Cardinal Bozanić celebrated the Holy Mass on the Feast of Alojzije Stepinac



Cardinal Josip Bozanić, the Archbishop of Zagreb, celebrated the Holy Mass on the Feast of Alojzije Stepinac in Stepinac's Zagreb cathedral on Monday, 10 February 2020.

On the sixtieth anniversary of the Blessed martyr’s death alongside Cardinal Bozanić, Apostolic Nuncio to Croatia Msgr. Giorgio Lingua, the Archbishop of Zadar and the President of the Croatian Bishops' Conference Msgr. Želimir Puljić, the Archbishop of Rijeka Msgr.Ivan Devčić, the Archbishop emeritus of Đakovo and Osijek Msgr. Marin Srakić, the Bishop of Gospić and Senj Msgr. Zdenko Križić, Military Ordinary of the Republic of Croatia Msgr. Jure Bogdan, the Bishop of Sisak Msgr. Vlado Košić, the Bishop of Bjelovar and Križevci Msgr. Vjekoslav Huzjak, the Bishop of Hvar Msgr.Petar Palić, the Eparch emeritus of the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Križevci Msgr. Nikola Kekić, Apostolic Administrator  of the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Križevci Msgr. Milan Stipić, Auxiliary Bishop emeritus of Zagreb  Msgr.Valentin Pozaić, Auxiliary Bishops of Zagreb Msgr. Ivan Šaško and Msgr. Mijo Gorski  as well as more than a hundred priests concelebrated the Holy Mass. 

As the Mission Cross, the symbol of this year's International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest was installed in the Zagreb cathedral a few days ago, on behalf of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest Péter Erdöe, the Auxiliary Bishop of Esztergom-Budapest Gábor Mohos attended the Mass, as did the representatives of the Custodial Curia of the Holy Land vicar Fr. Dobromir Jasztal and the Guardian of the Holy Sepulchre Fr. Siniša Srebrenović from Jerusalem, who were present because at this year's Feast of Alojzije Stepinac Cardinal Bozanić blessed the foundation stone for the Croatian chapel which will be built at the Shepherd's Field in Bethlehem.

Cardinal Bozanić began his homily by recounting the last moments of the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac’s life, as they were written down by Josip Vraneković,a parson in Krašić sixty years ago. The Cardinal then moved on to interpret the readings from the Scripture where St. Paul says to the Corinthians. „For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.“ 

Jesus tells us that the grain which dies „bears much fruit“. The readings from the Scripture say: abundance of comfort, abundance of fruit. This is the very reason Jesus was born to this world, and this reason is summarised in a single sentence of the Gospel: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full“(John 10:10). Abundance of comfort, abundance of fruit, abundance of life... Aren't those things which appeal to every human being?  In the end, we all strive for them, only paths and places we look for them vary. Rarely, which is completely understandable, these things are related to death, the Cardinal clarified.

Reflecting on the sixtieth anniversary of Archbishop Stepinac's death, the Cardinal said that we can „accordingly recognize comfort, fruit and life germinating from that dead grain. This does not apply only to Stepinac's death because his furrow was made long before, because this grain grew– in humility and faithfulness to the Lord and then ripened and bore fruit in his imitation of Christ. Sixty years ago Stepinac's death to his enemies seemed as an ending which soil had to keep hidden forever. The final goal wasn't just the Archbishop but the Church, and consequently Christ and Christianity. It does not come as a surprise that the communist authorities were confused and uncertain when faced with the dilemma where to bury the Cardinal. They had their reasons. They were assessing political influences and movements. They thought that they could stop growth by choosing a place, ground and a headstone. However, God's grain shoots up regardless of the headstone the dead body is laid under“, Cardinal Bozanić explained.

In Croatia and worldwide Stepinac's martyrdom got new branches and saplings.  His death and beatification strongly resonated as the entire life of Church and the Croatian people was seen in that light. The same is today.” The Cardinal said that the presence of the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac stayed alive, encouraging and appealing for communities of believers and  via various educational, cultural, sport and other social institutions, in artwork, names and symbols in our everyday life, in towns and places we live in. „Stepinac's presence doesn't live only in our homeland.  External trail can be followed from Krašić and Zagreb, from this very Cathedral where Stepinac’s tomb became a centre of pilgrimage and now attracts many believers who come here and pray to the martyr, a symbol of freedom of conscience and Christian hope. It is here that the blessed martyr Alojzije continuously testifies his deep bond with Jesus Christ, the Grain who was elevated to the cross and won a victory over sin and death. So we came here tonight to our Blessed Alojzije because we feel He touches our hearts in our hopes and sufferings.”

