The cardinal of Zagreb has invited the new Croatian President to a “dialogue of mutual respect and understanding”.

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The overture of Cardinal Josip Bozanić to new premier Zoran Milanović was contained in a message of congratulations January 7.

The first former Prime Minister to be elected President, Milanović won a surprise victory in a January 5 run-off against incumbent, pre-poll favourite and independent Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.

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The win for Social Democrat Milanović is a blow to current Prime Minister Andrej Plenković’s centre-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), which on January 1 assumed the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union and faces parliamentary elections later this year.

The 53-year-old new President told supporters after his win that he wanted to lead a more modern, European Croatia.

“Four million of us are looking for our place in Europe which is, despite all the problems, the nicest place to live, the most peaceful project in which Croatia must find its place and interest”, the new leader affirmed.

At the same time, Milanović pledged to work in his five-year mandate with PM Plenković and anyone else “who leads this country with good intentions”.

“I have no pretensions to power. I know what the president can and cannot do”, the new premier explained.

Why it matters

In the interests of that bridge-building, Cardinal Bozanić, in his message to the new President, highlighted the importance of Church-State cooperation for harmony, justice, peace, prosperity and the wellbeing of all Croatians.

Bozanić and Milanović were not known for having the warmest of relationships when the latter was Prime Minister from 2011 to 2016, with the cardinal never hiding his sympathies and affinities for now-former President Grabar-Kitarović.

Personal differences aside, however, the dialogue between Church and State “strives to strengthen mutual respect and understanding as well as to prevent or rectify any misunderstandings, always bearing in mind the same interests, those being people, especially those most vulnerable, and the common good”, the Archbishop of Zagreb said in his message to the new premier.

“On the generally accepted and firm foundation of the Croatian identity, which is characterised by a rich tradition imbued with Christianity, it is possible, without fear or a feeling of being threatened, to foster freedom and the beauty of a diversity of opinions, views and creative life, and an openness to cooperation and friendship with all nations”, Bozanić wrote to new President Milanović.

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