19 November 2018
Ad limina

Church in constant growth

The Croatian Bishops Visit to the Dicastery

Since the end of the war with Yugoslavia in 1995, the Croatian Church has gradually succeeded in getting back on its feet and today counts 4 Archdioceses, including one directly responsible to the Holy See, 13 Suffragan Dioceses (with one in Serbian territory and one in Montenegro) and a Military Bishopric. These numbers confirm that the Church is in constant growth in the Country: Catholics have increased from 76% at that time to approximately 88% today. These are some of the data which the Bishops discussed during their visit to the Dicastery a few days ago.

The Bishops said that this growth is certainly not without pitfalls.  The number of faithful who are drifting away from or living their faith in a marginal manner is on the increase in all the parishes while the number of young people who attend mass on Sundays and Feast Days is decreasing.

In Croatia, clericalism is still too strong and lay participation in the life of the Church too timid.  Similarly, many Catholics have difficulty in declaring they are such in the public arena, as if the Phantom of Communism continues to project its long shadow on people’s behaviour.

On the other hand, there have been various efforts in the lay community to contrast this trend.  In the dioceses and the parishes where pastoral care exists and works, there is a good number of lay faithful involved, and they are particularly active in catechesis, in the liturgy but above all in education. The Bishops are watchful and attentive to the theme of young people: they have made the hour of religious education in the Country’s public schools their personal battle convinced that it is one of the best channels for communicating the rich religious patrimony of the Country to the young generations, they have always defended Catholic parents’ right to educate their children in line with the teaching of the Church and, likewise, they have been in the front line n Europe to ask that crucifixes not be removed from classrooms.

Forbidden during Communism, Catholic associations are having difficulty in taking off in many dioceses but we are seeing the signs of a slow awakening.  Associations of an international character are of great help in this process because, in addition to offering a concrete model from which to draw inspiration, they contribute to the spiritual growth of their members and apostolic work in Society.

 If there is a theme on which the Croatian Episcopal Conference pounds incessantly, it is the theme of life: pastoral letters, National Days for Life, appeals, interviews. Every means is good to reiterate the centrality of human life and its inalienable dignity from conception until natural death. This preoccupation reverberates on the organization of the Church itself: in fact, in all the dioceses  there is an advice centre for the protection of life and the family, in addition to the national bodies of the Episcopal Conference and, at election times the Bishops have always approached the faithful asking them to remain watchful and to choose only candidates who propose programmes in keeping with the principals for protecting life.

In conclusion,  in order to promote the family as the “the Church’s centre of attention” “the path of the Church and the Nation” “bringer of life, hope and future of Croatia”, the pastors operate through numerous advice centres for marriage and the family (BIOS) distributed throughout the territory of the Croatian dioceses, namely 18 Advice Centres for Marriage and the Family which, over twenty years of activity, have met with 47 thousand people, 12,500 couples and 16,500 family units.