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The Episcopal Ordination of Msgr. Milan Stipić as the Bishop of Križevci

Križevci (IKA)

The episcopal ordination of Msgr. Milan Stipić as the Bishop of Križevci was held in Križevci on Saturday, October 17, outside the Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity. 

The principal consecrator was the Bishop Emeritus of Križevci, Msgr Nikola Kekić. The co-consecrators were the Archbishop and Metropolitan of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, and the Apostolic Nuncio in the Republic of Croatia, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua. Other participants in the celebration of the episcopal ordination were the President of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar, bishops and archbishops from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia; Greek Catholic bishops from Ukraine, Hungary, Northern Macedonia and Austria; a representative of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and numerous priests of the Eastern and Western rites. 

At the beginning of the liturgy, Nuncio Lingua read the Papal Bull on the appointment of Msgr. Milan Stipić as the Bishop of Križevci, followed by Msgr. Stipić’s threefold confession of the faith and the laying on of the hands. Following the ordination rite, the newly ordained bishop sat on the episcopal cathedra and continued to serve the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy as the principal celebrant. 

In the homily, Archbishop Puljić said that the priests, consecrated persons and faithful of the Eparchy (Diocese ) of Križevci, the Croatian bishops with whom Msgr. Stipić has successfully collaborated for years, his family, friends from this country and abroad, and especially the Catholic faithful of the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite, as well as other Croatian Catholics who have worshipped God for centuries using three well-known rites: in the Roman Latin language, in the Croatian recension of the Old Church Slavonic language that uses Glagolitic script, and the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite in the Old Church Slavonic language. If the version of the Roman Rite known as the Zagreb Rite is included, then as a nation we are entitled to be proud of our multiple rites, which indicate the breadth of the souls of the Catholic faithful and high degree of tolerance among the inhabitants of our beautiful homeland, said Archbishop Puljić. “As we reflect upon the priceless gift that the Holy Orders represent for the Church and for humanity, we recall the words of St. John Marie Vianney, who wrote ‘the priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus,’” said Archbishop Puljić, urging Msgr. Stipić to submit himself entirely and unreservedly to God’s providence and he would guide him. “You will be able to do all things in him, who calls you today, like a modern Levi, into his service. He will fortify you on your pastoral path and work,” said Msgr. Puljić.

He noted that bishops are called to be faithful and wise fathers and guardians of the diocesan families. A bishop is a man of faith and prayer who commends his flock to God. He is expected to be “a man of God, faithful, pious, prudent, good and constantly open to the Holy Spirit, from whom every good gift comes. The apostle Peter, therefore, cautions the elders: “Tend the flock of God in your midst, [overseeing] not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly,” and with four simple verbs says that they must “give honor to all, love the community, fear God and honor the king.” 

As a successor to the apostles, a bishop is “the visible principle and foundation of unity in the particular Church.” Therefore, the Holy Scripture depicts a bishop as a “shepherd, fisherman, watchman, guardian, father, brother, friend, comforter and teacher.” Each of these images has its own weight, meaning and characteristics. The role of a watchman who stands vigil and perceives what is happening under unclear circumstances is particularly striking. “The watchful eye is always on the lookout. Nothing can be hidden from it,” says a folk saying. The watchman has the heart and soul of a mother who remains vigilant, sees and acts, like Mary in Cana of Galilee, who with the heart of a good mother understands the discomfort and need of the newlyweds, which is why she says to Jesus: “Son, they have no wine” (Jn 2:3). As a teacher of faith and morality, a bishop, like a good shepherd, goes to seek what has been lost. Like a loving father, he is not afraid to speak about “false anthropologies that spread half-truths about man and life.” From the position of a watchman, brother and friend, he boldly warns of the possible occurrences of unwholesome ideas and views within the ranks of his clergy,” explained Archbishop Puljić, requesting fervent prayers for Bishop Stipić, so that through the act of his ordination he would become “Christ’s soldier and God’s knight,” and be worthy of the task with which the Church has entrusted him. Archbishop Puljić also called Bishop Stipić a gift to the Church, the Eparchy of, Križevci, the Metropolis of Zagreb and all the faithful. 

At the end of the liturgy, there were congratulations and speeches.

First, a letter of congratulations to the newly ordained Bishop of Križevci from the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, was read aloud. “Since the Eparchy of Križevci was founded in 1777, it has had to meet challenges and deal with various ethnic groups, such as the Croats, (Serbs), Ukrainians, Rusyns and other nations, and preserve its liturgical Byzantine-Slavonic tradition. The bishops of Križevci have always sought to fulfill this task according to their possibilities, and according to the words of the apostle St. Paul: ‘I have become all things to all, to save at least some,’” wrote Cardinal Sandri, invoking God’s blessing upon Msgr. Stipić’s service to the Church.

Bishop Emeritus Nikola Kekić of Križevci delivered an address in which he expressed his gratitude that, with the laying on of the hands, Msgr. Stipić had joined the ranks of the bishops of Croatia and the universal Catholic Church as one of the youngest successors to the apostles. “He is the thirtieth in the series of the bishops of Marča-Križevci, that is to say, the fourteenth in the series of the bishops of Križevci. Some of these thirty bishops of ours left behind great works that are written in golden letters in the history of our eparchy,” said Msgr. Kekić.

