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Cardinal Aloysius Viktor Stepinac

Cardinal Aloysius Viktor Stepinac

Birth
Krasic, Opcina Krasic, Zagrebacka, Croatia
Death 10 Feb 1960 (aged 61)
Krasic, Opcina Krasic, Zagrebacka, Croatia
Burial Zagreb, Grad Zagreb, City of Zagreb (Grad Zagreb), Croatia
Plot Above-ground sarcophagus, rear main altar
Memorial ID 10680 · View Source
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Croatian Prelate. He was the controversial WWII religious leader of Catholics in Nazi occupied Croatia then a part of now defunct Yugoslavia. He was born Aloysius Victor Stepinac into a farming family, the eighth among twelve children in the tiny village of Brezaric. Stepinac would return full circle by virtue of a government imposed house arrest to the Parish hall and rectory of Holy Trinity Church located in Krasic a short distance from his birth place. He would live out his life here until a rare blood disease claimed him. As a young man, he pursued a normal secular life. After conscription into the Austro-Hungarian army, he served as an officer on the Italian front where he was captured while earning several high awards. Upon discharge, Stepinac enrolled at the University of Zagreb pursuing studies in agriculture while engaged to be married. However, his mothers prayers were answered as he abruptly decided to prepare for the priesthood in Rome and was ordained in 1930. His rise in the church hierarchy was swift. A springboard post was as Secretary to Archbishop Ante Bauer who began grooming him as his replacement. At age 36, he was consecrated archbishop-coadjutor with the right of succession which occurred in 1937 at age 38. With the Nazi takeover of Yugoslavia during the war, an independent collaboration government under Croat Ante Pavelic (Ustashe) was formed and ruled Croatia. Initially Stepinac was receptive but soon began to openly criticize Pavalic for his persecutions of minorities while shielding and helping Jews to safety. His critical sermons from the pulpit of St Stephen Cathedral in Zagreb were broadcast over the Voice of America. As a result, the Germans and Italians demanded his removal from office. Pope Puis XII refused and warned Stepinac that his life was in danger. After the Nazis were defeated, Yugoslavia was in control of the communist partisans with Tito the new leader. Marshal Tito while attempting to stabilize his newly formed government, began to prosecute war criminals and any opposition as well. In 1946, he had the Cardinal arrested as a war criminal and a Ustashe collaborator. A show-trial was staged and Stepinac received a 16 year, hard labor sentence. The international community was outraged. He spent five years at the notorious Croatian prison of Lepoglava, the very same place where Tito was once confined. The hard labor portion of the sentence was never carried out but Stepinac was kept mostly in solitary. By 1951, the prisoner was very ill suffering from a rare blood disease (Vasques, overproduction of red corpuscles necessitating regular forced bleeding). A gleeful Tito wanting to be rid of the troublesome Cardinal, granted him permission to leave the country for special treatment with the stipulation that he never return. Rather then abandon his position as spiritual leader of Croatian Catholics, Stepinac quickly refused in essence choosing martyrdom as death was a certainty. He therefore was paroled and relegated to house arrest in the rectory of the small church in the village of Krasic located near his birthplace. He was forbidden to perform priestly duties. Guards were present outside the residence 24 hours a day. In 1953, Pope Puis XII made him a Cardinal but he was never able to travel to Rome to officially accept the hat and be installed. He was permitted outside daily for a walk to a nearby roadside chapel. He became weaker and weaker finally breathing his last in the early afternoon in the little rectory bedroom with praying nuns at his side. Confused guards inadvertently allowed the sacristan to ring the church bell announcing the death of Cardinal Stepinac. Villagers dressed in black from the surrounding area quickly filled the church united in prayer for their famous leader. Burial in the Cathedral in Zagreb where leaders of the church have been interred for centuries was denied. A grave was prepared in the floor of Holy Trinity Church and upon the eve of his funeral, the government relented and a low keyed interment was permitted in St Stephen Cathedral. Legacy....It continues to grow. Marshall Broz Tito had unwittingly created a martyr which would help fan Croat nationalism and destroy the Yugoslavian Federation in 1991. He has been reinvented by the now independent country of Croatia hailing him their greatest patriot. Cardinal Stepinac was placed on the road to sainthood when Pope John Paul beatified him before some 450,000 at the National Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Bistrica in October, 1998. He has become the namesake of many parochial schools and Catholic facilities around the world. Chicago has a street called Stepinac Way as well as a High School. The church complex where he was imprisoned and died has become both a museum and shrine visited by thousands each year. Commemorative coins have been minted by the Croatian mint and the Postal Service has issued a number of stamps in his honor.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 10 Jul 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 10680
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Cardinal Aloysius Viktor Stepinac (8 May 1898–10 Feb 1960), Find A Grave Memorial no. 10680, citing Cathedral Assumption of Virgin Mary and St Stephen, Zagreb, Grad Zagreb, City of Zagreb (Grad Zagreb), Croatia ; Maintained by Find A Grave .