Blessed Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, -"A Servant of God and the Croatian People"
Aloysius Stepinac came from a peasant family, born in Brezani near Krasic on May 8, 1898. He was the eighth out of twelve children, and his mother always prayed that he might one day become a priest. In 1916, Stepinac was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army and fought on the Italian front until he was taken prisoner. In 1919 he returned to civilian life and entered the University of Zagreb to study agriculture. Stepinac decided to become a priest in 1924 and was sent to Rome to prepare, and was ordained six years later on October 26, 1930.
He returned to Zagreb in July, 1931 with the degrees of Doctor of Theology and Philosophy. Soon afterwards, Stepinac was chosen to become secretary to Archbishop Antun Bauer. On June 24, 1934 he was nominated as coadjutor to the Archbishop of Zagreb. After this nomination, Stepinac stated: "I love my Croatian people and for their benefit I am ready to give everything, as well as I am ready to give everything for the Catholic Church." After Bauer's death on December 7, 1937 Stepinac became the Archbishop of Zagreb.
During the Second World War, Stepinac never turned his back on refugees, or the prosecuted. His door was always open not only for Croatians, but also Jews, Serbs and Slovenes that needed his help. Stepinac always stood for political freedom and fundamental rights, and he always advocated the rights of the Croatian people. Stepinac wanted Croatia to be a country of God.
In May of 1943, he openly criticised the Nazis, and as a result, the Germans and Italians demanded that he be removed from office. Pope Pius XII refused, and warned Stepinac that his life was in danger. In July of 1943, the BBC and the Voice of America began to broadcast Stepinac's sermons to occupied Europe, and the BBC commented on Stepinac's criticism of the Ustasha regime.
At the end of the war, Stepinac was found guilty of Nazi collaboration at a mock trial, and was convicted and sentenced sixteen years' hard labour on October 11, 1946. At his trial when his life was on the line, Stepinac asked his communist prosecutors: "...every nation has the right to independence, then why should it be denied to the Croatians?" He spent five years in the prison of Lepoglava, and in 1951, Tito's government released him and confined him to the village of Krasic.
On October 3, 1998 in Marija Bistrica, Pope John Paul II beatified Cardinal Stepinac as a Martyr for the Faith, and referred to him as one of the outstanding figures of the Catholic Church.
Written by Michael Savor (Hamilton, Ontario, CANADA) 1997, revised in 2001 - From http://www.croatianhistory.net/etf/stepinac.html