Addressing Bishop Stipić, Msgr. Kekić said: “Bishop Milan, if your health serves you, there are thirty-three years in the office of the Bishop of the Diocese of Križevci ahead of you. Indeed, those are many years. You have voluntarily taken on the heavy burden of the office of bishop from Pope Francis and will need an abundance of grace from God in order to perform your duties successfully to the glory of God the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and for the spiritual benefit of your small flock, the faithful of the Diocese of Križevci throughout Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina—Croats, Ukrainians and Rusyns. Three nations, three language and three spiritual heritages. The particularities of the rites and ceremonies that have developed during the past four centuries in the Eparchy of Marča-Križevci should be safeguarded and preserved as something specifically ours, guided by the motto: Respect that of others, be proud of your own! Consecrated as a bishop, you, Bishop Milan, are taking over a ministry of consecration, teaching and administration. In your ministry, you will rely upon the Holy Gospel, as well as the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. In your ministry, may you first and foremost be guided by love but also by the determination to admonish your fellow priests to live their vocations and missions with dignity. You will visit your faithful, especially when they celebrate their parish or chapel feast days, in order to be close to them, comfort them and encourage them to persevere in following Christ, bearing their cross that leads to resurrection. May you, dear Bishop Milan, be accompanied in your episcopal ministry by the powerful intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God; the intercession of the three patron saints and heavenly protectors of the Eparchy of  Križevci, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom; the intercession of your heavenly protector, St. Michael the Archangel, and the intercession of our Croatian saints Nikola Tavelić, Mark of Križevci, Leopold Bogdan Mandić and Blessed Alojzije Stepinac.”

On behalf of the bishops of the Metropolis of Zagreb, the newly ordained Bishop Stipić was congratulated by the Archbishop and Metropolitan of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić.

“The existence of the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Križevci together with the Roman Catholic dioceses in Croatia represents the wealth of the universality and diversity of the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia, which, in the words of St. John Paul II, truly “breathes with both lungs,” said Cardinal Bozanić.

Addressing Bishop Stipić, Cardinal Bozanić said: “I want you, like your venerable predecessors, first the bishops of Marča and then of Križevci, to continue to lead the faithful entrusted to you and, as a good shepherd, gather the scattered flock of the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite consisting of Croats, Ukrainians and Rusyns in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Slovenia. Strengthen the people of God entrusted to you in the Catholic faith and encourage them, although small in number, to be proud of the wealth of their ecclesiastical heritage. I want you to safeguard and build unity among the presbytery, religious and Christ’s lay faithful throughout the entire eparchy.”

Cardinal Bozanić thanked Bishop Emeritus Kekić for his steadfast service in the Eparchy of Križevci and ready cooperation within the Metropolis of Zagreb. 

On behalf of the clergy of the Eparchy of Križevci, congratulations were conveyed by a Greek Catholic pastor in Osijek, Fr. Ljubomir Sturko. Congratulations to the new bishop were also sent by the lay faithful from the Croatian, Ukrainian and Rusyn parts of the Eparchy of Križevci.

The newly ordained Bishop Milan Stipić expressed his gratitude and pointed out that Catholics of the Byzantine Rite are unique in terms of their tradition, liturgy and spiritual heritage. “Owing to the historical circumstances, we have emerged as a combination of Eastern and Western Church traditions, and nowadays can be a bright sign of fellowship among Christians,” said Msgr. Stipić.

He pointed out that the Eparchy of Križevci is called to be a living Church that proclaims Christ and his gospel, which, in the spirit of this same gospel, is tasked with caring for the neediest of this world, the abandoned, forgotten, impoverished and other unfortunates, as urged by Pope Francis.

“We find ourselves in a time of global uncertainty and in such a time are called to offer the common man Christian hope, perspective for the future and faith in eternity. The people of today actually hunger the most for God. They seek solace in various surrogates and, therefore, experience disappointment. Nothing can give man meaning and peace except God. The Church should open its doors to all people. We Greek Catholics, with our mystical spirituality, ecclesiastical tradition and the wealth of our liturgy, can and should offer the living Christ, his joy, love, forgiveness and hope to the people around us in our own characteristic way. With great hope, I look toward the future of our Eparchy of Križevci and anticipate days of spiritual revival. Whoever truly wants to follow Christ will inevitably encounter resistance and persecution from the world. However, let us not lose hope. With God we are always in the majority and always on the winning side. May our many holy ancestors be our role models and support us on this path,” said Msgr. Stipić.

At the end of the liturgy, the newly ordained Bishop Milan Stipić was enthroned by the Archbishop and Metropolitan of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić.

During the liturgy, the Cathedral Choir and Kalnik Choral Society of Križvci sang under the direction of Maestro Ozren Bogdanović, as well as the Sveti Juraj (St. George) Vocal Ensemble of the Croatian Navy.

The episcopal ordination was attended by representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church and churches of the Reformation heritage, the representative of the President of the Republic of Croatia and the General Secretary of the Office of the President, Mirjam Katulić; the Minister of Culture and Media, and President of the Government Commission for Relations with Religious Communities, Nina Obuljen Koržinek; the Pastor of the Parish of Križevci-Koprivnica, Fr. Darko Koren; the Mayor of Križevci, Mario Rajn; and the head of the Office of the Commission for Relations with Religious Communities of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, Šime Jerčić; as well as other high-ranking dignitaries.