DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     October 6, 1998     vol. 9, no. 195

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- During a weekend visit to Croatia, highlighted by the beatification of that country's revered Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, Pope John Paul II emphasized the need to restore the heritage of that historically Catholic nation, after years of Communist oppression.

          Arriving in Zagreb on October 2 to begin his 84th apostolic voyage, the Pope said that his trip was "a pilgrimage of faith, hope, and love." He was greeted by large, applauding crowds, which lined the streets from the airport to the city. He was also warmly greeted by President Franjo Tudjman, who appeared alongside the Holy Father at each public event on the papal itinerary.

          The Pope appealed for reconciliation in Croatia, and for efforts to overcome the wounds caused by years of warfare: the ethnic battles of the early 20th century, the internal struggles that accompanied the two world wars, the years of Communist rule, and the vicious fighting that marked the break-up of what was once Yugoslavia. He urged Croatians to put the past behind them, and prepare to greet the new millennium.

          On Saturday, October 3, the Pope presided at the beatification of Cardinal Stepinac, at the Marian sanctuary of Marija Bistrica-- where the newly beatified prelate has made his own annual pilgrimages. The Pope spoke of Cardinal Stepinac as a "martyr to Communism" as well as a hero for the Croatian Church and the Croatian people.

          Cardinal Stepinac died in December 1960, evidently as the result of poisons administered during the years when he had been a prisoner of the Tito regime. He was imprisoned after being charged with treason when he refused Tito's request to set up an "independent" Croatian Catholic Church, forsaking his allegiance to Rome. Through his suffering in prison and later under house arrest, the Pope said, Cardinal Stepinac "had participated in a singular fashion in the Paschal mystery." The last 15 years of his life were a period of constant suffering, the Holy Father added, during which the Croatian prelate was a heroic witness to the sustaining power of faith.

          On Saturday, meeting with Croatian cultural leaders at the apostolic nunciature, the Pope evoked themes from his forthcoming encyclical on the relationship between faith and reason. He deplored the tendency to set up a "sterile opposition" between the life of faith and that of reason, and insisted that the alliance between faith and reason was the best guarantee of intellectual progress. One of the fruits of such an alliance, he predicted, would be "a new ethical and spiritual flourishing" in Croatia, through which the country could rebuild its culture-- long suppressed by Communism-- while avoiding the temptations toward consumerism and hedonism.

          On Sunday, Pope John Paul presided at a solemn Eucharistic liturgy in Split, on the Dalmatian coast, to celebrate the 1700th anniversary of the founding of that diocese there. He prayed that the occasion might give the Croatian Church a new missionary zeal, and repeated his caution that the country's liberation from Communism should lead to a truly democratic government, which should not be based on the principles of unbridled individualism but on mutual respect and solidarity.

          A massive congregation estimated at 500,000 greeted the Pope in Split; many of the worshipers had come from neighboring Bosnia- Herzegovina for the occasion, in a pilgrimage led by Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo. Their participation was in part a recognition of the fact that the Church founded in Split was instrumental in bringing the Gospel to the neighboring regions.

          After Archbishop Ante Juric of Split greeted the Pope, the Holy Father voiced the desire to see a new burst of evangelization emanating from the historic city. He told the congregation to work for "a new springtime of the faith" in Croatia. And he urged Catholics to play a leading role in the transformation of their culture-- although, in an apparent bid to avoid being too closely identified with nationalist sentiments-- he added that the effort must always be marked by "humility."

          As he prepared to board the plane for his return flight to Rome, the Pope recapitulated the main themes of his visit. Once again he urged the Croatian people to reclaim their Christian heritage, to pursue "the process of democratization of society and civil institutions," and to heal the wounds of the closing century. But the new Croatian society, he stressed once again, must be founded on "the moral values written in man's common nature."

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

October 6, 1998       volume 9, no. 195


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