Cardinal Bozanić called for reflection on how to transmit values to new generations, stressing that the relationship between man and God is the ineffaceable starting point of the Croatian identity.
Zagreb, (IKA) – On January 15, a Mass of Thanksgiving on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the international recognition of the Republic of Croatia was led by Archbishop Josip Cardinal Bozanić of Zagreb in the Zagreb cathedral. In concelebration were Apostolic Nuncio Alessandro D’Errico, Archbishop Ivan Devčić of Rijeka, Bishop Josip Mrzljak of Varaždin, Bishop Nikola Kekić of Križevci, Bishop Vjekoslav Huzjak of Bjelovar-Križevci, the Military Ordinary of the Republic of Croatia, Bishop Jure Bogdan; Military Ordinary Emeritus, Msgr. Juraj Jezerinac; Auxiliary Bishop Mijo Gorski of Zagreb; the Secretary General of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, Msgr. Enco Rodinis; the Deputy Secretary General of the CCB, Msgr. Fabijan Svalina; the Secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in the Republic of Croatia, Msgr. Janusz Stanislaw Blachowiak, and other priests.
Together with crowds of the faithful, the Mass was attended by the President of the Republic of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović; the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Božo Petrov; the Prime Minister of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, Andrej Plenković; representatives of the Croatian Parliament, ministers, the President of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Academician Zvonko Kusić; and other representatives of the civil, military and municipal authorities, as well as distinguished figures in scientific and cultural life.
In introductory remarks, Cardinal Bozanić said that this was “a celebration of thanksgiving and prayer for our Croatian Homeland and for peace in the world.” At the beginning of his homily, he recalled that twenty-five years ago, on January 15, 1992, a Mass in the cathedral was led by the Servant of God Franjo Cardinal Kuharić in concelebration with all the Croatian bishops, who came to Zagreb on that occasion in order to hold their first meeting in the internationally recognized state of Croatia and to gather together with the assembled people in Stepinac’s cathedral, thanking God for this great gift and a new beginning. After twenty-five years, a new generation has come of age. This length of time should be sufficient for evaluating the past period and the importance of remembrance but we cannot ignore the truth that it is very easy to forget facts and that it is sometimes attempted to promote interpretations that neither reflect the atmosphere nor the driving force of that time, cautioned the cardinal. “In Croatia, as elsewhere, the communist system used fear and falsehood as the modus operandi and, based on the principles of materialism and atheism, represented the ideal person as someone who did not need God, someone whose life, deeds and death were not measured with the measure of eternity. In such attempts, together with persecutions and murders, efforts to drive Croats out, trample rights and extinguish political freedom, there was deeply rooted antagonism to Croatian culture and the sense of nationhood. This preceded the collapse of the communist regime, so that many shed tears at the moment when it was first possible for the Croatian flag to begin to flutter and people could sing patriotic Croatian songs,” said the cardinal.
Therefore, we may say that Croatia first recognized itself, recognized the values that it wanted to build in the future, together with other states and nations. In this historical kairos, Croatia experienced an exceptional community of aspirations and goals. It was filled with self-confidence, enthusiasm in the Homeland and abroad, the prayers of many and the willingness to sacrifice for higher ideals, said the cardinal, and continued: “Croatia first of all and prior to international recognition had to recognize its vulnerability to attacks, destruction and callousness; it had to confront its weaknesses, it had to recognize that it could not rely on much help from those who could have stopped the violence from the outside but had to rely on itself and God’s help, borne by the Spirit that the world cannot give but that is the Spirit who gives life, renews and conquers in the sacrifices of those who loved the Homeland with genuine love. Under such unfavorable international circumstances, there were those who recognized the Spirit of truth and justice above the wounds of Vukovar and Škabrnja, Petrinja and Gospić, Voćin and Vinkovci, Karlovac and Slunj, all the way to Dubrovnik, Šibenik and Zadar.”
