Msgr. Dražen Kutleša Assumes Canonical Possession of the Archdiocese of Zagreb

Msgr. Dražen Kutleša assumed canonical possession of the Archdiocese of Zagreb during an Eucharistic celebration in the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac Place of Worship on Saturday, April 29, the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church and co-patron saint of Europe.
At the beginning of the celebration, those assembled were addressed by the Archbishop Emeritus of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić.

Cardinal Bozanić thanked the entire Church of Zagreb and all those who “for over twenty-five years have collaborated with me in leading the Archdiocese of Zagreb, especially those who shared the burden of responsibility with me. These are, first of all, our auxiliary bishops, then priests, the older ones whose ranks have thinned, as well as the younger ones, most of whom I ordained. Thank you, dear brothers, for the trust and solidarity you have shown in what we started together. I thank the religious brothers and sisters for their selfless service to God and the nation. I thank Christ’s many dear lay faithful, religious teachers, catechists, educators, Church councilors, all the faithful and self-sacrificing collaborators in our Church. With your prayers, support and cooperation, it was possible to do something but also to persevere amidst the trials and difficulties I encountered in leading the Archdiocese of Zagreb,” said Cardinal Bozanić, and called for everyone to receive his successor with love, loyalty and trust.

There followed the reading of Pope Francis’ bull on the appointment of Msgr. Dražen Kutleša as Coadjutor Bishop of Zagreb. The bull was read aloud by the Apostolic Nuncio in the Republic of Croatia, Msgr. Giorgio Lingua.

After the reading of the bull, Cardinal Bozanić handed the crosier of the Archbishop of Zagreb to Archbishop Kutleša.

Archbishop Kutleša said in his sermon that we look to the apostles as role models, who “bore witness to their faith in eternal life with their lives and some with their blood. This encourages us, even in the valley of death, ‘surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, to rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us’ (Heb 12:1). The Church in Zagreb is adorned by many such witnesses. Some of them confessed their faith in the Risen Christ with their own blood, such as St. Mark of Križevci; while others, such as Blessed Augustin Kažotić, Blessed Ivan Merz, Servant of God Bishop Josip Lang, the Franciscans Ante Antić and Vendelin Vošnjak, and Marica Stanković, witnessed a foretaste of heaven during their lives through their evangelical lives and surrender to Divine Providence,” said Archbishop Kutleša.

He pointed out that, in a special way, his eyes are fixed upon two of his predecessors, “paragons of episcopal service: Blessed Alojzije Stepinac and Cardinal Franjo Kuharić. Providence wanted me to be appointed as the Archbishop of Zagreb on the birthday of the Servant of God Cardinal Franjo Kuharić, and Cardinal Kuharić himself constantly looked to the role models who came before him. Thus, speaking of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, he says: ‘He who has a clear conscience and knows that he suffers unjustly cannot be unhappy.’ […] His motto was In You, Lord, I trust, his motto was hope. This was not impersonal, nebulous hope but rather certainty from faith,” said Msgr. Kutleša, quoting Cardinal Kuharić.

Msgr. Kutleša added that the hope of Christians is God. “Love for God and the Church removes every fear from our hearts before the challenges that await us all because ‘there is no fear in love’ (1 Jn 4:18). Therefore, I ask you, dear faithful of the Archdiocese of Zagreb and all Croatia, to pray that I may receive the abundance of spirit (cf. 2 Kgs 2:9) received by these paragons of our Church. May the Lord grant me Cardinal Stepinac’s leadership ability, constancy and the firmness of a clear conscience, and Cardinal Kuharić’s gentle love,” said the Archbishop of Zagreb.

At the end of the sermon, he emphasized that “the future of the Church and nation depend upon internal change and the values that an individual decides to live by. In order to achieve changes that will be in the service of man, based upon evangelical values, first of all the conversion of the individual, i.e., each one of us, is needed (cf. CCC, 1888). Therefore, let us renew our personal love of Jesus Christ, Crucified and Resurrected, fidelity to the Church and Church doctrine, and our trust and love for our fellow men. Let us personally be the light of Christ, the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Mt 5:13,14),” concluded Archbishop Kutleša.

On behalf of all the members of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, Archbishop and Metropolitan Đuro Hranić of Đakovo-Osijek welcomed the new Archbishop of Zagreb. Archbishop Hranić said that “the cathedra of the Archbishop of Zagreb, with its history and significance, has a particular status, importance and weight in the life of the Church among the Croatian nation and beyond.”

He added that being appointed as the Archbishop of Zagreb represents a great honor and trust, but also “a great responsibility and demanding cross,” owing to the great expectations of the Church and general public and “due to the objective circumstances, challenges and difficulties amidst which you are beginning your ministry today. A strong and eloquent symbol of these objective difficulties is the fact that you could not be installed in your cathedral, badly damaged by the earthquake, but instead in this substitute liturgical space. The cathedral is shackled with scaffolding. These scaffolds cannot and must not be replaced easily because their removal would cause additional danger. These scaffolds also speak of certain conditionalities, within which every person, even you as the Archbishop of Zagreb and President of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, must perform your duties,” said the Archbishop of Đakovo-Osijek.

Archbishop Hranić reassured Archbishop Kutleša that he is not alone. “The Risen Lord constantly strengthens you, inspires you and leads you with his Holy Spirit, and the Church is with you. A bishop is united with God and other bishops, headed by the Pope, through his identity and office,” he said.

