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18.01.2018 | 09:01 | IKA E - 196771/1

"The Church and State: A Concordant System of Cooperation"

Lecture by Archbishop Nikola Eterović on the occasion of the anniversary of the international recognition of Croatia

Zagreb, (IKA) - On January 15, in commemoration of the anniversary of the international recognition of the Republic of Croatia, the Croatian Diplomatic Club organized a lecture in the Golden Hall of the Croatian Institute of History, "The Church and State: A Concordant System of Cooperation," which was presented by the apostolic nuncio in Germany, Archbishop Dr. Nikola Eterović.
Nuncio Eterović said that the Republic of Croatia commemorates January 15 as the anniversary of its international recognition because on that date all twelve countries of the European Community at the time recognized the Republic of Croatia, which the Holy See had recognized together with the Republic of Slovenia two days earlier, on January 13, thereby demonstrating that the Catholic Church, which the Holy See represents, is universal, that it goes beyond the borders of the European Community and Europe. Moreover, this was the result of systematic activity by the Holy See under the inspired leadership of St. Pope John Paul II, which worked to expand the consensus of determination for the recognition of these republics in order to halt the war at that time, especially in Croatia, Archbishop Eterović explained. Moreover, the Holy See, which some call the great moral force in the world, wanted dispel the misgivings of an allegedly ethical nature held by some of the members of the European Community, who still had reservations in connection with the recognition of the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Slovenia, he explained. Archbishop Eterović mentioned that at the time he was working at the Vatican Secretariat of State, in the Section for Relations with States, so he was a witness to the Holy See's commitment to respect the principles of international law with regard to Croatia and Slovenia. "As an employee of the Hoy See, and as a Croat, I must admit that in retrospect after 26 years I remember the actions of the Holy See during those crucial moments for the Republic of Croatia with pride. It was an example of the successful commitment by the Holy See in the international community to respect the principles of international law, especially the Helsinki Accords, and to stop the war in the territory of Croatia. With these attempts, the Holy See strengthened its bond of friendship with Croatia, which had already begun at the time of the baptism of the Croats. In this process, a special place is occupied by a letter from Pope John VIII to the Croatian duke Branimir, dated June 7, 879, on the anniversary of which Croatian Diplomacy Day is celebrated every year," said Msgr. Eterović.
He explained that the position of the Catholic Church on all important issues is based on the Holy Scriptures, the living tradition of the Church, and on Church magisterium. "This also goes for the relationship between church and state. In this connection, Jesus' words 'give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what is God's' are fundamental. They were not only a wise response to the Pharisees and the Herodians, who wanted to trip Jesus up with the question 'Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?' and these words established a new relationship between the secular and religious authorities, between the church and the state, and they defined Western civilization inspired by Christian values." He also pointed out that Jesus' words "give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what is God's" remain the golden principle of the relationship between the church and state.
Explaining how the separation of secular and religious authority is good for the church and for the state, the archbishop said: "Boundaries have been set for the church and state that must not be crossed in regard to the spiritual or secular area of their activities. Christians are loyal citizens of the country in which they live but they must not succumb to the temptation of polytheism. They recognize only one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and resist any earthly deity. The example of the Roman Empire should be instructive, not only for totalitarian systems of civil authority. Even in democratic societies, there can be the temptation for the secular authorities to move from their own area of activity to the spiritual. This happens when, for example, democratic systems impose an educational model that is ideologically hued, without considering that the ethical values of the majority of the population are consistent with Christian tradition. A typical example in our time is gender ideology, which according to Pope Francis is a form of a global war on marriage. Moreover, the proponents of these ideologies do not ask the parents about the model for the upbringing of their children. In this connection, there are numerous civil and religious principles on the rights of parents to bring up their children. Let us only mention that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: 'Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.'"
Since the church and state serve citizens in the spiritual and secular areas, there are many places in which their activities come into contact and become interwoven. Therefore, mutual cooperation is essential. This is particularly achieved in the countries with Romano-Germanic law and concordant agreements between the church and state. The large number of the concordant agreements testifies that they are useful for both sides. In the world, there are 214 valid concordats or concordant agreements between the Holy See and 74 countries, of which 154 agreements are with 24 European countries. These agreements regulate international jurisdictions, not only to avoid eventual conflicts but also to attempt to work harmoniously in promoting the general good of the faithful and all citizens. The negotiated concordant solutions go beyond individual parties and changes in government, and provide stability and continuity in the relations between the church and state. A concordant agreement does not confer privileges to the Catholic Church in an individual country. Experience has shown that in democratic countries, all the rights and obligations the Catholic Church has received are proportional to the number of the faithful as well as other Churches and religious communities. The difference is in the nature of the agreement. Those with the Holy See, a subject of international law, have international significance while this legal aspect is absent from contracts with other Churches and religious communities. There are several important areas in which collaboration between the church and state is necessary and requires the clarification of legal, educational, cultural and economic issues, and pastoral ministry to Catholic members of the armed forces and police, explained Msgr. Eterović.
He said that through the agreements with the Holy See, Croatia has regulated relations with the Catholic Church. This was an important Church, social and political event. After the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, which was a defined state, so that the relations with the Holy See, i.e., the Catholic Church, had been defined, the Catholic Church in Croatia did not have a clear legal position. In the monarchist Yugoslavia, the Holy See wanted to define the legal position of the Catholic Church in Croatia and other territories where Catholics lived with a concordat. Unfortunately, mainly due to the opposition of the Serbian Orthodox Church, an attempt to ratify an already signed concordat from 1935 failed. After the war, in communist Yugoslavia the Catholic Church was persecuted, although not always with the same intensity. This did not significantly change with the protocol that the Holy See signed with the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1966. Namely, the protocol stipulated freedom of religion, the equality of all religious communities and the separation of the church and state, which were already theoretically guaranteed by the Constitution of the SFRY. The authority of the Holy See over the Catholic Church in Yugoslavia was recognized, which guaranteed the free conduct of religious affairs. The agreement on the establishment of official relations between the Holy See and the SFRY and the exchange of envoys was positive. Diplomatic relations were established in 1970. Nevertheless, there was still the communist radical separation of the church from the state, which was generally totalitarian. From discussions on protocols, it is evident that the communist authorities wanted to prevent the Church from influencing the education of the young. In the modern democratic Republic of Croatia, conditions have been created for the normal definition of relations between the state and church through agreements with the Holy See. The Republic of Croatia freely renewed its relations with the Apostolic See, in keeping with its religious and cultural history of unbroken mutual relations that go back to the time of Pope John IV, a Dalmatian who sent Abbot Martin to take relics of martyrs from Dalmatia and Istria and bring them to Rome, where they are kept today in the oratory near the Lateran Baptistery. Accordingly, the letter from John VIII to Duke Branimir confirmed a pre-existing relationship. By entering into four agreements with the Holy See, Croatia has joined the legal system of the countries of Central Europe, i.e., the West, from which it had been forcibly separated, explained Archbishop Eterović.
At the end of the meeting, the Croatian Club gave Nuncio Eterović a four-volume work entitled Memories and Contributions to the History of the Diplomacy of the Republic of Croatia, and a recently published monograph by the first Croatian ambassador to the Hoy See, Ive Livljanić, From Saint Gregory to Saint Peter.
In addition to the club members, the lecture was also attended by the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić; the head of the Croatian Institute of History, Dr. Jasna Turkalj; and the rector of the Catholic University of Croatia, Prof. Dr. Željko Tanjić. In the introductory portion of the program, the lecturer was introduced by the president of the Croatian Diplomatic Club, Ambassador Smiljan Šimac.

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