Saints and Martyrs

Cardinal Stepinac – biography

Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac - biography
History always balances its accounts. For years the Communists endeavoured to separate Croat Catholics from the Pope. They used all means to sever Church unity: vane pledges and threats; bribery and murder; trickery and torture.

The focal point in that artificial conglomeration, Yugoslavia, and other satellite countries to Moscow - was identical: the communist notion of the state must not allow the existence of any "alien powers" on its territory, much less that these "powers" be somehow tied to "foreign" or "supra-national institutions". What disturbed the communist dream most were the tight ties of local Churches with the Pope.

In Tito's Yugoslavia, that Yugoslavia where communism had a "human face", Stepinac was arrested in 1946, sentenced during a shameful trial, imprisoned, and detained until his death (10 February 1960) because his response to those communist efforts was calm and firmly "No!" He said "no" to attractive proposals and then confirmed his "no" when faced with force.
"My conscience is clear and calm. If you will not give me the right, history will give me that right", he said during that "deplorable trial".

It was the victory of history that was witnessed on Saturday, 3 October 1998 when St. Peter's Successor - that Peter that Stepinac remained loyal to, to the point of martyrdom - as he pilgrimaged to the Marija Bistrica shrine, to the place where Stepinac himself most liked to pilgrimage to and pray. A pilgrimage that reached its peak in the beatification that recognized that Croatian cardinal as a martyr.
8 May 1898: Alojzije Stepinac was born in Brezaric, Krasic parish, about 50 kilometers from Zagreb. Croatia was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

Summer 1916: After attending high school in Zagreb conscripted in World War I to the Italian front. He was captured. Later he enrolled as a volunteer and was deployed to Salonica.

Spring 1919: He returned to Krasic and dedicated himself to a rural life. This was the time of his great choice. He enrolled in university and became engaged (1923) but both experiences were brief.

July 1924: Decides to become a priest.

28 October 1924: Enters the Pontifical Germanicum-Hungaricum College in Rome. Attends seven years at the Pontifical Gregoriana University.

26 October 1930: On the feast of Christ the King, ordained in Rome as a priest. Ordained with him too was Franjo Seper (born 1905) who on 5 March 1960 became Stepinac's successor to the Zagreb Archdiocese. On 1 November, Stepinac says his first Mass in the Santa Maria Maggiore basilica.

19 July 1931: Celebrated his first Mass in Krasic.

1 October 1931: Appointed the Archbishop's Master of Ceremonies

24 December 1931: 'Founded the Zagreb Archdiocesan Caritas

28 May 1934: Pope Pius XI appoints him as the Archbishop Coadjutor with the right to succeed Antun Bauer. His Bishop's motto was: In te, Domine, speravi, (I place my trust in you my Lord)

24 June 1934: Ordained a bishop. Immediately began intensive activities: visiting numerous parishes and initiating traditional pilgrimages to the Marija Bis-trica shrine.

July 1937: Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

7 December 1937: Archbishop Bauer dies and Stepinac is appointed Zagreb's Archbishop. Tirelessly dedicated himself to human rights, primarily in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and then, particularly during World War II, in the Independent State of Croatia. During the Nazi occupation he is not afraid to publicly and courageously defend the rights of the persecuted: Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and Croats.

17 May 1945: Archbishop Stepinac's first arrest, nine days after the Communists came to power. He was released on 3 June.

4 June 1945: Stepinac met with Tito.

22 September 1945: Joint Pastoral Letter by Croatian bishops pointing out the existence of Communist violence.

4 November 1945: Attempted assassination on Stepinac in Zapresic. Compelled to stop any pastoral visits outside Zagreb.

18 September 1946: At 5.30 a.m. arrested in the Archbishop's Palace while preparing to imprisonment and the loss of all civil and political rights for five years.

19 October 1946: Imprisoned in Lepoglava. 5 December

1951: Transferred to house arrest in the Krasic presbytery where he remained until his death.

25 September 1952: The Non licet document released according to which bishops forbade registration to the "Association of Priests" which the Communists made up in an attempt to destroy the Church's unity.

12 January 1953: Pope Pius XII announces Stepinac's elevation to a cardinal.

10 February 1960: Died in Krasic

13 February 1960: Funeral in Zagreb's cathedral where he is buried.

17 February 1960: Pope John XXIII gives his shattering speech during the memorial Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

4 December 1980: The process for the cause of saints commenced. The first step was taken by Msgr. Franjo Kuharic on 14 November 1969, the then Apostolic Administrator of Zagreb Archdiocese. A special plea for the cause of saints was submitted to the Pope on 17 February 1979 by two of Stepinac's successors: Cardinal Franjo Seper, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Msgr. Franjo Kuharic, Archbishop of Zagreb.

14 February 1992: The Croatian Parliament annulled the sentence against Stepinac.

10 September 1994: During his first pastoral visit to Zagreb, Pope John Paul II prayed at Stepinac's grave. The Pope's speech about the courageous Cardinal was greeted with long-standing applause.

3 July 1998: In the presence of the Pope at the Vatican, a Decree by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints is read to confirm Stepinac's martyrdom.

3 October 1998: During his second pastoral visit to Croatia Pope John Paul II beatified Stepinac at the Marija Bistrica shrine.
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