utorak, 1. lipnja 2010.

On the state of Traditional Mass in Croatia

Update (6 May 2018). Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation (Corpus Christi, Assumption, All Saints' Day, Christmas) at 11 am in the church of Christ the King at Mirogoj cemetery in Zagreb. Any changes can be found through this google group.


Advocata Croatiae, fidelissima Mater,
ora pro nobis!

First part of this post will be a very brief historical sketch and the second part is concerned with more recent events. I have to warn you I'm no expert in either theology, liturgy or history. My main reason for this text is to inform those who are interested in the state of traditional liturgy in Croatia. Hopefully, you'll understand my English well enough for it to convey what I wanted to say.


As most people probably know, Croatian lands, mainly along the coast of Adriatic, were the only area of western Christendom that had liturgy in the Roman Rite, but in Old Slavic language, written in Glagolitic letters. You can read much more about it here. For different reasons, Latin influences always tried to reduce this culture, but what is important is that up to the liturgical changes after the II Vatican Council, it was still living and continued to be transmited to younger generations. With the reforms that practically abolished Latin liturgy, Glagolitic liturgy suffered a deadly stroke. When you hear about Glagolitic liturgy today, it is always Novus Ordo celebrated for some special occasion like an anniversary and invariably it has all the things one usually links to Novus Ordo: versus populum, ugly vestments, liturgical minimalism etc. As is probably the case in other parts of the world as well, the advent of new liturgy meant suppression of many old popular devotions (although some of them still survive) and especially the liturgical singing which was very diverse with almost every place having its own melodies for singing the Ordinary of the Mass and variable parts that changed with the liturgical year. You can get a taste of this singing here, here and here.

In other parts of what is today Croatia, Latin liturgy was the norm. In the north, the old rite of Zagreb which was used for more than six centuries had as one of its specific characteristics many folk songs. Croatian people were very attached to their religious folk songs, especially Christmas songs. For example, when Franciscans in Zagreb had introduced Gregorian chant instead of well established Croatian songs for Christmas 1924, blessed Ivan Merz had to write an article to defend them from those who were against this decision.

I believe Michael Davies recognized very well further important factors that contributed to total abandonment of Traditional Mass in Croatia. In a chapter of his book where he recalls his meeting with cardinal Seper he notes:
His lack of concern where the New Mass is concerned is probably the result of being brought up in a country where there was no large Protestant minority. The same may be true of Pope John Paul II. Slavonic Catholics come into contact with members of the Orthodox Church far more frequently than they do with Protestants. The Eucharistic teaching of the Orthodox Church is very close to that of the Catholic Church. There has never been the saying: “It is the Mass that matters," among Slavonic Catholics. Thus, the changes made in the Mass following the Second Vatican Council do not have the same significance for them as they do in some countries such as England where similar changes were made by the Protestant Reformers. In Slavonic countries Marian rather than Eucharistic devotions tend to form the focus of Catholic piety. It is also true of both Cardinal Seper and Pope John Paul II that their people live under Communist governments, and maintaining the unity of the Catholic people is their greatest priority. Cardinal Seper was, therefore, far more disturbed by reluctance in accepting without question a disciplinary change imposed by the Pope than by the fact that the liturgical expression of Catholic Eucharistic teaching had been considerably weakened in the Novus Ordo Missæ.
By the intercession of Blessed Virgin Mary Croatia has been preserved from the plague of Protestantism and Croats always loved and relied on the Pope ever since duke Branimir in the 9th century wrote to pope John VIII as the "beloved son who wishes to be pious in all things and obedient to St. Peter and the Holy Father". In the year 1960 cardinal Alojzije Stepinac died in house arrest, the real cause of his imprisonment being his loyalty to the Holy See and refusal to establish a national church. While the communists were trying by establishing priestly societies, giving benefits to cooperating clergy and punishing those who opposed them to weaken the unity and influence of Catholic Church in Croatia, it was quite natural that the reaction would be even stronger acceptance of each one of Pope's decisions, including those on liturgical reform.

