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Croatia’s Catholic bishops commend victims of pandemic and earthquakes to Virgin Mary

shutterstock_1714891249.jpg A crane removes an earthquake-damaged tower at Zagreb Cathedral in Croatia April 9, 2020. Credit: Miroslav Posavec via Shutterstock.

Croatia’s Catholic bishops on Tuesday commended “victims of the coronavirus pandemic and destructive earthquakes” to the intercession of the Virgin Mary.

In a statement issued on Jan. 19, at the end of their plenary meeting in the capital, Zagreb, the bishops mourned those who had died of the virus and natural disasters in the country. 

“We commend the entire homeland and all its citizens, especially the Archdiocese of Zagreb and the Diocese of Sisak, wounded by earthquakes, and all the victims of the coronavirus pandemic and destructive earthquakes, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Most Faithful Advocate,” the bishops said.

A magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck Zagreb on March 22, 2020, injuring 27 people including a teenage girl who died of her injuries. Then on Dec. 29 a magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit central Croatia, killing seven people and injuring 26 others. 

The bishops said: “Although we had hoped that the year 2021 would restore our much-needed security, a series of earthquakes first struck our capital city of Zagreb in March, and then the Banja region and Diocese of Sisak in December of last year.” 

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“Parts of cities and villages were destroyed. Unfortunately, some also lost loved ones in the earthquakes. Many families were suddenly left without anything. Those who had previously lived in the safety of their own homes found shelter in halls, campers, or container houses.” 

“Many churches in the Archdiocese of Zagreb and the Diocese of Sisak were destroyed or damaged, while the cathedrals in Zagreb and Sisak suffered extensive damage and had to be closed for worship.”

Amid the earthquakes, the coronavirus has stalked Croatia’s four million-strong population, 86% of whom are Catholic. More than 227,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 4,738 have died from the virus as of Jan. 21, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

“Every day we witness that the pandemic has left severe consequences on every aspect of life, especially among the sick, elderly, and infirm confined to solitude,” the bishops said.

“Families have not been spared, either, some of whom, in addition to the economic instability that has affected everyone, are facing an increase in family problems, including violence. The entire society has been afflicted: educational institutions, social and cultural life, the economy, as well as everything else that defines the life of a community.”

The bishops acknowledged that the coronavirus had also restricted Church life.

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“Liturgical and general pastoral life has been greatly limited. For a time, we could not celebrate Mass with the people and even today we do so under restricted conditions,” they said.

“It has not been possible to conduct parish catechesis in the customary manner, celebrate First Communions or Confirmations. There have been limitations on the customary blessing of families and many religious gatherings. A number of our parishes have encountered new pastoral challenges and material difficulties.” 

But the bishops stressed that there were also “positive indicators,” including a strengthening of “family spirituality and communal prayer” and the sharing of the Gospel message online. 

The bishops noted that the coronavirus vaccine had been “a focus of public attention” in recent weeks. They urged Catholics to consider Pope Francis’ positive assessment of the vaccine, as well as Vatican statements clarifying ethical questions “that protect freedom of conscience and personal responsibility in deciding whether to receive the vaccine.”

Concluding their message, the bishops said: “Dear brothers and sisters, in Sunday Eucharistic celebrations, in daily and persevering prayer, let us continue to find the deepest inspiration and strength for our own confrontation with difficulties and for effective love toward our neighbors.”

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