about the genuine renewal of the present and future of the Republic of Croatia, to become suitably involved in the professional and public discussion of all these proposed and other curricula. Moreover, the bishops also discussed the importance of curricular reform for Catholic schools.
Reports from individual commissions, councils and committees were also submitted at the session. Thus, the bishops heard a presentation on the activities of Caritas Croatia, which in addition to its many regular projects such as the Week of Solidarity and Unity with the Church and People of Bosnia an Herzegovina, Caritas Sunday, Christmas campaigns and the like, has also played an exceptionally important role in aiding the great wave of refugees who passed through our country last autumn and winter. Caritas has been involved since day one and continues to monitor the development of the situation since the borders on the refugee route were closed.
This year, youth ministry is marked by preparations for World Youth Day, to be held in Kracow, Poland, from July 20 to 31, 2016, with the slogan “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7). The registration deadline is June 30. So far, 2,590 young people from Croatia have already registered.
The Year of Consecrated Life, with many meetings and events, was deemed particularly successful. The bishops have supported all the initiatives during the Year of Consecrated Life recognized as valuable and fruitful, and intend to continue to do so in the future.
In regards to family ministry, the great efforts being made to improve preparation for marriage more actively in the wake of incentives from two recent Vatican synods on the family were noted.
The Second National Study Days for Participants in Family Ministry will be held in Osijek on April 22 to 23, 2016, on the topic Paternity and Maternity: Two Aspects of the Parental Mission. The bishops were also informed about the organization of the First March for Life in Zagreb on May 21, 2016. It is good that citizens have organized themselves and gathered around the commendable topics concerning human life, which, unfortunately, is frequently subject to threats from birth, during growth and development, until the very end. We recommend praying for all people of good will who are actively committed to the dignity, respect and defense of human life.
On the second day of the session, the members of the Permanent Council of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, which included the President of the CCB, Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar; the Vice President of the CCB, Archbishop Josip Cardinal Bozanić of Zagreb; Archbishop Đuro Hranić of Đakovo-Osijek, Bishop Dražen Kutleša of Poreč and Pula; and the General Secretary of the CCB, Msgr. Enco Rodinis, were received in the Ban’s Palace by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia, Mr. Tihomir Orešković. The meeting was also attended by First Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko, Deputy Prime Minister Božo Petrov and Justice Minister Ante Šprlje. There was discussion about the forthcoming meeting of the Prime Minister with Pope Francis in Rome. Both sides stressed the importance of the process of the canonization of the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac. Representatives of the Croatian Conference of Bishops expressed confidence that the newly formed mixed commission will complete its work as soon as possible. In the conversation, it was observed that the relations between the state and the Catholic Church are good and cooperation was noted in the social, cultural and educational areas. The joint efforts in support of the Croatian people in neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was one of the topics of the Prime Minister’s meeting with Pope Francis, were deemed particularly important. Both sides expressed willingness for regular meetings of Church and state commissions, in order to resolve issues of common interest effectively.
At the session, the members of the Episcopal Commission of the CCB for Relations with the State were appointed: Msgr. Đuro Hranić, Msgr. Antun Škvorčević, Msgr. Jure Bogdan, Msgr. Vjekoslav Huzjak, Msgr. Mijo Gorski, and the President of the Commission, Msgr. Dražen Kutleša, who was elected to this office during the autumn session last year.
Msgr. Jure Bogdan was appointed as the new President of the Commission of the Croatian Conference of Bishops and the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina for Croatian Martyrology, following Pope Francis’ acceptance of the resignation by Bishop Emeritus Mile Bogović of Gospić-Senj from this office.
The regular annual meeting of the members of the Croatian Conference of Bishops with religious superiors who have headquarters in the territory of the CCB will be held on June 7, 2016, and the autumn session will be held from October 11 to 13, 2016.
Secretariat of the Croatian Conference of Bishops