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The President of the Republic Posthumously Bestowed the Grand Order of the President of the Republic Franjo Tuđman with Sash and Great Morning Star upon Cardinal Franjo Kuharić

Zagreb (IKA)

On February 14, the President of the Republic of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, posthumously bestowed the Grand Order of the President of the Republic Franjo Tuđman with Sash and Great Morning Star upon the former Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Franjo Kuharić, as an expression of the highest recognition by the Republic of Croatia for his exceptional contribution to the promotion of Croatian state and national interests at home and abroad, especially for the furthering of state and national unity, state building and the spiritual values of the Croatian nation. The ceremony was held at the Presidential Palace in Zagreb and the decoration was accepted by the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić.

In President Grabar-Kitarović’s address, she noted that this was a special day for the Archdiocese of Zagreb and the entire Church among the Croats because the awarding of the Grand Order to Cardinal Franjo Kuharić is also an expression of gratitude for everything that the Church has done throughout history for the survival, progress and spiritual well-being of the Croatian nation in the homeland and throughout the world. “It was President Tuđman who considered the Catholic Church to be an institution with a pivotal place in the spiritual formation and sustenance of the Croatian national being,” said the President.

She mentioned that she had not doubted for a moment who would be the first to merit this Grand Order. “Not only the Catholic faithful but also all people of good will, during the nearly three decades that he served as the Archbishop of Zagreb, recognized him with undivided respect and affection as a man deeply imbued with the gospel. He was completely devoted to the good of the Catholic faithful, but equally so to every person, the good of his nation and homeland, interethnic reconciliation, ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue and the protection of the dignity and life of every human being. Inspired by the example of the faith and patriotism of his predecessor, Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, during the difficult period of the Yugoslav communist order, Cardinal Kuharić defended the freedom of religion and the right of the Croatian nation to equality and liberty. During the years of the creation and defense of the independent Croatian state, he firmly defended Croatian national and state rights, while at the same time firmly demanding that everyone adhere to the principles of love for every person,” said the President.

She pointed out that President Tuđman, as a statesman, had a sincere friend in Cardinal Kuharić, both in his support for the fundamental goals of his policies and also in his critical words, as a man and a believer, especially during the final period of his life. “In their working together for the common good, both had the sincere support and respect of the Croatian people and all people of good will,” said President Grabar-Kitarović.

In Cardinal Bozanić’s address, he emphasized that in this Grand Order, he sees recognition and acknowledgement of that for which there is great consensus among the Croatian nation and society: Cardinal Kuharić, with his multiple commitments for the good, the defense of values and moral principles, the promotion of truth and justice, as a sincere believer and pastor, expressed his love for his Croatian nation and homeland, and was exceptionally responsive to every person, especially the suffering and the needy.

In accord with the attitudes and spirituality cultivated by Cardinal Kuharić, I am sure that, even for this recognition, he would not like the emphasis to be upon himself, personally, but upon the Church, the mystery of God’s presence in the world in the community of the faithful. He lived on earth as a servant of the Church, as a servant of Jesus Christ and his good news,” said Cardinal Bozanić.

Cardinal Bozanić recalled a meeting he attended at the Office of the President on September 29, 1997, together with the late Cardinal Kuharić, the first apostolic nuncio in the Republic of Croatia and several fellow bishops, at the invitation of President Tuđman, on which occasion President Tuđman turned to Cardinal Kuharić and said: “Thank you for everything that you have been and done during these difficult communist times for our Church, especially in the days of the establishment of the independent and democratic Croatia, and also during the war and postwar years. In Croatian history, your name will certainly be written in capital letters for your humanity and consistency, discernment and openness, impartiality and effectiveness.”

To these words by the Croatian statesman, among other things, Cardinal Kuharić replied: “I have […] sought to follow the principles that are necessary for achieving honest and fair relations among people, and what I have always represented, which is the dignity of man. We have also always advocated for the nation […]. Therefore, we have always wanted the Croatian nation to achieve freedom and independence.”

Cardinal Bozanić also recalled other things that Cardinal Kuharić said to President Tuđman: “You have invested all your energies, you have invested your life, you have invested your scholarly experience and your historical knowledge in the realization of the free, independent and democratic state of Croatia. That is why we feel such gratitude toward you, because through your efforts the Croatian nation has a great gift: freedom. And this is God’s gift. In history, great events for the good do not happen without God’s help.”

It is appropriate that these words re-echo here, as well as those that remind us that the Croatian people, ‘subjected to a war that they did not want, were united.’ Cardinal Kuharić said: ‘United in the homeland, united abroad, so that all Croats throughout the world felt that this was a matter of destiny, a matter of fateful decisions for our entire future,’” said Cardinal Bozanić.

Thanking President Grabar-Kitarović for awarding the Grand Order of the President of the Republic Franjo Tuđman with Sash and Great Morning Star to Cardinal Franjo Kuharić, Cardinal Bozanić said: “This gesture is an incentive for all of us to incorporate ourselves even more selflessly into the growth of the Croatian homeland, with the kind of love taught to us by Christ the Lord. I believe that Croatian people feel in their hearts that they are part of this award and they, through your hands, are expressing their gratitude to Cardinal Kuharić. I am thinking in particular about all those who were part of the sacrifices for the Homeland, from which Croatia lives, above all, the Croatian defenders.”

At the conclusion of the mandate of President Grabar-Kitarović, Cardinal Bozanić thanked her for the good she has sought, that she was able to achieve, for which she lived and for which she had selflessly sacrificed. In her future life, he wished her to be open to God’s inspirations and tireless in her fervent striving for those values that are essential for the life of our Croatian homeland.

The ceremony was also attended by the President of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar; Auxiliary Bishops Ivan Šaško and Mijo Gorski of Zagreb; the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Gordan Jandroković; the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia, Andrej Plenković; the President of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Academician Zvonko Kusić; and members of the Kuharić and Tuđman families.