September 21st 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Federal Government should abolish Renewable Energy Certificates

ENERGY BP annual Review shows consumption, production up

CANBERRA OBSERVED NSW Labor caught in Panda's paws doing 'whatever it takes'

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM Religious discrimination bill: A litany of questions

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Boris' brinkmanship shakes up Britain, EU

WATER POLICY Angry farmers protest over Murray-Darling Basin Plan ... again

TECHNOLOGY Are we the dumbest devices in the room?

HISTORY AND POLITICS Lord Acton, nationalism and multiculturalism, Part 2

LITERATURE D.H. Lawrence: The Modernist in exile

MUSIC Dialectical transcendence

CINEMA The Farewell: Elegant and bittersweet

BOOK REVIEW Owning up to market imperfections

BOOK REVIEW Heroism and faith under tyranny

BOOK REVIEW The love that comes after love is gone


EDITORIAL Gladys Liu controversy ignores reality of China's interference

Books promotion page

Heroism and faith under tyranny

News Weekly, September 21, 2019


by Zvonimir Gavranovic

Krscanska Sadasnjost, Zagreb
Hardcover: 594 pages
Price: AUD$40

Reviewed by Victor V. Vella

The decade after World War II was a time of territorial adjustment. Eastern Europe was divided into two communist camps: the Russian Empire under Stalin and the Yugoslav empire/Yugoslavia under Tito. With all the promises of freedom of the proletariat and the promised end of colo­nialism, these empires as we have now become aware after Alexander Solzhenitzyn and Milovan Djilas suffered under the banner of communism.

Most people, especially Catholics, will remember Stefan Wyszynski, Jozsef Mindszenty and Alojzije Stepinac, the three Cardinals who were considered the most prominent criminals in the 1950s in Poland, Hungary and Croatia. They were the leaders of the Church in their respective countries and were persecuted, imprisoned and tortured. Not surprisingly, as they were the major opposition to what the governments were enacting and doing, not only to the Church but to everyone.

It is therefore refreshing to welcome a new biography of one of the three prominent people who felt the brunt of the hammer and the sickle, Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac. Fr Zvonimir Gavranovic narrates in great detail the life of the Cardinal and his suffering under Tito’s regime.

Fr Zvonimir, who is still active in pastoral care in NSW, was born in Austria as his Croatian parents left their homeland when the communists took over.

Though the protagonist is Stepinac, the author also explores the background history of the period and before. He brings out the internal religious conflict: “Notwithstanding in September 1918 the Croatian Catholic Bishops issued a statement of loyalty to the new state, in which a Serbian Orthodox (Karadordevic) was head of state, rumours circulated that the Catholic Bishops wanted to break away from the state.

“There was pressure on the Church to distance itself from Rome, and in some regions Greek Catholics were pressured to incorporate into the Orthodox Church. The Catholic Bishops issued a protest against such pressure in April 1925 without success.”

This is the same clarity and attention to details when he writes about Stepinac the man, the Bishop/Cardinal and his trials. He brings the personality of Stepinac to life as well as the “intrigues” of the period. By his apposite quotes, the writer creates vignettes that make interesting attachments to the main character and to the history of the time. A typical one is this part of a conversation that a member of the papal delegation had in Zagreb in 1941.

Police Chief Dido Kvaternik asked Don Masucci a monk and member of the delegation: “ ‘If you have come as a friend, I ask you to tell me everything that you have heard about me.’ And the monk did not pull any punches and answered: ‘They have a name for you also in Italy which is clearly regretful that they have received you with open arms like other refugees, … they call you bloodthirsty; and, if everything that is said of you is the truth, then if you have not surpassed, certainly you are completely equal with that monster “Nero” ’ ”

It is these details and this “keyhole listening” to conversations, trials and exchanges of letters that make this bio­graphy unique. It truly sheds light on the activities of Archbishop Stepinac during the time the Croatian people were imprisoned and humiliated under the communist regime.

What struck me when reading it is that the biographer stays in the background; he is the conductor but does not stand on the rostrum. He allows the personages and the events to come alive without intruding in the action. It is Stepinac who takes and keeps centre stage, with his faith and his trials and how he was involved in the history of the time. His death, almost certainly as a result of poisoning by the communists in 1960, is foreshadowed throughout the book and comes as a climax to a faith “that cannot waver when it comes to the truth, because it is not a commodity that can be traded”.

The most prominent aspect of this biography is the way Fr Zvonimir brings out Stepinac’s vigour, his faith, his huma­nity and his love for his country and of the Church. The fact that he passed a life of tribulations and suffering so much so that he is being considered a martyr, saint and hero, is indeed a beacon to these modern times when true heroes are in short supply.

Available from: Fr Zvonimir Gavranovic,
O Box 702, Baulkham Hills, NSW, 1755

Ph (02) 9639 0598 Fax: (02) 9639 8391
$40 plus $10 P&P for first book, $20 for each additional copy

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