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30.04.2017 | 22:57 | IKA E - 189871/4

Jubilee Tenth Encounter of Croatian Catholic Youth in Vukovar

Vukovar, (IKA) – After the Saturday program of the Encounter of Croatian Catholic Youth, which assembled approximately 30,000 young people in the parishes of the Archdiocese of Đakovo-Osijek, the Sunday program on April 30 began with prayer at the Memorial Cemetery of the Victims of the Homeland War in Vukovar. Following prayers of intercession for the Church—the people of God, the Croatian homeland, the young, all the participants in the Encounter of Croatian Catholic Youth and the discernment of their vocations in life, for the defenders who sacrificed their lives and all the deceased, the young representatives of their (arch)dioceses lit candles before the central cross in prayer and as a sign of respect for those who perished in the Homeland War. Then they formed a procession behind the cross of the Encounter of Croatian Catholic Youth and went to Eltz Castle, where the central celebration of the Mass was held.
Archbishop and Metropolitan Đuro Hranić of Đakovo-Osijek welcomed everyone. At the beginning of the Mass, the young people were addressed by Apostolic Nuncio Alessandro D'Errico, who said that the Holy Father was following the celebration with his prayers and, as a sign of his special affection, had sent a message to the young people gathered in Vukovar.
After the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Easter was proclaimed according to the Roman and Byzantine Rites, the homily by the main celebrant of the Mass, Msgr. Hranić, began with the words of the apostle: "But we were hoping!" He then asked: "Aren't Jesus' two sorrowful disciples, who had left Jerusalem and were going to Emmaus, the image of so many tired, disappointed and hopeless people. In them is an image of the realities of the lives of many Croatian young men and women. We only need to recall those who have applied for dozens of jobs, without success, and in order to provide for themselves have had to seek work in foreign countries. We know they are not leaving willingly but with sorrowful hearts because their departure creates emptiness in the Homeland. Who will fill it and how? Aren't those two disciples also an image of many of your parents, sorrowful because they are failing to provide what they want for you; who work but do not receive their salaries, who have lost their jobs because of the selfishness and irresponsibility of others?! Aren't those two an image of people who, like myself, feel that they must speak and point out the alarming extent of the depopulation of Slavonia and our Croatian villages and cities?!" He noted that in Croatia there are many who have lost their faith in people, institutions, politics and, full of bitterness and dissatisfaction, drown themselves in isolation, loneliness and hopelessness; who, owing to insecurity and failure, escape into alcohol, drugs, destruction and aggression.
Continuing his reflections, interwoven with longing for hope, Archbishop Hranić said: "All of us in various ways have hope but all of us have also been disappointed many times. We have been disappointed not only by the course of the events around us, which did not achieve what we had hoped, but we are most disappointed by the people who betrayed our expectations, who not infrequently shattered and trampled our ideals. However, man is a fragile and ephemeral creature. And even when we find ourselves before an honorable person who merits unconditional trust, we have to realize that we must not absolutize. Only God is always with us: always, everlastingly and eternally."
Referring again to the two disciples, Archbishop Hranić said: "The Risen Lord does not offer them empty consolation but offers a different view of the same reality and new hope, a new perspective. He helps the disciples understand that they had not been betrayed by God or solely by other people but they had been betrayed by their own expectations. The fault was not God's or solely other people's but in their mistaken attitude. Into their darkness, He brings the light of the Word of God. In the person of the stranger who approaches the two apostles on the way to Emmaus, Jesus confronts us pastors and teachers with the challenge of a particularly responsible calling: to accompany these dear young men and women, to be a fellow traveler on their journey—to know how to listen to them and understand them." The Risen Jesus confronts the two disciples with themselves in the light of evangelical logic: "How foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe in the life that is born of death, that maturation always goes hand in hand with the cross and suffering," and paraphrasing this sentence, continued: "Does not the grain of wheat die in order to bring forth new fruit?! O foolish and slow of heart to accept that the burning candle glows; that nothing of true value is achieved in life without pain, without suffering and without dying to oneself; that this society cannot become better, more humane, more honest or more just if there are not those who are ready to serve self-sacrificingly for the general good, die to themselves, if there are not those who are ready to love and do good even when there is no reciprocity, to love even when it is necessary to forgive and be greater than the weaknesses of others; that there is not and cannot be prosperity and progress if there are not those of you who are ready to study, work hard, be steadfast in goodness, relinquish contacts, preferential treatment, bribes and corruption, sinful forms of behavior and the base logic of this world." Archbishop Hranić paused at the following sentence: "They recognized Him in the breaking of the bread," after which they returned to Jerusalem, where the assembled community awaited them with the experience that they had encountered the Risen Lord. Among themselves, they encouraged each other and shared the experience of the risen faith and hope.
"And this city of Vukovar, where we are gathered today, provides us with a powerful lesson. Here, in a particular way, as a nation we have experienced that God does not abandon his own, that in life we must not see things only in terms of human abilities and limitations but we must also count on God. When the collapse occurred and when exhausted Vukovar fell, when all of Croatia was engulfed in sadness, disappointment and more fear, all of Croatia was a 'supplicant' in churches, on the streets and on the squares. From Christ came hope that gave us strength," said Archbishop Hranić, and continued: "And we, dear young people, want to send a message of hope and encouragement today from Vukovar to our nation and the whole world—your parents and peers, and to our Croatian politicians, who these days are being confronted with grave issues, challenges and difficulties, a message that springs from God's love and goodness proclaimed in Jesus Christ. He is the secure anchor of our stability and survival. He is our hope."
The young people were also addressed by the President of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, Archbishop Želimir Puljić, who announced that the next Encounter of Croatian Catholic Youth would be held in Zagreb in the year 2020. After young people from the Archdiocese of Zagreb took possession of the "Cross of the Young" from the young people of the Archdiocese of Đakovo-Osijek, Archbishop Cardinal Josip Bozanić of Zagreb spoke to the assembly. He noted that the cross is going from Vukovar, the city of Croatian sacrifices and Croatian freedom, to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, the city of all Croats. The Cardinal said to the young people: "Zagreb is waiting for you! Blessed Alojzije Stepinac is waiting for you in Zagreb! Welcome to Zagreb in 2020!" To the young people of the Archdiocese of Zagreb, he entrusted the organization of the Eleventh Encounter of Croatian Catholic Youth.
A letter from the encounter was also sent to Pope Francis, in which, among other things, it says: "With this encounter, especially today's joyful celebration of the Eucharist in Vukovar, a city that not so long ago, together with many parts of our homeland, endured the tragic experience of war and destruction, we wanted to testify that our experience and the strength of faith and community in the large family of the Church has always been inspired by life." Just before the blessing, the main celebrant of the Mass invited the young people to express their fidelity to their baptismal call. After the blessing, the national anthem, Our Beautiful Homeland, was sung.
The liturgical singing at the Eucharistic celebration of the Encounter of Croatian Catholic Youth was enhanced by the Archdiocesan Youth Choir, consisting of 240 singers from 18 parishes of the Archdiocese of Đakovo-Osijek.
The jubilee Encounter of Croatian Catholic Youth concluded with a cultural program in the center of town follwed by a concert in the evening.

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