The cardinal then reflected on the fact that the Holy See was among the first subjects of international law to recognize Croatia and Slovenia, noting how “recognition of the free state of Croatia was not directed against anyone but was an expression of commitment to the rights of everyone, the person and the nation, and is consistent with the obligation to respect the universal rights from international declarations and charters.” How is it possible to fail to see the deeper reason in this act from the human and Christian viewpoints? Where hatred is being spread, people are being killed, ethnic groups displaced, churches and shrines desecrated, Cardinal Bozanić asked whether it was possible for the Church to be silent, adding: “The Church spoke out, changing its traditional practice in order to stop the effects of evil.”
Cardinal Bozanić noted that today we gratefully remember and pray for Dr. Franjo Tuđman, the first president of the internationally recognized Republic of Croatia, as well as those who were visible embodiments of sacrifice and magnanimity, courageous and decisive love of the Homeland—the Croatian defenders. He also recalled that at this moment of gratitude, “the brave hearts, voices and hands of those who helped us when we were helpless must not be forgotten.” In this context, he also mentioned Pope John Paul II, because “the more we move away from these events in time, the more evident become the merits of his attempts, which departed from the hitherto customary diplomatic procedures of the Holy See, in order to help Croatia when it was vulnerable and exhausted by violence. We also remember his associates, especially in the State Secretariat of the Holy See.”
The cardinal also mentioned the Servant of God Franjo Cardinal Kuharić and his attempts, together with other bishops and priests, to preserve Christ’s spirit in the defense of the Homeland and persevere in the proclamation of the Good News and love brought by the Lamb of God, without yielding to the temptation to respond to hatred with hatred.
“With this past before our eyes, at the same time we are facing the question of whether we have taken good care of the gifts in which the Spirit of God is recognizable during the past twenty-five years,” said the cardinal. He explained that the answer cannot be unequivocal and completely positive “because if it were, in the past years we would not have seen national fragmentation, the promotion of a negative atmosphere, disregard for the common good, and even disrespect for state institutions. Therefore, this anniversary is also an occasion for an examination of conscience, a call to repentance, the seeking of forgiveness and a new beginning.” In this context, he called for reflection on how to transmit values to new generations. “It is obviously not by chance that they want to undermine precisely that in our Homeland which made it the strongest and had been impaired during the time when there was a lack of freedom. I am primarily referring to the relationship between man and God. This is the ineffaceable starting point of the Croatian identity. Then there is the value of the family, the promotion of its importance and everything that reinforces it in the social and economic areas, including openness to accepting the gift of life. The area of education is important, which has received multiple blows in order to make room for the ideologization of contents that the majority of parents do not accept, as well as lack of responsibility in preparing the young to take over the reins, to remain in Croatia equipped with knowledge and enthusiasm. There is still a great obstacle in the attitude toward historical wounds and the victims of the evil regimes of Nazism, fascism and communism. Until this chapter is illuminated, there will always be the possibility that someone will try to link today’s Croatia to another time, and not to its cradle, primarily the defense and sacrifices during the Homeland War.”
The cardinal pointed out the significance of this thanksgiving celebration held near the tomb of Archbishop Alojzije Cardinal Stepinac, because “it is possible to read all contemporary Croatian history in relation to him. Genuine love of country was recognizable in him. Genuine longing for the good and willingness to sacrifice were evident in his deeds, in his trust in God. Even in the darkest moments, he was an inspiration to the many who sacrificed themselves for others and for the Homeland. His ministry and attitude were his responses to every challenge to the good.”
Those who did not and do not like Croatia, who see it as an unwanted temporary entity, view Cardinal Stepinac as the greatest obstacle to their attempts to humiliate and discredit Croatia and prevent it from achieving prosperity. Even today, there are endeavors to portray him as a controversial figure in order to justify their own enslavement to falsehoods, their own closed minds and hearts. We know quite well that the many faithful who come every day to his tomb here recognize the love of the Lamb of God. We pray for the intercession of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac so that we first of all we can accept this merciful love and then for it to be recognized by others in our national unity and love for the Croatian Homeland,” said Cardinal Bozanić at the conclusion of his homily.
The hymn “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” was sung following communion and the Croatian anthem “Our Beautiful Homeland” was sung after the blessing.
The Eucharistic celebration was enhanced by the Choir of Seminarians and the Choral Singers of the Zagreb Cathedral, conducted by Maestro Miroslav Martinjak.