The Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanic, said on Wednesday that attempts to discredit the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac had been transferred to the political arena and that criticisms of Stepinac were actually criticisms of his advocacy of the Croatian people’s right to its own state, where true values could be built in line with principles of Christianity.
“It was more than once that we heard objections to his circular to the clergy of the Zagreb Archdiocese on the occasion of the establishment of the State of Croatia, of 28 April 1941,” Bozanic said at a service held on the occasion of Ash Wednesday and the Day of the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac in the Zagreb Cathedral, which was attended, among others, by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Parliament Speaker Zeljko Reiner and government members.
Bozanic stressed that in the circular letter Stepinac did not glorify any political party and political regime nor did he advocate a state founded on crime.
Bozanic underlined Stepinac’s statement in which he said that “we must warn and learn that the holy and noble enthusiasm about building the foundations of the new State of Croatia should be inspired by the fear of God and love for God’s laws and commands because the State of Croatia can have solid foundations only if built on God’s laws rather than of the false principles of this world.”
Bozanic asked if there was in Stepinac’s sentence anything that could not be supported or signed today, wondering if Stepinac’s enthusiasm and love for his own people was held against him.
“Or maybe what is held against him is his call on the faithful to pray for the state leaders, as if that had not been done before and later, and as if that was not done today,” Bozanic said, adding that the authenticity of Stepinac’s statements were evidenced by the fact that after only two weeks (14 May 1941), as soon as he received the news, he strongly protested with Ustasha commander Ante Pavelic against executions in Glina.
The Zagreb archbishop went on to say that Stepinac’s statements were statements by someone who was not a member of a party authority or a regime and who was not responsible for any specific policies.
“The Blessed Alojzije courageously and in difficult times of war and dictatorship identified evil regardless of its source,” he said, adding that this made Stepinac unpopular with all ruling structures in this region.
“We often hear today that we, Croats, should come to terms with our past,” Bozanic said, adding that there were people who wanted to compromise Croatians’ freedom and national pride by returning them to the past and distorting the truth about it.
He also noted that there were those who, while running away from the historical truth and their own past, were saying that “we should turn to the future.” Those people want to obfuscate the truth, deny injustices, not speak up about their own past and they act as would-be peacemakers and righteous people, “trying to build a new kind of cosmopolitism, not grounded in history.”
Both groups share the same, evident goal, he said. “The future cannot be built on oblivion, just as there is no hope where there is no grateful remembrance and willingness to forgive,” he said.
“The truth cannot suffer exaggerations or denial of historical facts, it does not suffer myths and does not make room for distorting history for the purpose of achieving some new goals,” Bozanic said, adding that the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac served as a landmark for “coming to terms without our past and joyful hope about our future” and that developments related to the process of his canonisation should serve to epitomise that harmonious approach.