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10.02.2018 | 21:01 | IKA E - 197465/2

The Feast of the Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac at the Zagreb Cathedral

The Synod has once again placed the joyful truth before us that the Church of Zagreb lives from love, as testified by the faithful in their families, at their jobs and in society, while often subjected to questions and unpleasantness, confronting the temptation to deny the defense and testimony of religious truths. However, the Synod shows that love is stronger than theses trials, said Cardinal Bozanić at the Mass concluding the Second Synod of the Archdiocese of Zagreb.

Zagreb, (IKA) – The celebration of Holy Mass on the feast of Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, February 10, in the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary in Zagreb, was conducted by the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić. With the celebration of the Mass, the fifth and final session of the Second Synod of the Archdiocese of Zagreb was concluded. The celebration also commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the beatification of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac. The participants in the entrance procession included the Apostolic Nuncio in the Republic of Croatia, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto; the Bishop of Eisenstadt, Msgr. Egidije Živković; the Bishop of Murska Sobota, Msgr. Peter Štrumpf; the Bishops of the Zagreb Ecclesiastical Province, Bishop Josip Mrzljak of Varaždin, Bishop Vlado Košić of Sisak, Greek Catholic Bishop Nikola Kekić of Križevci, Bishop Vjekoslav Huzjak of Bjelovar-Križevci; the Auxiliary Bishops of Zagreb, Msgr. Ivan Šaško and Msgr. Mijo Gorski; Archbishop Emeritus Marin Srakić of Đakovo-Osijek, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Valentin Pozaić of Zagreb; the General Secretary of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, Msgr. Petar Palić; members of the Second Synod of the Archdiocese of Zagreb and approximately two hundred priests. The concelebrants also included the Secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature, Msgr. Janusz Stanislaw Blachowiak, who read a message from Pope Francis before the beginning of the Mass, as follows: "Pope Francis joyfully received the news that the Second Synod of the Archdiocese of Zagreb was coming to an end. In the nine-hundred-year history of this venerable local Church up to the present, it has experienced the grace and action of the Holy Spirit many times through its holy pastors and the faithful. The Pope invites you who are assembled today in faith and gratitude for all of God's gifts during the Synod to be witnesses to the renewed Pentecost of your Archdiocese. Enlightened by the true light of the gospel, which is the thread, the guiding principle of all your efforts, the Bishop of Rome encourages you and invites us to reach out to every believer, every family, and finally to all the people of good will of your city and archdiocese. Only in this way will everyone be able to feel the embrace of the Church, pilgrims on earth who propagate the beneficence of God, thereby cleansing and sanctifying itself, and courageously walking in the newness of life in today's society which, more than ever, needs holy and humble witnesses of Christ's love."
In introductory remarks, Cardinal Bozanić said: Every year, on the tenth day of the month of February, the faithful gather in Stepinac's cathedral. That is what we are doing again this year." Greeting those assembled, the cardinal singled out Nuncio Pinto, who was participating in the celebration of the Feast of the Blessed Alojzije for the first time, and priests studying at the Pontifical Institute of Santa Maria dell'Anima in Rome. During the homily, in the context of the reading from 2 Corinthians, in which several lines mention encouragement and consolation ten times, Cardinal Bozanić said: "Our blessed martyr Alojzije is a constant manifestation of the closeness of Our Lord, who is the God of all consolation!" "Truly, when we look back at our recent past, in which it seemed that the seed of hope had no soil from which to spring; when people were eliminated, so many imprisoned and humiliated; when the values of freedom and human dignity were suppressed; when lies were spread abundantly […] there was visible consolation in Zagreb, Lepoglava and Krašić. Fifty-eight years ago on today's date, the communist authorities believed that this seed could be consigned to oblivion, hidden in the soil, below the stone slabs between the walls of this cathedral, not realizing that it would become the most fertile soil of the Church in which consolation would speak out even more forcefully. Therefore, we are here this evening, in Stepinac's cathedral, grateful that we safeguard his earthly remains here and that we can pray before his relics. Blessed Alojzije is the bearer of comfort to believers, the whole Church and especially his Croatian people," said the cardinal, and continued: "We know there are still attempts through the reinterpretation of the concepts and proposals from those times, and through the most blatant falsehoods, to justify that which was perpetrated during the time of totalitarianism to others […]. The [mis]representation of our Beatus and our entire Church continues to confront us with such phenomena. Lies, planted in this way and systematically promoted, acquire power that obstructs access to the truth in order to continue the destruction of the good. At moments of despondency, in personal pain, and in the difficulties that we experience as individuals, families and a nation, we are united by that which is greater than ourselves. Our God does not abandon us in our suffering. Consolation is the gift that links us, first of all to God, who fills us with consolation, so that we can console ourselves and provide consolation to each other. Christian consolation requires listening, patience, compassion, awareness, the good of our neighbors, providing help to everyone, especially to someone in need, the testimony of hope, and prayer." The cardinal furthermore said: "We can draw from Stepinac's consolation. It is very much needed today, when we are experiencing new challenges in a different way, anxiety and the sowing of despair. However, the consolation of God always speaks the language of love and, most importantly, cannot be taken away by anyone."