He added that “in this faithful thanksgiving to the Lord, we are also united with Cardinal Josip Bozanić, who over the past twenty-six years has persistently and patiently imprinted his pastoral love upon the countenance of this particular Church and for over thirty years upon the countenance of our nation.”

The Dean of the Deanery of Karlovac and Pastor of the Parish of the Most Holy Heart of Jesus in Karlovac, the Very Reverend Dražen Karačić, spoke on behalf of the clergy of the Archdiocese of Zagreb. At the beginning of his remarks, he thanked Cardinal Josip Bozanić for everything he has done for the Archdiocese. “During the over twenty-five years of your administration of our archdiocese, you have left your mark, shouldering the everyday joys and burdens, concerns and misfortunes of your priests and your nation. I thank you on behalf of the priests you have added to the order of the presbyterate by the laying of your hands. As a good father, you rejoiced at every success of your priests in our Church but also carried the crosses of the many failures and failings of your sons. Mentioning you every day during the Eucharist, we were together with you in the Spirit. We are grateful to God for our common journey and for every word of encouragement, directed to us in various ways and to the faithful entrusted to us,” said Fr. Karačić to Cardinal Bozanić.

Addressing Archbishop Kutleša, he said: “We accept you with open hearts as our new pastor, our confrère in Christ’s priesthood, promising you our cooperation and obedience on our common path. As evidenced in the beginnings of the Church, which we contemplate during this time of Pentecost, we can only truly fulfill our calling with the Lord and his Spirit and mutual fellowship. We want you, together with us, presbyters, religious and consecrated persons, to continue from where we came with your predecessors, for you to provide incentive and encouragement in the demanding times before us for the proclamation of the good news, for the formation of our lives and the life of the society according to the mystery of Christ, and for serving every person in love, protecting him from ruin,” said Fr. Karačić.

On behalf of the lay faithful, Zorana Sokol Gojnik, a member of the Second Synod of the Archdiocese of Zagreb and a laywoman of the Parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Zagreb, welcomed Archbishop Kutleša: “On behalf of the lay faithful, present in all the strata of our society, I express to your our willingness to build the community of this Church in Zagreb and for the vitality of its mission, promising that we will entrust you and the entire archdiocese through prayer to the One who invites us to follow his path and illuminates our way. Dear Archbishop, may our openness and willingness express our sincere congratulations and encouragement for the blessed beginning of your service as Archbishop in our Archdiocese of Zagreb,” she said.

She also addressed Cardinal Bozanić, thanking him “for your bold synodal strides and for the small and large gestures by which you stimulated the germination of the good news that has inspired the body of our particular Church.” adding that “we want to promise closeness in prayer, in the knowledge that seeds that are still sprouting will bear the fruits of the “news of life.”

At the end of the celebration of the Mass, Archbishop Kutleša addressed those assembled and thanked God for all the periods of his life’s journey, for his family and all the people God has sent into his life, through whom God shaped him and revealed his goodness. “I express my thanks for every good and grace that I have received,” he said.

He addressed the priests, calling them his first collaborators and added that “to have pastors after the Heart of God is the most precious gift that God can give a nation. As true pastors and role models of the flock, let us be constantly immersed in the needs of the people entrusted to us,” said the Archbishop.

To the faithful, he said: “Building a more just society, in which human rights will be recognized and protected, and economic and political relations will be regulated in a way that serves the well-being of all people, is a challenge in which an indispensable role will be played by all the faithful, women and men, who, like St. Catherine, love the Church and all people with Christ’s heart, not abandoning them to perdition, even amidst the greatest storms.

“This Church, dear believers, is counting on you and guarantees you its closeness. The variety of charisms that the Spirit of God bestows upon you, because it blows where it wills, enriches the Church and makes it a pleasant abode for the weary and oppressed of our time. The active Christian love you are called to exercise where you are, where you live and work, excludes no one. Spread sympathy and compassion. Let them be ahead of your temporal interests, petty gains and all the increasing hustle and bustle that cloud our view of heaven,” said Msgr. Kutleša.

Then he said that “we are all called in society to protect the family in the first place, and to protect children in a special way. You, dear families, are the origin of all that is good, especially the honest and righteous individuals whom you will procreate and who will build this society,” concluded Archbishop Kutleša.

The Mass was concelebrated by the apostolic nuncios in the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Slovenia, archbishops and bishops from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia and Northern Macedonia, religious provincials and numerous priests of the Archdiocese of Zagreb.

The Mass was attended by Speaker Gordan Jandroković of the Croatian Parliament, members of the Parliament, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković of the Republic of Croatia and government ministers, the envoy of the President of the Republic of Croatia, Neven Pelicarić; representatives of the executive and judicial authorities, prefects, mayors, representatives of the city and municipal authorities, representatives and members of academic, scientific, cultural and educational institutions, members of the diplomatic corps, and representatives of Christian Churches and other religious communities.
In addition to Archbishop Kutleša’s family members, relatives and friends, numerous faithful of the Archdiocese of Zagreb, religious, theologians and seminarians participated in the celebration. The liturgical singing was led by the Choralists of the Zagreb Cathedral, conducted by Maestro Miroslav Martinjak. 
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