Blessed Miroslav Bulešić
Miroslav Bulešić was born on May 13, 1920 in Čabrunići, an Istrian village in the parish Svetvinčenat, to Miha Bulešić and Lucija Butković. He was baptized on May 23, in the parish church in Juršići. Little Miroslav learnt the first prayers and the first truths of the Catholic church from a prayer book called ‘Father, thy will be done’, which was a book for spiritual needs of the Croatian faithful in Istria in the 19th century compiled by bishop Juraj Dobrila. Miroslav Bulešić went to primary school in Juršići, where his Religion teacher was a keen and hard-working priest Ivan Pavić. At the age of ten, Bulešić decided to enter the seminary.
After spending one year in the preparatory school for future seminarians, Alojzjevišče in Gorica, he entered the seminary in Koper in the school year 1931/1932. He was in Koper Seminary till 1939, when after completing five years of grammar school and three years of lyceum, he passed his school-leaving exams. Priest Ivan Pavić wrote him a letter of recommendation stating :‘ He is a great young man, wise, frank, pious and good’, so after graduating from the Koper seminary bishop of Poreč and Pula sent him to study in Rome in the fall of 1939.
STUDY IN ROME
Seminarian Bulešić was in the Eternal City from fall of 1939 to summer of 1943. During his first year of study he lived in the French Academy and the next three years in the Lombardo seminary. He studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Alojzije Stepinac, Archbishop of Zagreb and later Cardinal, financially supported Bulešić’s study in Rome, as F. Sakač’s letter of January, 1940 states.
In Rome, the centre of Christianity and city of so many early Christian martyrs, Bulešić grew spiritually and intellectually. On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1942, in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, he witnessed the Pope's consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In early spring of 1943, at the invitation of his bishop, seminarian Bulešić returned to Istria to be ordained to the priesthood.
ORDINATION AND FIRST MASS
Miroslav Bulešić was ordained to the priesthood on April 11, 1943 in the parish church in Svetvinčenat. And this is what he wrote about his ordination in his diary: "My mother, father and brothers were crying, and they had a reason for that: their son had died, he ceased to be their property and became God’s property." He celebrated his First Mass two weeks later in his native parish. He took the invocation of the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Thy kingdom come! Thy will be done!’ as his motto.
PARISH PRIEST IN BADERNA
In fall of 1943 Bulešić was appointed as parish priest in Baderna, where for the next two inter-war years he provided pastoral care to parishioners and at the same time encouraged people and selflessly stood up for them, especially those left most vulnerable in the war. In May, 1944 he wrote to Rev. Ivan Pavić: ‘It is here among the sad, blood-soaked nation that we have to be good Samaritans who comfort, lift, heal every wound.’ In the area of Poreč and the entire area of Istria three armies were present: partisans, fascists and Germans.
During that time of hate, with honest patriotism, Bulešić kept the universality and principles of a Catholic priest always searching for the human in God’s image underneath that military uniform. His words are a proof of this: ‘I am a Catholic priest and I will distribute the sacraments to all who wish to receive them, regardless the person being a Croat, a German or an Italian.’
Because of his fearless, bold and consistent behaviour, Bulešić was being threatened from all sides, so in the spring of 1944 he wrote in his diary, addressing God: „ If You want me to come to You, here I am, I'm ready. For my flock I completely give my life to You. With Your grace, and if You make me worthy of it, I am not afraid of martyrdom but I crave for it instead. Lord, thy will be done.”
Then as if he knew that his sacrifice could be misunderstood, Bulešić himself explained what he was willing to die for: ‘I want to die only for the glory of God and for the salvation of my soul and the souls of my faithful.’
To his opponents and his persecutors he said: ‘My revenge is – forgiveness.’
During sermon on Christmas 1944, after the constant charges and slander against him, he openly says to his parishioners: „ I am not afraid of anything because I know I'm doing my duty and I am in peace in front of God and people. I allow you to judge my work. I will always stay true to my faith, my honesty which I will never sell for anything earthly, without fear I will always say to everyone what is fair and unfair. I will always live under these principles as they are Christ’s principles. Bulešić stayed in Baderna until the end of the war and in autumn of 1945 he was appointed parish priest in Kafanar.
PARISH PRIEST IN KANFANAR
In this new environment Bulešić strived to spiritually recover his large and demanding parish, to which Sošići and Barat chapels belong as well. He brought church singing back to life and church events became more and more attractive.He introduced adorations to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary into the parish, encouraged his parishioners to pray the rosary together and to go to Holy Confession and Holy Communion more often – especially the zealous faithful, youth and children. Communists wanted to prevent the faithful from attending Mass so they introduced civil wedding and funeral ceremonies. Despite their aggressive methods, the faithful of the parish of Kanfanar continued attending Mass and listening to Bulešić's sermons very carefully. We can still hear testimonies on the communists’ lack of success in preventing people from going to church.
