Today marks the centenary of the death of dr. Anton Mahnič, Gorizia priest, bishop of Krk, professor, poet, writer, critic, Catholic ideologue, editor, educator and candidate for councilor.
Even today, Mahnič's advocacy for the "separation of spirits" or the so-called cultural struggle and abuses of this notion, which are still present in Slovene public discourse.
Anton Mahnič was born on 14 September 1850 in the village of Kobdilj near Štanjel on the Karst, as the first of nine children. He attended primary school in Štanjel. In October 1863 he enrolled in the first grade of the state grammar school in Gorizia. He has always been an excellent student. The following year, together with his classmates, he founded the literary magazine Vrt. This was his first encounter with the written word. Literary and cultural historians mention the Twelve Evenings, which he published in Slovenec in 1884, as the main milestone in his work.
Already after the third year of theology, on August 30, 1874, he was ordained a priest. In the summer of 1875 he completed his theological studies, and in the same autumn Archbishop Andrej Gollmayr appointed him prefect of a small seminary in Gorizia. Thus began his Gorizia period, which was torn between educational work in the seminary, writing and editing, a series of public controversies and also some interventions in political life. At the same time, he was preparing a doctorate in theology at the University of Vienna, which he completed in May 1881, when he successfully defended his dogmatic thesis on hell.
In 1881 he became a full professor of biblical sciences in Gorizia theology and editor of the Latin-written diocesan journal Folium Periodicum. In 1888 he began publishing the Roman Catholic paper. He was the editor, owner and main contributor to this magazine. With it, he encouraged the formation of the 1st Slovene Catholic Assembly (1892), with which the Slovene Catholic movement began.
Bishop of Croatia
In November 1896, Emperor Franz Joseph appointed him bishop of the island of Krk, and on December 3, Pope Leo XIII. confirmed the appointment. On February 7, 1897, Dr. Anton Mahnič ordained a bishop in the Gorizia Cathedral.
He founded a diocesan printing house on Krk, where many works of the bishop and his associates were printed, especially the magazine Hrvatska straža, which has similar merits for the formation of the Croatian Catholic movement as the Roman Catholic for Slovene. In 1903, he founded the Croatian Academic Society and began his struggle to allow Croatian as a language of instruction. He also encouraged the participation of Slovenes and Croats in the cultural, ecclesiastical and political fields. During World War I, he asked priests to insist on their believers sacrificing for them.
Life ends in Zagreb
At the end of the First World War in the autumn of 1918, the Italian army occupied Krk and established military occupation authority. Effort and illness forced Bishop Mahnič to apply for permission to go to Zagreb for treatment in 1919, but the Italian authorities fraudulently took him to Rome. He lived in poverty in Frascati near Rome, from April 4, 1919 to March 10, 1920. He returned to Krk seriously ill. As early as July 1, 1920, he went to Zagreb to be treated in Varaždinske Toplice, but he ran out of money for treatment. He wanted to return to Krk so that he could possibly sell some property and be able to continue his treatment. The Archbishop of Zagreb, Antun Bauer, invited him to his house, where he died on 14 December 1920. He was buried in the church of St. Francis Xavier in Zagreb.
Return to Krk
The remains of Bishop dr. Anton Mahnič was transferred to the island of Krk in 2002, where he is buried in the cathedral there. In December 2013, the process for his beatification began.
Addition: this October we were preparing a symposium in Gorizia about this great compatriot of ours, which was postponed indefinitely due to health conditions. We will organize it as soon as possible.
Speakers: Saša Ilijić, Tomaž Simčič, Stane Granda, Ivo Kerže, Igor Grdina, Aleš Maver, Matic Batič, Renato Podbersič, Andrej Vončina