The cardinal noted that from the first moment, the Second Synod of the Archdiocese of Zagreb was entrusted to the particular intercession of Blessed Alojzije. Moreover, the Synod was announced on his feast day in 2002.
Speaking about the Synod, the cardinal said: "We are grateful for this journey of grace in which dwells the power of the Spirit, who vivifies, comforts and renews. As the Archbishop of Zagreb, I first of all thank all the members of the Synod, who readily gave their time, love and knowledge, and who conscientiously participated in the work of the Synod. In the spirit of the desire for the entire Archdiocese to be included in the Synod, I particularly thank all the parishes, religious communities, associations, movements, other prayer communities and each of the faithful who contributed over the years to the pre-Synod period and the Synod sessions, not only by proposing initiatives but in a multitude of ways, especially through the prayer, lively concern and joy of our Zagreb Church." "Regarding the early preparations, from this distance in time we also see the fruits of that journey, which enable us to look confidently toward the future. Inspired by the example of Blessed Alojzije, I believe that we can justifiably say that our Beatus taught us on the Synod journey and helped us to live ecclesiality. I shall attempt to summarize this into three points: become acquainted with the Church, love the Church and act ecclesially," said the cardinal.
Commenting on the Synod, the cardinal also said that it made us aware of belonging to the particuar Church of Zagreb in our journey together, as the holy Nation of God. "It has drawn us even more closely together, the faithful with the priests and other officials, and the faithful among themselves. We are called to strengthen this closeness and bring it to all the areas of the life of our Archdiocese, especially by praying for each other. We have felt that there are many Catholics who live their faith and are well incorporated into the parish communities, involved and helping with various tasks, living in the rhythm of the families and communities to which they belong. We have had the opportunity to become better acquainted with the nature and activities of Church institutions, bodies and services; to encounter positive Church laws and general provisions, and there have been so many occasions when the Spirit of God encourages us in our milieu, bestowing his gifts upon us and opening new opportunities, through love and service. In posing questions and making proposals, sincere aspirations were evident, achievements were noted and expectations were expressed. New paths were also defined as well as actual difficulties, which need not be insurmountable," he said.
The cardinal mentioned that Blessed Alojzije left an abundant legacy of love for the Church, which pours out from his words and, particularly, in the position he took, to which he bore witness from day to day, to his last breath on earth. "The Synod has once again placed the joyful truth before us that the Church of Zagreb lives from love, as testified by the faithful in their families, at their jobs and in society, while often subjected to questions, unpleasantness and the temptation to deny the defense and testimony of religious truths. However, the Synod shows that love is stronger than theses trials," said the cardinal.
The cardinal also spoke about the importance of ecclesiality because "to act ecclesially means to act in a Christ-like manner. In such activity, the spirit of the Synod is always felt, starting from prayer that directs our gaze to the Kingdom of God, where community, subsidiarity, free expression of opinions, listening to the other, discussion and verification, seeking the good and assuming responsibility come to the fore."
