Cardinal Bozanić: We are heirs to Stepinac's gift and the fruits of it
Josip Bozanić, the Archbishop of Zagreb, celebrated the Holy Mass on the Feast of Alojzije Stepinac in the Zagreb cathedral on Friday, 10 February 2017.
Alongside the Cardinal, Apostolic Nuncio to Croatia Msgr.Allesandro D'Errico, the Archbishop of Zadar and the President of the Croatian Bishops' Conference Msgr. Želimir Puljić, the archbishop emeritus of Đakovo and Osijek Msgr. Marin Srakić, the bishop of Sisak Msgr. Vlado Košić, the eparch of the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Križevci Msgr. Nikola Kekić, the bishop of Bjelovar and Križevci Msgr. Vjekoslav Huzjak, the bishop of Gospić and Senj Msgr. Zdenko Križić, auxiliary bishops of Zagreb Msgr. Valentin Pozaić, Msgr. Ivan Šaško and Msgr. Mijo Gorski, fathers provincials and over one hundred and twenty priests concelebrated the Holy Mass.
‘Being a Christian is an encounter and communion with Jesus Christ and an encounter with testimonies of saints who enter our lives as well,’ said Cardinal Bozanić at the beginning of his homily, reminding us of Alojzije Stepinac's last moments, in which his unconditional surrender to the will of God and fearless hope manifested itself in his trust in God.
‘A seed fell on the ground so as to grow and produce a crop. Today, on the day when the seed fell on the ground, we are gathered here on his grave as fruits of the new presence of the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac among us. That presence sprung in faith which celebrates the Lord and in which we feel strong comfort.’
When reflecting on the suffering of Alojzije Stepinac, Cardinal Bozanić said that his example draws us closer to the Lord as Alojzije's behaviour and attitude, his words and actions echo Jesus' prayers: ‘Father, hallowed be thy Name!’
When in agony in the Garden, Jesus knows that the Passion and crucifixion is not the pinnacle of his suffering. It is himself staying faithful to His Father and the truth of his mission. The cross is humiliation and it appears to be in contrast with triumph. Nevertheless, the one illuminates the other. Jesus is offering himself as sacrifice to His Father, who then endows him upon us, leaving him in the hands of human injustice and hatred, in loneliness in which he has only faith that his Father’s love shall resurrect and glorify him i.e. that through him the world is to be given new life.
It is eternal glory because the Lord’s love became pain via the cross. This pain enriches us as it is accepted and bestowed upon, capable of redeeming all, even those who crucify him.
‘If Jesus Christ is in your heart then you have nothing to fear. We can see this in the answers the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac gave to his friends and enemies. For Alojzije, Christ was everything, Christ who is the image of our heavenly Father as well as the image of every human being. Archbishop Stepinac bowed down to this sanctity and cherished Him in his heart. If we seek the source of strength for Alojzije’s answers and hope, we shall find it only in Christ, our Lord.’
Reminding us all of the words Blessed Alojzije Stepinac said in court, Cardinal Bozanić said that the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac is telling us ‘to be people of clear conscience, to try to reshape our conscience over and over again, to try to align it with God and the Ten Commandments so our conscience may be able to tell the good from the bad, to always side with the truth and not lies, justice and not injustice, love and not hate, unity and not division.
Let us pray to Alojzije for his intercession so that the conscience of the people in the Croatian society may be revealed as a place where we listen to the truth and good, a place of responsibility before God and the people, so our clear conscience can be the main factor in promoting the common good.’
Blessed Alojzije Stepinac is our compass, so we may find direction, and the needle of this compass always points to faith in God, respect for fellow human being, love for all and forgiveness, unity with the Church whose head is the successor of St. Peter, and not giving in when it comes to the truth as it is not something we can trade with.
Thus, our Croatian society needs Stepinac’s key to confront the past as we need to be responsible towards the new generations and the future we wish to be free of all ideological bickering of failed utopias.
