Cardinal Bozanić Celebrates Mass for the Victims of the Coronavirus Pandemic (Photo Bernard Čović)
On Wednesday, February 24, the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, celebrated Mass for the victims of the coronavirus pandemic as part of an initiative by the Council of the Bishops’ Conference of Europe (CCEE).
The European bishops assembled in the Council have launched a prayer initiative during Lent to unite the inhabitants of the Old Continent in communion and prayer for all those affected by the pandemic. For each bishops’ conference, a date has been set when Mass will be celebrated for the victims of the pandemic, which is February 24 for the Croatian Conference of Bishops.
Cardinal Bozanić concelebrated the Mass at the Parish Church of St. Pope John XXIII in the Dubrava section of Zagreb. During the introduction to the Mass, the cardinal noted that with this celebration we are joining a great European prayer chain and want to pray for the deceased and all who mourn their loved ones, the sick, the medical personnel and all those on the front lines during these delicate times.
At the beginning of the homily, Cardinal Bozanić mentioned that a week had passed since Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, when we are called to dedicate ourselves to prayer, fasting and acts of love. Throughout Lent, the Church repeatedly calls for conversion and penance.
Interpreting the Mass readings, the Archbishop of Zagreb pointed out that the prophet Jonah had fled from God and only reluctantly responded to his call. “The prophet Jonah, who flees from God, realizes that God is everywhere: both in the depths of the sea and in human anguish. Jonah is an image of our life, which continues, despite our fleeing from God. Jonah ultimately accepts God’s call and goes to preach to the Ninevites, in order to turn them from their evil ways and the injustices they had committed.”
In the Gospel, Jesus mentions the example of the prophet Jonah and says that something greater than Jonah, he himself, is among us. The cardinal emphasized how Jesus is leading us through these penitential times and calling us to the path of conversion. “He is our path to God. He is the Truth of our lives. In him and only in him do we have life, and that in abundance.”
“Let us not flee from God but, following Jonah’s example, let us cry out to the Lord from our misfortunes and he will hear us. May our prayer be more constant so that through fasting we can free ourselves from everything that occupies a false and undeserved place in our lives. To come closer to God means to be open to people, especially brothers and sisters who need our help. Acts of love, almsgiving, are always a remedy against empty words and promises. This shows us how much we are actually changing,” said the Archbishop of Zagreb.
With this Mass, the Church in Croatia is joining a prayer chain for the victims of the disease caused by the COVID-19 virus. This global tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness that we are, figuratively speaking, all in the same boat, in which the misfortune of the individual affects the entire community This pandemic “exposes our vulnerability and brings to light the false certainties upon which we have built our plans, our projects, our habits and priorities. “‘[…] the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that blessed common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters,’” said Cardinal Bozanić, quoting Pope Francis’ words on March 27, 2020, at St. Peter’s Square.
The current situation in Croatia is marked by the coronavirus pandemic but also by the consequences of the major earthquakes of March 22 and December 29, 2020, which afflicted a large part of the Archdiocese of Zagreb and the Diocese of Sisak. The cardinal pointed out that the consequences of the pandemic have affected all parts of society and we are called to give special thanks for all the heroes and messengers of Christian love. “The pandemic and earthquakes made it possible for us to recognize and appreciate the many true neighbors who risked their lives for others in situations when fear prevailed. Our lives are intertwined and many have received help from those who write important pages in our lives. We thank God for everything.”
At the end of the Mass, the Archbishop of Zagreb called for prayer for those who have suffered the loss of loved ones, all the sick, patients suffering in hospitals and all afflicted by this pandemic. He then invoked God’s blessing on all those gathered at the celebration of the Mass, as well as on those participating via radio or television.