On the other hand, new theological currents were slowly, but surely making its way into the seminaries and theological faculties. Even those who saw what was happening and strongly opposed heresies coming from the west never questioned the new liturgy or the underlying causes of the widespread abuses, news of which probably horrified most Catholic priests and lay faithful. But, of course, most of the theologians found their inspirations in the west and the influences from the godless theologies of western Europe, especially Germany, spread and festered.

With the advent of democracy in the nineties, great parts of Croatia were ravaged by the war. Hundreds of churches were destroyed. After the occupied territories were freed, rebuilding begun, very often new churches were ugly and devoid of religious spirit (just one example). Also, since the communist prohibited or made very difficult building of new churches, after the independence a great need for new churches was being realized without taking too much consideration of beauty or religious feelings of the people.

Although liturgies after the reform became very minimalistic, it wasn't until the new freedom and democracy that the more sinister abuses appeared and became more widespread. While guitars seemed avant-garde in the seventies, these days new music which is either protestant songs translated into Croatian or newly composed sentimental songs of little musical or religious value is pushing out traditional songs. New versions of Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei with rewritten words are sung everywhere and Gregorian chant is almost inexistent. About ten years ago female altar servers started appearing and now they are widespread. Five years ago extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion were a very rare thing. Nowdays, you can see nuns (who still wear their habit, thank God) and even laypeople (men and women) standing next to the priest and giving Holy Communion. Communion in the hand was alowed long ago and even devote people receive Communion that way, probably because no one ever told them of the better way.


This brings us to the question of Traditional Mass in Croatia. The answer is quite simple. There are none. Obviously, even if I knew of a Traditional Mass being celebrated in private somewhere, I could not tell you. Unlike me, who am a lay person not affiliated to any Church institution, priests who have the affinity to traditional liturgy can and will suffer from their bishops if that becomes known. And that is not just purely theoretical, but let's leave it at that.

If you asked them about Traditional Mass, most lay people and priests would understand you are talking about a thing from the past, abolished and forgotten in the sixties. Even if they heard about Summorum Pontificum they would probably say that it had something to do with some schismatics far away who did not accept II Vatican Council, those that like Mass with the priest having his back to the people, babbling in Latin quietly while pious grannies pray their rosaries. Many priests and bishops are not bad people, on the contrary. But through their education and priestly life they developed some kind of fear and even loathing for that dead language, complicated liturgy and the demands it puts on them. Why not just do the Mass easily? You can say a few things like how we have to love each other, how we have to defend our national identity, read a few short inspirational stories, rush through the second eucharistic prayer, give communion and be done with it. Why would anyone want to complicate things when they are stretched so thin already?

Most of the Croats who like Traditional Mass developed their love for it while they were either living in or visiting foreign countries.


Zagreb is the capital of Croatia with roughly a quarter of the 4.5 million people who live in Croatia. Around 88% of citizens of Croatia declared themselves as Catholics at the last census.

Before Summorum Pontificum, there was allegedly a group in the Archdiocese of Zagreb which requested Traditional Latin Mass. Their request was totally ignored.

There was a young priest, ordained sometime towards the beginning of this century, very intelligent and knowledgeable, who taught himself the Traditional Mass and celebrated it privately from time to time. He never did it publicly and only his friends knew about it. After a while he was sent to a Croatian Catholic mission in Germany and then he joined the Carthusians. He and his brother created a web page that had many interesting resources in Croatian about the traditional liturgy. The most important of these is the little missal which you can find here (2.6 MB pdf), some of the others are now here since that page is no longer online.

Last year, first Croatian priest who was ordained for some traditional group visited Croatia. Father Ante (or Anthony) Sumich from FSSP celebrated private Mass in several places along the coast and then celebrated a Mass in a small chapel at the Franciscan monastery in the centre of Zagreb. When the Franciscan fathers became aware that someone announced this Mass on the Internet, they threatened that they will lock the doors and not allow anyone to enter. Deo gratias, that did not happen, but it did deter some people from coming. Also, I think we can safely say they won't be giving any permissions for the Traditional Mass at their monastery in the future.