‘Blessed Alojzije Stepinac is, brothers and sisters, a blessing to us all. In everything! We must not forget it, not even for a moment. This celebration makes us aware of the presence of that blessing as well, even when we ourselves must suffer, when our dearest suffer and when the Church suffers regardless of where its believers may be. We carry this blessing and when we ask ourselves why it is so difficult to accept the evidence of the truth about Cardinal Stepinac. Still, as pointed out earlier, the process of all those clarifications, weighing evidence and verifications we are going through before the Cardinal’ canonisation makes it ever so obvious that it is a blessing so that the thoughts of some hearts are revealed.
The more we examine the circumstances and facts relating the Blessed Alojzije, the more the certainty manifested by the believers during his service of a shepherd, his exposure to ridicule and defamation, confinement and death is confirmed. It is a believers’ certainty, their sense for the sanctity, which the Church lives as its touch and proximity to God which cannot fool anyone. The believers could not be fooled then and cannot be fooled today.
From day to day, as different events unfold, it is confirmed that those who lie show their real faces and that lie does not last.
The people feel it and that feeling can only be refined if purified with prayer, sacrifice out of love and an honest search for truth. We are certain that Stepinac’s pure sacrifice shall be for the good and salvation of those who defame him as well as those who try to maintain lying to the public so as to gain or preserve some earthly possessions.’
Seeking the truth is important for our past and we must not give up on it!
When addressing the believers and the youth especially, Cardinal Bozanić stressed that we, who live in today’s world, need hope more than anything: ‘We, the Christians, need to awaken the trust, spread positive atmosphere and self-respect in our Croatian society. As Christians we must never lose the ultimate goal out of sight as it gives purpose and meaning to our lives, as well as a safe and deep inspiration for daily efforts to metamorphose our reality.
Today’s feast is an occasion to rethink whether our path as believers is aligned with the Lord’s Gospel and whether we notice Alojzije’s steps towards God in our own lives. This compass shows us which direction we as individuals, we as the Church and we as the people should go.’
Blessed Alojzije was a voice of hope and freedom even when he was imprisoned by the totalitarian Communist government. His voice connected people in our country and abroad, those exiled and those who fought for freedom in Croatia by preserving the Croatian religious, national and cultural identity.
Blessed Alojzije was an inspiration to the elderly to persist and the youth not to give up, but fight with new-found enthusiasm for the well-being of their loved ones while creating a new society. Croatian war veterans often prayed to him for intercession, spouses were inspired by his fidelity and the wrongfully accused, the abused and the outcast found comfort in his trials and tribulations.
At the end of his homily, Cardinal Bozanić said: ‘Dear believers, we are heirs to Stepinac’s gift and the fruits borne from it. Shoots and buds have sprung from the ground in many places. We must not leave them to the bitter cold and negligence. And we, the Church, have been confided to explain hope. For this reason, it is my pleasure to see that this explanation of hope is manifested so clearly this evening. Oh Lord, do not let us be put to shame.’
I often pray for families and youth. I pray so that they find trust in God, hope in life and blessing of the Almighty. My thoughts are primarily with all those who are responsible for our homeland and those who are tempted to leave. Blessed Alojzije was offered to leave as well.
If he had left, we could have found justification for him doing so. But, Alojzije Stepinac refused to leave, so that many are not put to shame and so that the Croatian people and homeland are not trampled upon and pillaged. Dear brothers and sisters, we give the Lord our thanks in this Holy Mass and pray for three things: clear conscience, hope and blessing. Blessed Alojzije Stepinac's sanctity is reflected in these three things.
Deputy Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, academician Željko Reiner, the President of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts Željko Kusić and the Mayor of the City of Zagreb Milan Bandić, as well as representatives of cultural and scientific institutions and public life were present at the Holy Mass in the Cathedral.
The Zagreb Cathedral choir animated the Holy Mass under the baton of Maestro Miroslav Martinjak.
The Press Office of the Archdiocese of Zagreb