Cardinal Bozanić said that the Mission Cross, a symbol of the International Eucharistic Congress which will take place in Budapest in September 2020, was with them that day i.e. on the Feast of the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac. He continued explaining why this reliquary is so unique. ”In the centre of the cross is the relic of the True Cross on which the Son of God was crucified and redeemed us. The Mission Cross is ornamented with bronze tendrils which appear to stem from its root i.e. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice at the Calvary. These bronze tendrils contain relics of saints and the blessed thus symbolizing an inner bond and indivisibility of Christ and his disciples. It is also a symbol of the saints and the blessed being the fruit giving seed for the life of the world.  This Cross is a remarkable reliquary containing relics of thirty-two saints and blessed, sixteen of which were martyrs; eleven of them from the Central and Eastern Europe in the communist period and the five from other periods. 

He also said how in Croatia and other countries which had been under the Communist regime there are still attempts to create a misimpression of these past events, but that the Mission Cross’ flower garden of martyrs speaks of reality and indescribable human cruelty and amazing acts of love. The Cardinal warned us against the times we live in by saying that it is not easier, only outwardly disguised as easier and therefore more lethal. Martyrdom is omnipresent in the Church throughout history of Christianity, he said, and added that the Mission Cross contains relics of St. Marko Krizin, blessed Alojzije Stepinac and sisters of the Congregation of the Daughters of Divine Charity known as the Martyrs of Drina.

Cardinal Bozanić continued his homily by explaining the connection between blessed Alojzije Stepinac and the presence of the symbol of the International Eucharistic Congress i.e. the Mission Cross in the Zagreb Cathedral. Citing Stepinac’s homily about the Holy Eucharist as the unique bond of love between God and man, Cardinal Bozanić commented how blessed Alojzije Stepinac in 1938 participated in the Eucharistic Congress which had then taken place in Budapest. Cardinal Bozanić continued speaking of this year’s Congress and added how its motto was taken from the Book of Psalms: “All my springs are in you.” (Psalm 87:7) and how its significant sign is the Mission Cross installed in the Cathedral. Christians read this verse in the light of Jesus Christ, in the light of the Eucharist which is the most alive and the deepest bond with God, who transforms us by love of our brothers and sisters. 

According to Cardinal’s words, Europe today is at a threatening danger of separation from the source of life because when one does not recognize God and does not worship God, the purpose of life is lost. It is about the peril of materialism which is promoted under new names and new means, and “it is always about the gift of life and dignity of man whom God created in his own image. Where the gift of life is not honoured, selfishness and various conflicts begin”, Cardinal said and continued: “As the Church we noticed that a lot of things experienced ideological development in the context of communism and remained as such a major influence in society today. Foremost, it is the ideological pressure on perception of man, value of human life from conception to his natural death, pressure on conscience of people in delicate ethical fields such as education systems. It is necessary to add that the believers of Central and Eastern Europe are particularly sensitive to freedom of religion which was oppressed and mocked so different ideologies could be formed. It also includes attempts to manipulate the nature of family, to adopt legal provisions for new “human rights” which are a part of certain ideologies; to leave certain areas undefined under the pretence of freedom, which it is not. Pope Francis tells us: “Respecting a child’s dignity means affirming his or her need and natural right to have a mother and a father.”

In the final part of his homily the Cardinal spoke to the youth who are in preparations for this year’s National Meeting of Croatian Catholic Youth in Zagreb. Speaking of its motto the Cardinal sent them a message: “Dear youth, in blessed Alojzije Stepinac you see that God has a plan for each of you. Let your hearts today echo the words.” -Do whatever he tells you!- Answer God’s when he is calling you to the priesthood, monasticism or marriage, a gift to be Christian spouses and parents, to live the joy of your faith in Croatia, your homeland.”

At the end of his homily the Cardinal encouraged all believers to move forward with our youth. “Let us be bearers of good and self-confidence, disseminators of positive atmosphere in Croatia. Stepinac set an example in comfort and hope that does not disappoint, so let us accept responsibility for our times, where the Lord placed us to fulfil His purpose for us, enlightening our conscience. Let Blessed Alojzije be our teacher! Let him teach us how to trust God and be kind! For everything we find too difficult, impossible or invincible; for everything which burdens our families, our Church and the Croatian people, let us pray the Lord through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Blessed Alojzije Stepinac and our prayers will bear in fruit. – are the Cardinal’s final words. 

The Press Office of the Zagreb Archdiocese