LONDON, FEB. 25, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The example of a Croatian cardinal who first defied Hitler to save Jews and then resisted Communists to protect the faith is a model in a society marked by an aggressive secularism that seeks to silence believers, says an auxiliary bishop of Westminster.
Bishop Alan Hopes said this last week when he celebrated Mass at the Croatian chaplaincy to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Blessed Aloysius Stepinac. It was also the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Croatian chaplaincy in London.
Bishop Hopes explained how Blessed Aloysius endeavored to undermine Hitler’s plans.
“There are many who attest to the cardinal’s practical efforts made to bring relief to the Jewish men and women who fled from Hitler’s Reich to Croatia years before the Germans entered Zagreb. He used everything he had to stop or slow down and moderate the anti-Jewish laws demanded by Hitler of the fascist regime in Croatia,” the bishop said.
He added: “There are many who attest to the cardinal’s interventions on behalf of the Croatian Serbs who were under attack by the regime. He found homes for 6,000 children of Orthodox parents who had fled the country or been killed. He refused to accept the conversions to the Catholic Church, forced by the regime as a plan to expel the Serbian presence in the country. He privately encouraged his priests to accept these conversions if it would save people’s lives but added: ‘When this time of madness and barbarism passes, those who converted because of faith will remain in our Church and the rest, when danger departs, will return to their own.'”
After the war ended, Cardinal Stepinac had a new crisis on his hands. Bishop Hopes recounted how the cardinal waged “a long war against atheist propaganda directed through the schools” by the Communists.
“The Communist regime also wanted to control the Church,” the bishop noted, and tried to temp it to sever links with Rome and nationalize.
“The cardinal’s refusal to collaborate meant that the Church in Croatia eventually emerged uncompromised and untainted when Communism collapsed,” he said.
Bishop Hopes proposed Blessed Aloysius as a model for believers of today in the public square.
“Across Europe, the Church is being challenged by highly aggressive secular and humanist forces,” he contended. “Their policies sound so plausible — their underlying intentions are rather different: Human equality for all — except for those who have faith, who must accept everything those in power propose even though it is against their beliefs and moral values.”
The Westminster auxiliary noted how Christianity’s belief in human dignity — though it is the foundation of European culture — “is being undermined by abortion on demand and the persistent emotive voice which speaks of the right for a person to end their own life. Human beings are being seen as just another part of the animal kingdom and not someone created in the image of God and therefore with a dignity all of their own.”
“These voices would like to control all young minds from the beginning in every sphere of learning,” Bishop Hopes warned. “We must counter that with the truth of the Gospel. They do nothing to support family life which is the basis of a good and stable society but give support to other forms of partnerships which exist in today’s world.
“The attempted erosion of the Christian foundation of European society and moral destabilization leaves a tremendous moral void which has led to the problems we see in our society today.”