Eucharist on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the suffering at Bleiburg Field

He who does not distance himself from the crime, becomes a participant and accomplice

In the Sarajevo Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on May 16th, the Archbishop of Vrhbosna, cardinal Vinko Puljić celebrated a Holy Mass on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the suffering on the Bleiburg field and the Way of the Cross of the Croatian people.

The concelebration was attended by 18 priests led by Msgr. Tomo Vukšić, Archbishop coadjutor of Vrhbosna and Apostolic Administrator of the Military Ordinariate in BiH, and OFM Jozo Marinčić, Provincial of the Franciscan Province Bosna Srebrena.

A common prayer for many victims of violence

At the beginning of the Eucharist, the cardinal pointed out that “we present the Holy Mass for all the victims of Bleiburg and for all the victims of war and post-war times”. Welcoming the priests and believers present in the cathedral and those who followed the Holy Mass through the media, he thanked all those who joined in the “common prayer for so many victims of violence”.

He pointed out that due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has not yet completely stopped, this year “we could not gather on the Bleiburg field, where we traditionally gathered and prayed for their souls”.

Trust in God

In his homily, the cardinal noted that to be present and participate in the Holy Mass for the victims of the Bleiburg Field, and for all victims of hatred,  “one cannot be without the special trembling of the heart and the feelings of the soul”. He emphasized that respect and trust in God awakens spontaneously in the heart.
“This is the fundamental reason why I have accepted, on behalf of all bishops in the Croatian people, to celebrate a Holy Mass of prayerful and faithful remembrance of the 75th anniversary of the suffering of these victims of our people and other victims”, he said and pointed out how “firstly we want to pray so it cleans us of all the bitter feelings and negative charges, which, in human terms, appear lightly in the remembrance of these sufferings”.
“Today we are gathered in prayer, showing the most sacred act to show due respect to all victims. With this respect we want to keep due memory of them, but also memory of the price of freedom, which we live today or even better: build”, said Cardinal and quoted speech of John Paul II to the Presidency of BiH for the visitation that never happened to Sarajevo in 1994., in which, among other things, it says: “The fate of peace depends mostly on the re-found solidarity of hearts which, after so much blood and hatred, represents the courage to forgive”.

He further asserted the importance of respecting the victims. “We cannot forget our dead, whether they died a natural death, and especially if they were killed by hatred, whose lives were taken in an inhuman way. Who loses respect for such victims, we wonder what values it carries within itself? I am afraid to live with people to whom nothing is sacred or who are able to tread on other people's shrines!”, he said, recalling that in their letter on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in 1995., the bishops wrote: “The right to life and dignity of every person is under God’s protection. Therefore, we owe equal respect to every innocent victim.”
He pointed out that he is deeply touched by the fact that “not all cemeteries were discovered where people were massacred and killed, buried and in some places covered with concrete. When I was born, that terrible faith of pouring hate under the cover of victory was happening without court and with the arbitrariness of those who were boiling with hatred”.
“Today we remember all those who died in the camps, mountains, valleys and fields from Bleiburg field through Dravograd and Maribor, Ogulin and Gospić, Jazovka and Macelj forests, Jasenovac and Glina, Kozara and Podgradac, Križevci and Bjelovar to Srijemska Mitrovica and Sarajevo, Foča and Zenica, Široki Brijeg and Mostar”, he said and emphasized that in our prayer “we include all victims from other towns and villages “.

Building a civilization of love

Speaking about today's times, he stressed the need to create a climate of coexistence, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoring trust, which is impossible without the truth. “Only by accepting the truth, as bitter as it may be, does it free up space for building trust among people. He who does not want the truth puts himself behind the evil he defends and thus supports the negative charge among people. He is not a peace builder but a spreader of evil. No crime can be defended. He who does not distance himmself from crime becomes a participant and accomplice in the crime”, the cardinal said, stressing that no one has the right to ignore “the victims we are praying for today”.

He then spoke of writing a history that would “relativize suffering, as it is supposed to build trust and stabilization in the region”. He then thanked all true researchers and seekers of historical truth who gather facts. “History is not built by politicization and manipulation, but on the basis of facts, respecting causes and consequences”, he said, adding that if ancestral victims were to be appreciated “it would be more capable to build present and future”. He pointed out that “a civilisation of love cannot be built if the truth is not accepted.”

The sermon was concluded with the words of Pope Francis from the bull The Face of Mercy: “The Church has the task of proclaiming God's mercy, that living heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must reach the heart and mind of every person”. (Face of Mercy, No. 12).

Words of thanks from the Archbishop Coadjutor

At the end of the Holy Mass, the words of thanks were given by the Archbishop Coadjutor, Msgr. Vukšić who read the Letter to the Church and Social Public sent by the Bishops of BK BiH on May 3rd 1995., on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War under the chairmanship of Cardinal Puljić.

“I join in my prayers that the noble intentions of peace, cooperation, harmony, prayerful remembrance, understanding, forgiveness, cleansing of memory and liberation from resentment may be realized among peoples and nations, among believers and non-believers. And all for the greater glory of God in this world, for the sake of building social harmony among peoples and nations, for the sake of ecumenical meeting, interreligious dialogue and for the sake of the happy progress of all God's creatures”, said Archbishop Vukšić.

The ceremonial priest was mr. sc. Tomo Knežević, assisted by theologians of the Vrhbosna Theological Seminary from Sarajevo, and the Holy Mass was animated by a part of the Cathedral Mixed Choir Josip Stadler led by rev. Marko Stanušić, regens chori of the cathedral.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the cathedral had a limited number of believers, including Croatian Ambassador to BiH Ivan Sabolić as well as HNS representatives Marinko Čavara, President of the Federation of BiH and Ilija Cvitanović, member of the HNS Presidency.