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Focus on the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons, the Synod and Demography at the 67th Plenary Session of the Assembly of the Croatian Conference of Bishops

Zagreb (IKA)

On November 16, Archbishop Đuro Hranić of Đakovo-Osijek, Auxiliary Bishop Mijo Gorski of Zagreb and Auxiliary Bishop Ivan Ćurić of Đakovo-Osijek held a press conference at the end of the 67th Plenary Session of the Assembly of the Croatian Conference of Bishops.

At the session, which began on Tuesday, November 14, there was discussion about the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, demography and the topics at the Synod of Bishops in Rome, as well as the announcement of preparations for the Jubilee Year 2025.

The National Office for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults Was Established

At the session, the Croatian bishops decided to establish the National Office of the Croatian Conference of Bishops for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults, which will consolidate the work performed by the Commission for Minors and the Metropolitan Offices. The newly established Office will be under the auspices of the Permanent Council of the CCB, with the aims of increasing the efficiency of monitoring, providing information in cases of abuse and implementing the new guidelines and provisions coming from Rome.

As Auxiliary Bishop Mijo Gorski of Zagreb said, this is not about abolishing separate bodies but about adaptation and the desire “to respond to needs in a better way” through the centralization of known information and the expertise of professionals in various fields.

However, this does not mean that individual bishops will no longer have responsibilities regarding this issue. “On the contrary, every bishop has responsibility in his diocese but now there is a body that will make an even stronger contribution, most of all, we hope, to prevention.”

In addition to two regular employees, the Office will cooperate with experts from all over Croatia, who will assist the bishops in starting a process and providing appropriate assistance to the victims.

Msgr. Ćurić on Participation in the Synod on Synodality

Auxiliary Bishop Ivan Ćurić of Đakovo-Osijek was the delegate of the CCB at the October session of the Synod of Bishops, the Synod on Synodality, in Rome. He provided the journalists with a presentation of the session of the Synod, based upon materials collected during the preparatory years and events.

It is an echo of the life of the Church throughout the world. As Msgr. Ćurić explained, these are experiences of the Church that has “lived through wars, climate changes, economic systems that produce exploitation, inequalities and waste, the experiences of the Church whose faithful suffer martyrdom in countries where they are minorities and where they face the increasing and sometimes aggressive experience of secularization.  These are Churches wounded by sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience, whether of an economic or institutional nature.”

The delegate of the CCB pointed out the evident “vibrancy” and “freshness” of the Church in mission countries and mentioned how the preparatory period gave birth to new initiatives by digital missionaries. He further noted that he had the opportunity to convey ecumenical testimony from Croatia. A 37-page report on that session will soon be available in the Croatian language.

The Synod on Synodality will conclude with a session in Rome in a year’s time.

A Long-Term Demographic Policy Is Needed

Speaking about other topics discussed at the plenary session, Msgr. Đuro Hranić, who is also the new Vice President of the CCB, expressed the Croatian bishops’ interest in demographic issues.

“We agree with demographers and note that for years Croatian politics has not responsibly confronted the demographers’ analyses, proposed solutions, warnings and urgings for changing the demographic situation in Croatia with sufficient seriousness, said Msgr. Hranić, who considers this a vital issue for the future of the Croatian people that should be addressed without delay.

He then pointed out the “dangers of the dominant postmodern culture,” which “destroys marriages and family values,” and “portrays them as backward and conservative institutions.” The economic crisis, corrupt patterns of behavior and difficulties in the functioning of the rule of law have resulted in emigration, particularly among young educated persons and young families with children, which “strongly reflect upon the demographic image of the society and state.”

Cautioning that nothing can change during a four-year mandate in terms of demographics, Archbishop Hranić said that a long-term demographic policy is needed that would be adopted, if not by the consensus of all, which would be ideal, then at least the majority so that when the party in power is replaced there would not be a change in the demographic policy.

“We are not only in a demographic recession but in a demographic collapse. It would be ideal if we could successfully halt the demographic decline and then gradually, through long-term measures, achieve the kind of results obtained by certain countries that adopted demographic measures several decades ago and are implementing them systematically,” said Archbishop Hranić.

At the same time, he also cautioned about the problem of the inadequate number of workers and the importation of labor from other countries. “We bishops do not think that it is good that the immigration policy and the importation of workers are left solely to employers, and that the state does not exercise better control to assure that these people are not being exploited, and their human dignity is respected. We bishops feel that we are called to be close to such people on the social and humanitarian levels,” he said.

The Position of the Diocese of Srijem

In response to a journalist’s inquiry about Archbishop Ladislav Nemet of Belgrade being a guest at the session of the CCB, Msgr. Hranić announced a new meeting with him related to the understanding of the position of the Diocese of Srijem within the state of Serbia, but also with the support of the Ecclesiastical Province of Đakovo and Osijek.

“On the local level, this is a cooperation between dioceses, which we have, so that the Diocese of Srijem is within the system of the Ecclesiastical Province [of Đakovo and Osijek], but it is not therefore any less in Serbia.”

New Presidents

During the autumn session, the bishops spoke about preparations for the Jubilee Year 2025, owing to which the Church will be dedicated to prayer next year. The new presidents of individual bodies of the CCB were presented: Msgr. Mate Uzinić—the Council for the Laity, Msgr. Roko Glasnović—the Council for Life and the Family, Msgr. Ivan Štironja—the Council for Missions, Msgr. Ivan Šaško—the Council for Cultural Assets, and Msgr. Ivica Petanjak—the Commission for Martyrology.