Croatian cardinal: 'We don't know God's plans' after earthquake and coronavirus

croatia cathedral Cardinal Bozanic in front of the Assumption Cathedral, whose tower collapsed during a March 22 earthquake. | Petar Belina / IKA - Archdiocese of Zagreb

Catholic leaders in Croatia say they don't know God's plans, after a 5.2 magnitude earthquake rocked the Croatian capital of Zagreb the morning of March 22, causing dozens of injuries and at least one death. It was the strongest quake to hit the city in 140 years.

Among other buildings, the city's cathedral was heavily damaged with part of its ceiling caving in.  The tip of a cathedral spire crashed through the roof of the archdiocesan building next door. The parliament building and a hospital run by the Sisters of Charity were also damaged.

When the quake struck, the city was in a partial lock down over the COVID-19 coronavirus. According to Reuters, Croatia has had 206 cases of the virus and one death. Residents who had been confined to their homes rushed to the streets to avoid getting hurt or killed.

The city's archbishop, Cardinal Josip Bozanic, said that the Church does not know the plan of God in wake of the double catastrophe.

"There's a lot to think about: the coronavirus and now the earthquake. We don't know what God's plan is," the archbishop said in a recent interview.

Cardinal Bozanic, who also spoke with Croatian Catholic Radio and Croatian radio and television, expressed the "human closeness of the Christian bishops to all those who are suffering."

"This earthquake is a challenge and a sign for all of us, but also a call to solidarity and closeness. I'm among those who don't have a home these days. I couldn't stay in (my residence) because it's damaged. But we're living in community," the cardinal explained.

He and others who lived at the archdiocesan headquarters have moved into the seminary, which the seminarians had vacated due to the coronavirus.

The fact that public Masses had been suspended because of the coronavirus was a fortunate coincidence, the cardinal told ACI Stampa, CNA's Italian language news partner, March 25.

"The earthquake happened at 6:25 in the morning and the churches open at 6:00, including our cathedral, the Franciscan church and the Jesuit church where the whole floor collapsed. If it had occurred with the churches full, there certainly would have been victims." Bozanic explained.

"Thanks be to God we were saved,' he said, and added "we all have to show solidarity."

The archbishop also stressed that now the priority is "to think about the families that remain without an apartment or house" and the "churches and parishes damaged in Zagreb and outside Zagreb."

Bozanic emphasized that "God loves us very much, and for that reason we are called to  God's closeness even in this difficult situation." "The coronavirus pandemic is a challenge. We have to take it seriously and obey so we can help one another. To be more in solidarity, closer to one another," he said.

"Priests are celebrating the Eucharist every day and people are called to spiritually connect with them."

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