I wrote to the editor in chief of the most important Catholic publication in Croatia, the weekly magazine Glas Koncila (Voice of the Council) offering to give him photos and write a short article on this historical occasion and also on the first Croatian priest from FSSP. He answered that just because there was a Mass in Latin, it doesn't make it any more newsworthy than if it was celebrated in any other language. He also mentioned that they reported on the "Pope's decision that the Mass can be celebrated in Latin" when he gave it. If a priest at that position can write something like that, I think you can imagine what ignorance and misconceptions there are among people of Croatia about the Traditional Mass. Finally, I wrote a text for "letters from the readers" column (and they do publish all kinds of stuff there) quoting what some of the cardinals said about Traditional Mass. They did not publish it.


Now, I'll quote from a letter written to Ecclesia Dei because I think it summarizes well the process we've been through trying to get back Traditional Mass in Croatia. You can find the entire letter together with all the other DOCUMENTS HERE (personal information have been removed). 
In February, March and May of 2008 I sent emails to the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Zagreb in Croatia. Despite the promises from the spokeswoman of the Archdiocese, I received no answer to my question on the availability of Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the Archdiocese of Zagreb. Therefore, in February 2009 I repeated the same question in a letter sent by regular mail. I soon received a reply from auxiliary bishop Ivan Šaško who is the president of the Commission for liturgy of the Archdiocese of Zagreb. In his answer it was stated that my request for Mass in the Extraordinary Form cannot be accepted since it was made by an individual and not a group and because, according to him, in the Archdiocese there is no ‘continuously present group of the faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition’ as specified in the Art. 5 § 1 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.

Using the Internet, a petition was started in June of 2009 that says
In accordance with the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI we ask to be enabled to attend the celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (also known as Traditional Latin Mass and Tridentine Mass) in one of the churches of the city of Zagreb at least on Sundays and holy days.
It was signed by 30 persons from different parishes of the Archdiocese of Zagreb. There are also some signatories from other (arch)dioceses but they were not joined to the main group. On 8 July 2009 request was sent to the parish priest of *** parish (from which three of the signatories are) and to the Rector of *** church. While the church of *** is not a parish church, it is located in the center of Zagreb and appropriate for the celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Since no reply was received in two months, the request was forwarded on 8 September 2009 to the Chancery of the Archdiocese.

On 28 October 2009 Most Reverend Ivan Šaško replied on behalf of the Archdiocese of Zagreb. His answer is negative and he states towards the end of the letter that the necessary conditions are not fulfilled. From both letters of Most Reverend Ivan Šaško it is clear that the conditions he refers to without specifying them or quantifying them are impossible to fulfill either at present or in the future. Therefore, in accordance with the Art. 7 of Summorum Pontificum, we ask you:
• To clarify what conditions the group of faithful from the Archdiocese of Zagreb should fulfill in order to qualify for application of the Art. 5 of Summorum Pontificum. In particular: how many faithful should there be, how many from the same parish, how can they prove their attachment to the earlier liturgical tradition and prove that they are a part of a stable group as stated in the same article?

This request is made solely in the hope that this specific group will be able to reach the goal from the petition in this specific situation.
• To help us and other faithful who are interested to participate in Masses in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite in the Archdiocese of Zagreb.

In the past forty years there have been no public Traditional Latin Masses in the Archdiocese of Zagreb and the few private Masses were extremely rare and never publicly announced.
You can find my comments on the first letter from bishop Sasko (a professional liturgist and a very smart man who unfortunately despises Catholic traditional liturgy) here.
A reply from Ecclesia Dei together with a second letter to them which they still haven't answered are here.


I don't expect this post to make a big difference. Maybe it will encourage some of the readers to say a few prayers for Croatia and its people. That will be quite enough. I will continue trying to help the old Mass return to Croatia where I believe it would have many good fruits. But, in the end, it all depends on the will of God who is the only one able to change the hearts of men.

