A young priest who was murdered by Communist partisans during a wave of anti-Church violence in 1947 has been beatified as a martyr in Croatia.
Father Miroslav Bulesic, 27 at the time of his death, was portrayed as a victim of a hate crime during a time of upheaval in post-World War II Croatia by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, during the ceremony on Saturday.
“All hate crimes are an abomination against religion, but the circumstances of the murder of Father Miroslav Bulesic were particularly loathsome,” Cardinal Amato told hundreds of priests and 20,000 Catholics at the beatification Mass.
“Human wickedness was vented on a helpless priest, and the wolf tore the lamb apart. Hatred extinguished a human life, which is always precious but was twice as priceless this time as the life of a good man,” the cardinal said.
He added that honouring the priest expressed the Church’s “reverence and gratitude” for martyrs and should also encourage faith “in a world of transient ideologies.”
Born in Svetvincenat, in northwest Croatia, Father Bulesic was sent to Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University after seminary studies. He was recalled by his bishop because of the outbreak of World War II and was ordained in April 1943.
After ministering at Baderna, the scene of fighting between Communist and Fascist units, he was transferred in 1945 to a larger parish at Kanfanar, where he also spoke out against Communist abuses as secretary of the local priests’ association.
On August 24, 1947, when the priest was at nearby Lanisce for a confirmation service, Communist supporters attacked Father Bulesic in the parish rectory, pinning him to the floor and stabbing him in the neck.
At least 450 Catholic priests, 73 seminarians, 30 nuns and 22 lay monks were murdered or died in prison after the May 1945 imposition of Communist rule in Croatia.
A Croatian cardinal, Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, who died in 1960 from illness he contracted in prison, was beatified as a martyr by Pope John Paul II in 1998. Croats see him as a symbol of the Church’s resistance to Communist oppression.
In his Angelus message on Sunday, Pope Francis gave thanks for the life of Father Bulesic, whose sainthood cause was launched in 1998.