VATICAN CITY, OCT. 30, 2012 ( Here is a translation of the address given yesterday by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States, at a Conference held at the Pius IV Casina in the Vatican, on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Croatia.

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Your Eminences, Mr. President, Your Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On this celebration of the 20th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Croatia, I am happy to extend my greetings and congratulations especially to you, Mr. President of the Republic of Croatia, who honor us with your attendance, as well as to the esteemed Ambassador who, with competency and passion, represents a country that is so close to the Holy See geographically and, even more, historically and religiously.

The topic we shall address today is very specific, because it concerns 20 years of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Croatia. The same title of the Conference qualifies these as intense, and rightly so. We cannot acquire a comprehensive perspective on it however without at least mentioning the rich history of the last twenty years.

In fact, as a premise I would like to recall that for over thirteen centuries, there have been close and cordial relations between the Holy See and Croatia. In this spirit I would like to take a step back in history. In 879, during the month of June, the very same in which modern Croatia celebrates every year its independence, Pope John VIII addressed a letter to Prince Branimir. In it he informs the sovereign of the prayers he raised to the Lord so that “principatum terrenum, quem habes, prospere et securiter reggere possis” (You may govern in prosperity and security the earthly principality you have). The recognition of Branimir’s “earthy principality” is naturally of particular significance because it was made by what was at that time the highest ecclesial and political authority in the Christian world. The strong ties between Croatia and the Holy See have not weakened through the centuries. On several occasions over the course of history and under challenging circumstances, Croatians proved their faithfulness to the Gospel and the Successor of Peter.

During his recent pastoral visit to Croatia, the Holy Father Benedict XVI stressed this aspect, saying: “We may number more than thirteen centuries of strong and special ties, tried and consolidated through circumstances that at times were difficult and painful. This history is an eloquent testimony of the love of your people for the Gospel and the Church. Since the beginning, your nation belonged to Europe and, in a peculiar way, contributes to it those spiritual and moral values which for centuries have shaped the daily life and identity, personal and national, of its children” (Welcome Ceremony at Zagreb Airport, June 2, 2011).

Obviously, we refer to the past so as to understand the present and build a better future. Hence the spiritual and moral values, of which the Holy Father spoke, must inspire us for taking decisions for today and tomorrow.

The last twenty years in Croatia’s more than thousand-year history, have been among the most difficult and at the same time crucial for its future; especially, those immediately following independence. Nevertheless, the challenge continues. Now, Croatians cannot but question themselves about the values on which they intend to build the life of individuals and that of the entire nation.

On January 13, 1992, the Holy See recognized the country’s independence and on February 29 of the same year was appointed the first Apostolic Nuncio. A visible fruit of the diplomatic relations established in 1992 were the four Agreements, stipulated between 1996 and 1998, with regard to the following areas: juridical issues, collaboration on educational and cultural matters, religious assistance to Catholic members of the Armed Forces and the Police, and economic issues.

Proof of the Holy See’s affection for Croatia was indisputably expressed through the four Papal visits over the last twenty years: three of Blessed John Paul II, and one of Benedict XVI. The first visit took place just two years after diplomatic relations were established. In the welcome ceremony on September 10, 1994, the Pope noted in his address:

“An event of great significance occurred in 1992, when the collapse of the Communist regime, the proclamation of Croatian sovereignty and the subsequent international recognition led – for the first time in the more than thousand-year history of the Croatian nation – to the exchange of Diplomatic Missions between Croatia and the Holy See.”

The report of the first papal representative, H.E. Mons. Giulio Einaudi, is particularly interesting in this context. Unfortunately, he was unable to be with us. His intervention reviews the crucial stages in the Zagreb Nunciature’s activity in the immediate aftermath of independence. We cannot neglect to underline the important role of the Apostolic Nunciature in this process, when illustrating the intense diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Croatia.

Through Papal Representatives, the Holy See is able to facilitate dialogue with civil Authorities, to promote contact with the local Church and retain its influence on international life. As the Code of Canon Law sanctions, beyond the role as delegate of the Holy Father to the local Church, it is the Apostolic Nuncio job to promote and support relations between the Holy See and political and institutional communities as well as to address issues regarding the relation between Church and State (cf. canon 365, paragraph 1). As noted, on May 21 of last year, the Holy Father entrusted this task to H.E. Mons. Alessandro D’Errico. Through wisdom and experience he continues the work of his predecessors to make these relations ever more intense.

A visible sign of cordiality in these diplomatic relations, is the presence today of the Republic of Croatia’s President, Mr. Zoran Milanovic. I earnestly hope that this will further stimulate the relations so that they may become closer yet, some pending knots may be untied and cooperation will be increasingly amicable and effective.

Although Church and political communities operate on different levels and are independent of each other, both serve the same subjects. At the same time, these are the Church’s faithful as well as citizens of the State. In this work, there is ample space for dialogue and cooperation in service to the dignity of every man. In fact, at the heart of this mutual cooperation, is our shared commitment to the common good and the promotion of spiritual and moral values. These confer on Croatian society its firm foundation.

[Translation by ZENIT]