Broj komentara: 12:

  1. Toma pozdrav!
    Jeli ovo prijevod tvojega teksta na engleski?

  2. To je moj tekst, ali je ovo original, a ne prijevod.

  3. Tekst je odličan. Ali ipak mislim da " inovatorima " treba više Duha Svetoga, tj. za njih treba moliti. Jer ni nisu reformirali Misu već totalno promjenili. A to je zahtjevalo reakciju Nj. Sv. Benedikta XVI. i Njegov " Summorum Pontificum ". Molimo zato za Njegovu Svetost i za " one koji su tvrdih i neobrezanih srdaca ".

  4. Why not get one of the "seers" from Medjugorge interested in it then the Franciscans and their ilk will bend over backwards to accomodate you.

  5. Katastrofa. Nevjerojatno koliko je ideoloski otpor jak. Svaka cast na trudu kojeg ulazes! Mislis li da bi imalo smisla kontaktirati nekoga u Vatikanu?

  6. Pa, komisija Ecclesia Dei je dio Vatikana.
    Ali, ako mislite na nekog osobno, slobodno ga mozete uputiti da ovo procita ako mislite da ce ista koristiti.

  7. Mozda bi Fr Z imao ideju ako bi imalo smisla kontaktirati nekoga osobno? Cesto ga citatelji pitaju za savjet. E. Dei ocito isto pati od birokratskog duha :-)
    Nadam se da ce ovi napori ipak jednom uroditi plodom.

  8. Greetings to all Croatian catholics!

    I am a proud Czech Croatian - a descendant of Croatians coming to Moravia (part of the Czech republic now) centuries ago. I can understand and read Croatian and by chance I got to this blog. I´m a traditionalist catholic and I can understand all what´s written in the article - the same troubles, the same problems as in the Czech republic. Iny our place it was even worse as this country lost its faith decades ago.

    I just want to tell you to carry on! Croatia was always devout part of "Latin circle" and stood with the pope. Nevermind things has changed and novus ordo is prevailing everywhere now. Just remember Athanasius and heresy of his time..

    Latin mass which was codified by pope Pius V in 1570 is so beautiful and it is the only form of Roman rite. I wish you all to have a chance to assist in it! In my country we do travel more than 100km every Sunday for it. And there are more and more people who ask for it. I would never go to Novus ordo missae again.

    If you can, start translating articles from abroad about history of Latin mass, about Catholic teachings, about history of traditional Catholicism. Just let people know..

    Me and my friend have started the same one year ago in our country and the response is enermous. If you wish, just have a look at www.vendee.cz

    Me and my forefathers never forgot our ancestory and our Catholic faith. Krv nije voda i vjera je uvijek ista.

    Bog i Hrvati!


  9. Thank you for contacting us, Daniel.
    Your web page looks very nice. You seem to have many places with traditional Mass in the Czech Republic (of course, the more, the better).

    Bog i Hrvati!

  10. Thank you for what you are doing!

    It may seem there are a lot of places with traditional mass in the Czech republic but you soon discover the Sunday masses are very rare. We have 3 FSSPX chaples where traditional mass is worshipped more or less regularly every Sunday (And yes, I do support FSSPX though not unconditionally). The rest is just ocassional..

    I myself do not attend NOM anymore (it became a question of my conscience). If I can´t go to a Latin mass, I´d rather go to a traditional Greek Catholic mass in Old Slavonic language..

    As for how I got to your blog - well, I was just wondering if there are any traditional masses in Croatia. Just dreamt for a while and imagined myself coming again to Zagreb and visiting Latin mass in "my" country..:-) I hope this dream will come true one day. When travelling abroad I am always looking forward to get "another flower to a bunch of traditional chaples" - may it be in Cracow, Bruxelles, Madrid or else..

    Just keep the good work you are doing. You are not alone!

    Bog i Hrvati!


  11. Daniel, thank you for the support. If you'd like to write a post for our blog (we occasionally have articles by guest authors), my brother and I would be glad to put it on our blog. We don't restrict the subject and it can be either in English or I can translate it in Croatian.
    If you agree, contact me at tomablizanac (youknowwhat) gmail.com.

    Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

  12. Im a little late to this party. I hope in these years past,that the Latin mass is once again celebrated in Croatia. I can't believe the mess the church has found itself in. Having said that, the church is within us...may God bless us all.


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