On Friday, May 19, 2023, faithful from the Archdiocese of Zagreb, as well as others parts of Croatia and the world, gathered at the Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb to bid farewell to Msgr. Dr. Valentin Pozaić, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Zagreb. Among those assembled were many members of the Croatian Catholic Medical Society (CCMS), in which Bishop Pozaić had served as the first ecclesiastical assistant from the founding of the CCMS in 1991 to 2018, when he resigned for health reasons.
The funeral rites for the late Bishop Pozaić, who died on May 15 at the age of seventy-seven, in the fiftieth year of his priesthood and the nineteenth year of his episcopate, were led by Msgr. Dražen Kutleša, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Zagreb. In addition to Bishop Pozaić’s relatives, the funeral was attended by the Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, the Auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese of Zagreb, Msgr. Dr. Ivan Šaško and Msgr. Mijo Gorski, a large number of Croatian archbishops and bishops, members of the Croatian Province of the Society of Jesus, headed by Provincial Fr. Dalibor Renić, provincials of religious communities, many priests, religious and the faithful.
After the introductory hymn sung by seminarians from the Archdiocese of Zagreb, Bishop Gorski expressed his condolences to those present and read a telegram from the State Secretary of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, which states: “Remembering the deceased prelate and his conscientious service to the Church, for which he performed sensitive ecclesiastical duties during his life, the Supreme Pontiff asks the Lord to grant him the eternal reward promised to the faithful ministers of the gospel and bestows an apostolic blessing filled with consolation upon all who mourn his departure.”
On behalf of the members of the Croatian Catholic Medical Society, the President of the CCMS, Assoc. Prof. Rok Čivljak, bid farewell to the late Bishop Pozaić: “You left us a great legacy: the love of God, the love of our fellow man and the love of our homeland, but also the quest for the sincere and compassionate care of our patients, fraternal love for our colleagues and faith in the progress of the Croatian Catholic Medical Society and the international associations of Catholic physicians,” he said. “Dear Bishop Pozaić, the members of the Croatian Catholic Medical Society will remember you with great respect and love because you incorporated your entire being into our Society. Without you, there would not even be a Croatian Catholic Medical Society and we members would have been the poorer for all that we received from you—and you gave us a lot,” added Prof. Čivljak.
In saying farewell to Bishop Pozaić, Archbishop Dražen Kutleša of the Archdiocese of Zagreb noted how “in this Easter season we proclaim with undiminished ardor that Christ has risen, that death has been vanquished forever. Today and always, the world expects words of encouragement and hope. The longing to hear the good news of the resurrection is inscribed in the human heart because our hearts are not created for death and separations. God wants this news to reverberate everywhere among the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the learned and the illiterate, the good and the bad. Jesus is God and the Risen Lord, the Lord and the Sovereign and Lover of Life. Such is the faith that Bishop Valentin professed all his life, so we believe that he has already received the legacy of his personal faith—eternal life,” said the Archbishop of Zagreb.
Archbishop Kutleša also recalled Bishop Pozaić’s words about the gift of faith: “Faith is like a bright light for us and our fellow travelers on our earthly pilgrimage toward the heavenly homeland because, when there is no light, everything becomes blurred and unclear. It is not possible to distinguish good from evil or the path that leads to the goal from the path in the wrong direction, on which we constantly spin in circles.”
“We thank the Lord for his example of the priesthood, religious life and episcopate because he was able to testify in freedom, sowing the Word of God with trust and confidence, knowing that fruits in Christ will never be lost and leaving everything to divine providence,” concluded Archbishop Kutleša.
At the end of the funeral rites, the Provincial of the Croatian Province of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Dalibor Renić, remarked how “Pater Pozaić had made his greatest contribution to the Croatian society as a promoter of bioethics. He literally brought bioethics as a discipline to Croatia. He established the Center for Bioethics in 1986, published many papers and books in this field, organized a number of symposia, appeared in the media, participated in state, Church and academic commissions, all of which was also on the international level. He especially wanted to include physicians and scientists in the promotion and defense of the value of human life and dignity, which he achieved as one of the founders and for many years the ecclesiastical assistant of the Croatian Catholic Medical Society. He never lost his pastoral touch and gladly ministered to the Missionaries of Charity, Caritas and AIDS patients at the University Hospital for Infectious Diseases,” said Fr. Renić.
Fr. Renić pointed out that Bishop Pozaić had selected the biblical words “Choose life” as his motto. He was convinced that a person can choose and should be trained to choose wisely and conscientiously. He was also known to quote Martin Luther King: “‘On some positions cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right?’” said the Provincial of the Croatian Province of the Society of Jesus.
Fr. Renić concluded with the following words: “Father Bishop, Pater Valentin, the Croatian Province of the Society of Jesus is proud of your 60 years of religious life. We are grateful for the repute that the Jesuits have achieved through you. It is our responsibility to justify it. May Christ the Lord, whom you selflessly followed, be your eternal reward, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Marija Bistrica, whose devoted and faithful little boy you remained to the end.”
Following the funeral, a Requiem Mass was offered for the late Bishop Pozaić, conducted by Cardinal Josip Bozanić in the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac Place of Worship. “Faithful to the Pope’s promotion of the gospel of life, he adopted ‘Choose life’ as his episcopal motto. In his will, he calls God the ‘Lover of life,’” said Cardinal Bozanić about Bishop Pozaić. He added: “We know Bishop Valentin as a man of clear principles and brief answers, as a pastor who leaves the impression of strict positions beneath which a heart full of love and tenderness burns, as a faithful and loyal bishop in all the circumstances of his service and life.”
During the Requiem Mass, the homily was delivered by Msgr. Ivan Šaško
, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Zagreb. He noted that “through Bishop Valentin, the Holy Spirit left a mark on many people, in some cases visible in the profound permeation of their life’s experiences, in some cases as a signature on a student’s record, in some cases as a meeting and conversation or as an act of mercy, and in some cases as the celebration of the mystery and spiritual closeness with regard to that which he expressly promoted.”