ZAGREB, Croatia, FEB. 11, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The wounds caused by communism are still present and are poisoning the life and society of nations formerly suffering behind the Iron Curtain, affirmed Eastern European bishops.
The bishops issued this message today in Zagreb during a meeting that focused on the theme of “The Mission of the Church in the Countries of Central-Eastern Europe 20 Years After the Fall of Communism: 1989-2009”
This meeting, the third of its type since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, was preceded by one in Budapest in 2004 and one in Prague in 2007.
Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb and vice president of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, invited representatives of 13 episcopal conferences to the meeting in the Croatian capital.
The event date was chosen to coincide with the beatification anniversary of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, and much of the meeting’s work centered on the spiritual legacy of this and other communist martyrs.
In his homily at the close of the encounter, Cardinal Bozinac compared Cardinal Stepinac’s faith — and that of so many other martyrs — with the grain that must die to give fruit.
He asserted: “The Iron Curtain is the image of division, fracture, separation and egotism. It was placed by man who wanted to impede access to man, but its objective was much deeper, that of impeding man’s gaze from being directed toward God and from knowing his love.”
Nevertheless, the cardinal continued, when man built the wall, “God cast the seed, the gift of life, and allowed it to die.”
He added, “And precisely when it seems that the land has impeded life, it generates fruit.”
The prelate warned, “Although we have the impression that the system stopped functioning in its previous form, it has transformed, presenting itself as poisoned earth where fruit should have sprung up.”
In fact, he said, one of the questions that most concerns the prelates is that despite the fall of communism, “its structure has remained in legislation and in judicial power, in the economy, in education and in culture,” and especially “in the veil of silence that has been hung over the events of the recent past.”
The cardinal asked, “How can it be explained that 20 years after its fall, the truth has not managed to put down roots?” He noted that in Croatia, for example, one avoids speaking of Cardinal Stepinac.
He continued: “The ‘sons of lies’ have gathered the pieces of the Curtain and with them, they hide and cast a fog over the truth of the facts, regarding the individuals as well as certain institutions. Some, with the remains of the Curtain, sow the seed of division and confusion.”
The truth, Cardinal Bozinac said, “is that the Curtain has fallen, that the system has broken, but that the pieces are very resistant and show themselves by promoting the same falsehoods not only through politics and the relationship with the past, but also with education, science, and teaching.”
He warned against the “contradictory clamor about the anthropological truth of man,” especially in life and family issues.
The cardinal asserted: “We will never consent nor permit a political compromise in these questions, because it is not a matter of human agreements, but the central truth of which we are the source.”
Another of the questions to which he referred was communion among the Churches, a communion that “the ideologies tried to break” among the faithful of the East and the West. He invited those present to “not forget the great support of the Churches that lived in freedom, and that with their solidarity have given value to the steps of the martyr Church.”
In another moment during the meeting, Cardinal Bozanic said that it is time for “a new and courageous evangelization to in order to rediscover [our] own Christian roots,” a time for “responding to the challenges posed by a reductionist view of man,” especially by the “dictatorship of relativism.”
The bishops, in other moments during the meeting, considered the challenges posed by globalization, bioethics, neuroscience, migration and the construction of a new world order, as much as the protection of freedom of conscience and the new ideologies, especially in regard to life and family.
Recovering the past
“Communism has left, as an inheritance, deep wounds in the life of persons and society, from which there arises a call for help and the need of God and the Church in order to heal the man,” says a note distributed by the cardinal’s secretariat.
The workshop during the event highlighted the need for the Church to help rebuild the “historical memory” of the years of communism, fighting “against the tendency to silence what actually happened,” especially with the martyrs.
In particular, it highlighted the need to help young people “know the true history” and “keep in mind the memory of those who let themselves be martyred for the faith.”
To this end, the bishops decided to promote historic congresses to discuss the life of the Church and the work of Christians in the communist period.