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Greeting by Cardinal Pietro Parolin at Apostolic Nunciature

Zagreb (IKA)

Greeting by His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Feast of the Pope. Zagreb, May 11, 2022.

Eminence, Excellencies, Distinguished Civil Authorities and Members of Parliament, Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Dear Priests, Religious Men and Women, Dear Brothers of other religions and Christian denominations, Ladies and Gentlemen!

I thank you most sincerely for your presence and I am very pleased to be back in Croatia and, for the second time, in Zagreb. The closeness of our Pontifical Representation to the headquarters of the Croatian Bishops’ Conference, as I have already mentioned once to the Croatian Bishops, always gives me the opportunity to emphasize the very warm relations of the Church in Croatia with the Pope and with the Holy See, to which we all assign great value.

Tonight, in addition to this event, which is affectionately called “the Pope’s feast” or festivity, we have two more reasons to “celebrate”. The first is the 30th Anniversary of the recognition of Croatia by the Holy See, which took place on January 13, 1992. As is well known, the Holy See was among the first to take this step, a concrete sign of the Holy See’s centuries-old closeness to the Croatian people. Less than a month later, on February 8th, 1992, the Holy See and Croatia established diplomatic relations. The second is the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the three Agreements which were ratified in the Vatican on April 9, 1997: the Agreement on legal matters; the Agreement on cooperation in the educational and cultural field, and a third Agreement on religious assistance to the Catholic faithful, members of the Armed Forces and Police of the Republic of Croatia.

It is also serendipitous that exactly 30 years ago today, on May 11th, 1992, the first Apostolic Nuncio to Croatia, His Excellency Monsignor Giulio Einaudi, of venerable memory, presented his Letter of Diplomatic Credentials to the President of the newborn Republic of Croatia, His Excellency Mr. Franjo Tuđman, and began his service, which lasted 11 years.

Receiving the Croatian delegation that had come to Rome for the exchange of the relative instruments of ratification, the then Roman Pontiff, His Holiness Pope Saint John Paul II, considered by the Croatians not only as Pope but also as an “excellent friend”, underlined that they constitute “a clear juridical framework for the work of the Catholic Church in the Republic of Croatia, allowing it to carry out its mission in an adequate manner”.

The Pope himself, who worked so hard for the recognition of the Republic of Croatia, addressing the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See on January 11th, 1992, that is, two days before the official recognition of Croatia, said: “My numerous appeals for peace and for dialogue are known to you. The position of the Holy See regarding the recognition of States newly emerged from the changed situation in Europe is familiar to you. Today I will limit myself to stressing that peoples have the right to choose their own way of thinking and living together. It is their right to endow themselves with the means which enable them to attain their legitimate aspirations, determined freely and democratically.”[1].

How timely are these words!

If 30 years ago Croatia was recognized by most members of the international community, including the Holy See, and formally counted among democratic Countries, today we must unfortunately recognize that the democratic system in the world is going through a certain crisis. We need only look at the resurgence of isolationism and authoritarianism, at new forms of inequality, exploitation of people and even slavery.

For almost three months now, a new war, a word which was thought to have been completely excluded from the vocabulary of the Old Continent, has returned with its tragedies and burden of suffering. The fear is that, now, the many conflicts being carried out “in piecemeal”, as Pope Francis has been saying for some time, may unify into a new “single” World War. As the former President of the European Parliament, the late Hon. David Sassoli, said in his last speech in Parliament with great foresight: “It is very hard to build democracy […] but also it is very easy to lose it if we don’t take care of it […]. […] The nature of democracy is founded on trust: trust in institutions, trust in free media, trust in politicians, trust in the state and those that protect it. This trust needs to be renewed every day, grown as capital and cared for as the best investment.

If this treasure is not taken care of, dictatorships in camouflage can resurface. When they are ignored, either out of superficiality or other interests, they take root and their main concern is becomes the preservation of power, rather than the common good.

Croatia is well aware that freedom and independence, obtained at a high price, are an everlasting challenge, hence the important responsibility to preserve them, while respecting the values for which people have fought and for which many have given their lives.

The Agreements we are celebrating today point the way toward peaceful coexistence among peoples and the role of the Church in society. In the aforementioned speech delivered on the day he received the Croatian delegation, Saint John Paul II also stated that, “respect for religious freedom, the distinction between Church and State and the need for collaboration between the two institutions, remain the fundamental principles for an understanding that is not an end in itself but that truly aims at the good of the faithful and the citizens.”

Creative fidelity to one’s origins, which is often spoken of in the ecclesial sphere today, must ensure that one always knows how to care for the roots upon which the relationship between Church and State in this Country was founded. As Pope Francis has said, “we know that without roots one does not grow, andwhat the tree has visibly in bloom thrives on what is buried beneath(cf. F.L. Bernardez, Para recobrar)”, Let us embrace, therefore, his recommendation and “make an effort in this: protect the roots, because it is the roots that give identity. Our identity is that of today, but it comes from the roots, and will be transmitted to our children, to our grandchildren, but always from the roots.[2].

It is my hope that the relations between Croatia and the Holy See will be able to continue as at their beginning, to evolve in order to make constant progress and to remain up to date, taking into account the challenges of the present times, in order to overcome, by common accord, any possible obstacles.

Finally, I wish to thank the Apostolic Nuncio, his Collaborator and all the religious and lay staff of this Apostolic Nunciature for their extraordinary kindness in offering us this exquisite reception!

Entrusting all of you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom you confidently invoke as “our Mother, our Golden Dawn”, and of “your unforgettable and unforgotten Archbishop” Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, I thank you for your kind attention.

[1] Pope Saint John Paul II, Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 11 January 1992, n. 3

[2] Pope Francis, To the Management and Staff of the Office Responsible for Public Security at the Vatican, 17 January 2019.