"I encourage you to view the event of the Synod as a new beginning, a new momentum of pastoral activity, especially in our parish communities, the prayer communities within them, religious associations and movements, and participation in the parish bodies. Christianity always begins anew. The Synod gives us certainty, strengthens our steps, sharpens our focus, especially under the new circumstances, in which one generation is attempting to confront challenges in its own way, and now the new generation is being called upon to do so. Our Synod, starting from the preparatory period, has demonstrated a generational exchange, owing to the presence of the young, who in various ways show that they have matured into responsible believers," said the cardinal and particularly addressed young people: "Before you, young men and women, are two years of preparations for the 2020 Catholic Youth Encounter, which will be held in the city of Zagreb and the Archdiocese of Zagreb. I invite all of you to discover the gifts and strength of spiritual experience, the power of spirituality, which does not remain at superficial emotivity but is fueled by the freshness of religious sources: Holy Scriptures, sacraments and spiritual leadership."
In the homily, the cardinal mentioned that this year we commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the beatification of Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, and continued: "As we experienced the confirmation of the consolation that sustained us during the communist regime through the beatification, during these twenty years we have experienced the same proximity of consolation, knowing that its confirmation will be crowned by the proclamation of canonization. Every attempt to delay the canonization of the Beatus with untruth is actually an attempt to deprive us of consolation, vitality and hope. The consolation of that time, in the certainty of a clear conscience, hope and grace, also applies to our time, once and for all." The cardinal quoted the words of Saint Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the beatification of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac: "'The person of the new Beatus sums up, so to speak, the whole tragedy which befell the Croatian people and Europe in the course of this century marked by the three great evils of fascism, national socialism and communism. He is now in the joy of heaven, glorious in the fullness of the Catholic response: faith in God, respect for man, love toward all even to the offer of forgiveness, and unity with the Church guided by the Successor of Peter.'" Cardinal Bozanić then said: "And today it is necessary to persevere in the consistent detachment from all the regimes of evil of the twentieth century. In Croatia, we are in danger of building mechanisms of social attitudes that easily ignore the values that concern the whole of life and the truths about all the victims of the wars and postwar periods of the twentieth century, whoever they are. We feel the consequences of the lack of criteria for the application of regulations as promoted by the European institutions. Our Croatian society is still challenged by this, and it is the fundamental prerequisite in order to achieve social peace, freedom from the constant instrumentalization of the past, the return of wholesome national pride, awakened hope and an open future. Church activity in this area occurs in placing our faith in God, the Merciful Father, evangelical love, community and responsibility, which are constantly guided by humility, repentance and mercy, supported by the Cross and enlightened by the Resurrection. On this ecclesial journey, we sense that we are constantly being aided by Mary, the Most Holy Mother of God, and Saint Joseph, the patron saint of our Croatian homeland."
Following the prayer after communion, representatives of the members of the Second Synod of the Archdiocese of Zagreb presented a book to Cardinal Bozanić containing the 199 proposal, the fruit of the fourth session of the Synod. All these proposals were promulgated by a majority vote of the members of the Synod present at the individual sessions. Then the hymn "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name" was sung. The cardinal expressed his gratitude for the book of proposals and said that this was the work of many, adding that "we are not finished with this. We have concluded one part and another begins: the implementation of the Synod, preparation of the final document, and all with one goal—that we, each of us, and all together, would be a greater Church. This means that we belong more to God and are better brothers and sisters to each other. Let us not be afraid. We have a protector, the sanctity of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac. To him we have commended this work from the beginning. He will lead us and we, hereby, proclaim that we want to be and remain Stepinac's Church."
At the tomb of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, the cardinal prayed for the the Beatus to be canonized as soon as possible and blessed those present, after which the Croatian anthem, Our Beautiful Homeland, was sung.
The celebration of the Mass was enhanced by the combined choirs of the Archdiocesan Theological Seminary and the Chorale Singers of the Zagreb Cathedral, conducted by Maestro Miroslav Martinjak.

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