Main ecumenical celebration of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was held at the Zagreb Cathedral

28.1.2020.


The main ecumenical celebration of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was held at the Zagreb Cathedral on the 19 January 2020.



The Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić concelebrated the ecumenical Holy Mass with Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana of the Serbian Orthodox Church His Holiness Porfirije Perić, Bishop of the Evangelical Church in Croatia, Mr. Branko Berić, Bishop of the Reformed Christian Calvinist Church in the Republic of Croatia Mr. Peter Sen, president of the Croatian Baptist Union pastor Ivica Horvat, parish priest of the Macedonian Orthodox Church in the Republic of Croatia, protoiereus stavrofor, Fr. Kirko Velinski.



Honoured guests President of Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), Archbishop of Luxembourg Mgr. Jean –Claude Hollerich S.J., President of Conference of European Churches (CEC)  Rev. Christian Krieger, Apostolic Nuncio to Croatia Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, President of the Croatian Bishops' Conference, Archbishop of Zadar Msgr. Želimir Puljić, Archbishop of Bjelovar- Križevci  and representative of the CBC by COMECE Msgr. Vjekoslav Huzjak, auxiliary bishops of the Zagreb Archdiocese Msgr. Ivan Šaško and Msgr. Mijo Gorski were present alongside the concelebrants at the ecumenical celebration, as well as the members of the Commission for Ecumenism and Interfaith dialogue: the Honourable Marijan Vrančić Ph.D.(president), Fr. Juro Zečević Božević, OCD (secretary), s. Marija Bilanović  ASC, Rev. Vladimir Kerečeni, Tomislav Kovač Ph.D, Mrs. Miljenka Kuridža, Fr.Daniel Patafta Ph.D. OFM, Msgr. Antun Sente Jr.  and Rev. Robert Šreter, M.A.



After introducing representatives of the Christian communities and the invocation prayer, the presider of the ecumenical celebration, Cardinal Bozanić greeted everyone and stated at the very beginning that this celebration unites us with Christians worldwide, showing kindness in line with this year's motto which finds its origins in the Acts of the Apostles. „We come before the Lord with confidence. We believe in His presence among us. We address supplications we feel so strongly to the Lord as we simultaneously confront our weaknesses and limitations “


 
Let us not forget Christ's gift of vicinity which helps us start over

Upon asking for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the concelebrants recited the prayer of penance and Liturgy of the Word and homilies of the six Churches' representatives followed respectively. At the beginning of his homily Cardinal Bozanić referred to the Apostolic Letter (Aperuit Illis) by which Pope Francis established the Sunday of the Word of God.



It is difficult to remain indifferent upon hearing the proclaimed Word of God and context in which Jesus sends his disciples to proclaim the Gospel, the Cardinal said and drew our attention to two things. The first is that the Risen Lord visits his disciples when they are in a state of confusion, fear, confinement and doubt, unwilling to believe those who had already seen the Risen Lord. Although he rebuked his disciples for their unbelief and hardness of heart, yet again to them just as they are, Jesus entrusts with the great proclamation of the Gospel and acts which show clear signs of faith. “It is encouraging for us not to forget Christ’s gift of vicinity which helps us start over whenever we lack enthusiasm or feel the weight of unfulfilled dreams and forlorn hope. With Him we are never on our own.”, the Cardinal said.



The second is the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, two bastions which have Christ’s departure in common, as this departure becomes a gift of his new presence in the world via the Holy Spirit empowering the faithful to transform the world by building the Kingdom of God.

It is unusual that the disciples are not disappointed after Christ’s ascension, Cardinal Bozanić said. Seeing Jesus’ departure from Earth into the presence of God in heaven, the Holy Spirit reveals them the truth and value of his arrival. In Jesus God wanted to experience our humanity, the weight of a man’s life. He became one of us only to be immersed in the life of the world created by his love.”

Reflecting upon the motto of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity “They showed us unusual kindness “ (Acts 28:2), the Cardinal noted that the original Greek  text uses the word filanthropia, a strong Christian term, whose value is recognized by all people. “ God has sent his Son for man so as to save him from any shipwreck, so as to show the way to fullness of life; and Christian humanism which arises from creation of man and world is fulfilled in love of others and not selfishness. “



At the end of his homily Cardinal Bozanić reminded everyone of the National meeting of Croatian Catholic Youth taking place on 9 and 10 May 2020 in Zagreb and pointed out that the Croatian youth has chosen Mary’s words “Do whatever he tells you! “(John 2:5)as their motto. Our acts have an unusual strength if they arise from God’s word and mystery of his vicinity. To those who believe and live by faith new horizons open up. A man who is not focused on himself speaks a new language of kindness and hospitality and God’s love is his stronghold of confidence.

And as in the world of today we may see multiple threatening and worrying realities, this celebration demonstrates how we wish to walk together in Jesus’ footsteps.  Let us thank the Lord for this and pray so he continues to steer and guide us.