One Sunday in 1946, some of the members of the Communist party, as they were watching how many people were going to church and how much they loved Bulešić, concluded the following: „People will not follow us nor come to our meetings, while he is alive.“
They used some of Bulešić’s relatives to convince him to go back to Italy where he studied, where he had family and friends and where he would be left in peace. But he replied: ‘There is a bigger need for priests right here – I have to stay right here.’
They told him that the communists were publicly threating him and that he should not speak so openly, that he should be careful, because they would kill him. Bulešić’s response was: ‘If they kill me, they will kill me for my faith and God.’ Miroslav Bulešić did not stay in Kafanar long, as he was appointed vice-principle and teacher of the diocesan seminary in Pazin in school year 1946 /1947.
HEAD OF THE SEMINARY AND THE SECRETARY OF THE COUNCIL OF PRIESTS
In the Pazin Seminary, Bulešić devoted himself to work with the first generations of seminarians. At the same time, as the secretary in College of St. Pauls clerics for Istria – boldly fought for the freedom of religion in the then new communist country. One the one hand, he was also trying hard to protect younger priests from the communists and, on the other hand, to protect the Council from manipulations of the Communist government.
He put his knowledge, experience and reputation as a priest on the line to set an example of Christian principle, courage and consistency. In a time when the Church in Istria and its priesthood was fiercely attacked and pressured by the communist government and when the bishop of Poreč and Pula Radossi had to leave Istria, bishop of Trieste and Koper Santini was publicly threatened by the communists and the Archbishop of Zagreb Alojzije Stepinac was imprisoned in Lepoglava, Bulešić was preparing himself for martyrdom.
Msgr. Josip Pavlišić, his brother in Christ and later on archbishop of Rijeka and Senj, on August 23, 1997 in a church in Lanišće testified: ‘In late spring of 1947, three months before he died, Miro Bulešić told me about white and red martyrdom. Even then he was already
preparing himself for martyrdom. He said to the boys in the seminary: ‘Being a priest means being a martyr.’ At the beginning of March, 1947, vice-principal Bulešić took it upon himself that the huge cross which was sacrilegiously removed by the hooligans from the atrium of the seminary was returned to its original place.
In the late June of 1947, addressing God, he wrote in his diary: “If it is Your will, I wish to come to You as soon as possible. “ Even though he was still very young, he was respected as a priest, so his opponents were just waiting for the right moment.
MARTYRDOM FOR HIS FAITH
In August of 1947, Miroslav Bulešić, as the vice - principal of the seminary in Pazin and the secretary of the College of St. Pauls clerics for Istria, was accompanying a delegate of the Holy See, Msgr. Jakob Ukmar, to the celebration of the sacrament of the Holy Confirmation in Buzet and neighboring parishes. On September 5, 1954 Ukmar wrote the following about Bulešić to Msgr. Mario Pavato in Rome: ‘When I was visiting parishes where Holy Confirmation was to be celebrated, he was very willing to assist me.’ On Saturday, August 23, 1947, when angry communists came to the parish church in Buzet with intention to stop the Holy Confirmation, Bulešić defended the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament with his own body. ‘You can pass through here only over my dead body’, Bulešić said to them. He was very pale but completely calm as he was standing at the altar facing those coming towards him. When being asked whether he was afraid to go to Lanišće he replied: ‘You can die only once.’ The next day, August 24, 1947, on the feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, Holy Confirmation was celebrated in Lanišće.
In his official report to the Trieste Episcopal Ordinariate dated November 12, 1947, Ukmar wrote: ‘After the celebration of Holy Confirmation in the church and Mass celebrated by Rev. Miroslav Bulešić we were on our way to the parish house. Fifteen minutes later, when those who were late for Confirmation were confirmed, around 11 a.m. rebels entered the house and stabbed Rev.Bulešić to death.
He was standing by the door. I came to the lobby and saw him lying on the floor dead surrounded by villains. I went to the bedroom where not a minute later I was brutally beaten and left lying on the floor covered in blood. They thought I was dead so they left me lying there and went looking for the parish priest. They could not find him because he hid himself. I was lying there unconscious for some around 20 hours ...’. Bulešić was killed with multiple stabs in the throat and his blood was all over the lobby wall of the parish house.
According to the eye witnesses, Bulešić, who knew he was going to die, said: ‘Jesus, take my soul.’
The then government did not allow for his body to be buried in Svetvinčenat, parish where he was born, but decided he be buried in Lanišće. It was not until 1958 that they allowed for his remains to be transferred to Svetvinčenat. He was buried at the cemetery near the main entrance of the church of St. Vincent the Martyr. In 2003 his remains were relocated to the parish church.
From 1998 to 2004 in the diocese of Poreč and Pula, an official investigation about life and martyrdom of Miroslav Bulešić was conducted and in 2004 its results were submitted to the Congregation in Rome.
On February 12, 2013 the Secretariat of State wrote that the Holy Father Benedict XVI allowed for the ceremony of beatification to be celebrated on Saturday, September 28, 2013 in the diocese of Poreč and Pula.
Pope Francis’ representative at the beatification was Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.