 
Metropolitan Perić:  Kindness in itself is the nature of God’s love

Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana of the Serbian Orthodox Church His Holiness Porfirije Perić spoke to those present after Cardinal Bozanić. He pointed out that kindness in itself is the nature of God’s love. Reflecting on the assigned passage from the Acts of the Apostles, the Metropolitan highlighted the migrant crisis taking place in the Mediterranean Sea. “In that (Paul’s) time, the Mediterranean Sea was a sea of hospitality for those who hadn’t known the Lord, and now the same sea is the sea of inhospitality, sea of unkindness, a tomb of those who carry the image of God within themselves and those who are our neighbours by God’s commandment.” Metropolitan Perić concluded his homily with an invitation to question ourselves whether we walk in Jesus’ footsteps on a road to salvation “as the key to eternal life or suffering is in our relationship to our neighbours in God. Whether this world and country will be heaven or hell is up to us.”

Bishop Berić: Christian unity is God’s prayer for the Church and he accompanies us on this journey



In his homily Bishop of the Evangelical Church in Croatia Mr. Branko Berić pointed out how the passage from the Acts of the Apostles shows us how a chance encounter may establish a community. “The more the Churches nurture their togetherness and trust the more they will succeed.  God’s liberating grace empowers us to become new people.”, he said. Bishop Berić concluded his homily with the following words: “As we pray for the gift of visible unity, let our prayer be one of unwavering faith, steadfast patience, hopeful expectation and trust in God’s providence. Unity is God’s prayer for the Church and he accompanies us on this journey so we shall not get lost on the way.”

Bishop Sen: May our life be one of worship



In his homily Bishop of the reformed Christian Calvinist Church in the Republic of Croatia Mr. Peter Sen said that God Almighty wishes for these ecumenical celebrations to strengthen our faith. Highlighting how the world faces us with many temptations he added how they are also an opportunity to strengthen our faith and come closer to God and one another. “Let us strengthen our faith, love our neighbours in God so our life becomes a life of worship.”, bishop Sen concluded.
 
Pastor Horvat: As those of the Christ we must not fall silent in the face of migrant crisis



President of the  Croatian Baptist Union pastor Ivica Horvat commented on the motto of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and  Christ’s commandment of love your enemy (see Mt 5:43-48). Speaking of the latter in the context of migrant crisis pastor Horvat said: “Jesus does not say love thy another, as this is already implied, but he summons us to love our enemies. How often have we Christians and the Churches fallen under the influence of political and economic powers who manipulate people into believing that people in distress and migrants are our enemies? Do we have the right, as followers of Jesus Christ, as Christ-like, by tacit approval or closing our eyes to reality send a message that Jesus’ standard of love cannot be applied today?”

“Jesus wants us to open our hearts and resources and to show our unusual kindness always and to everyone.”, pastor Horvat concluded.
 
Fr. Kirko Velinski: Our neighbour is any man in need



Finally, Protoeireus Stavrofor, Kirko Velinski ,a priest of the Macedonian Orthodox Church in the Republic of Croatia, addressed those present. He said that we have recently celebrated the birth of the Son of God who came to save the man and that the Christian faith is based on two commandments of love: God and our neighbour. “And who is our neighbour? Our neighbour is any man in need.”

This year’s motto of the Week of Prayer encourages us to be kinder. Only by kindness and good deeds can be show we belong to Christ.”, concluded Fr. Velinski.  



After the concelebrants’ homilies, Profession of Faith and the Universal Prayer i.e. Prayer of the Faithful followed.  The Prayer of the Faithful was read by the members of the Commission for Ecumenism and Interfaith dialogue of the Zagreb Archdiocese. The Lord’s Prayer and offer of the Sign of Peace to each other followed.

Before Cardinal Bozanić imparted the final blessing of the Mass, President of Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union, Archbishop of Luxembourg Mgr. Jean –Claude Hollerich S.J., and President of Conference of European Churches  Rev. Christian Krieger respectively addressed those present.


Cardinal Hollerich: Christians have to build a better European future together

Cardinal Hollerich expressed his joy of being able to participate in the ecumenical celebration and said that in 1985 while serving as a missionary in Japan he witnessed divisions among Christians causing an anti-testimony of the Gospel spread worldwide. Speaking of his experience as the president of Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union with various EU institutions Cardinal Hollerich said: “As Christians we can learn something from European institutions. If we look back at the European past, we don’t see wars and conflicts but those things which we have in common and which unite us. History does not inspire us for retaliation but reconciliation. This reconciliation helps European citizens build a better and brighter future.”

“As Christians we should strive towards building a better future together”, Cardinal Hollerich concluded and asked those present to pray for him and success of his service.
 
Pastor Krieger: Together we can testify the Kingdom of God to the world



Pastor Krieger expressed his joy of being able to participate in the ecumenical celebration and brought greetings from the members of the Conference of European Churches comprised of 115 different communities from more than 40 European countries. “For these Churches ecumenism and unity is a task and gift, a gift and a task. We are all in Christ, we all proclaim the Kingdom of God and we all hope to live the Kingdom of God. Together we can testify Kingdom of God to the world and the world of politics.”, he said.

Reflecting on Croatia presiding over the Council of the European Union, pastor Krieger reminded everyone of COMECE and CEC’s tradition of visiting the country presiding over the Council of EU. In that regard he said he is to meet the Croatian Prime Minister in order to talk about his future projects.



“We wish for a Europe of justice, peace, a socially sensitive Europe, a democratic and hospitable Europe.”, pastor Krieger concluded and asked everyone to pray for achievement of these goals.



The Zagreb Cathedral choir animated the Holy Mass under the baton of Maestro prof. Miroslav Martinjak M.M.


 
PHOTO: Cardinal Hollerich praying at Blessed Alojzije Stepinac’s grave