He encouraged Slovenians to tolerance and unification. "The Slovenian soul has given a special flavor to this American society," he said, adding that there is strength in the community. "In the words of a philosopher, whose name I can't remember now: instead of cursing the darkness, let's turn on the light - that's what I want for everyone in this community of ours and the Slovenians at home," he said.
In the justification of the award, it is written, among other things, that Fr. Krizolog has been working in the parish in New York since 1991. On June 30, 1991, on the fourth day of the war for Slovenia, he helped prepare a protest against the invasion of the Yugoslav People's Army into Slovenia and for the recognition of the independence of Slovenia in the square in front of the UN Palace of Slovenia. He participated in and organized the sending of letters to American politicians and other influential people whom American Slovenians asked to prevent bloodshed in their homeland.
"He has made the promotion of Slovenia in New York and the USA one of his priorities. He has worked to make the parish a meeting place for Slovenian men and women, as well as others. He organized and encouraged many cultural events, concerts and exhibitions, lectures, and more. To his credit, it is a place of openness, tolerance, and inclusiveness regardless of religious affiliation or political persuasion."
"With his cheerful and humorous approach, he is always able to create a relaxed atmosphere that calls for dialogue and the search for what connects people in the community. Fr. Krizolog's openness and connectivity helped in the great success collecting funds for the renovation of the parish building, where the big donor concert in 1997 in Cankarjev dom in Ljubljana stood out in particular," he writes in the justification.
"He has done a lot for our Slovenian community. He is always ready to help and has an open door to talk or help. It means a lot that he has restored the church: it is the only remaining place where we can socialize. Sometimes when there was still more of a business community, and there was a Slovenian Consulate in New York, we also met elsewhere, but now we only have this church left," said Mija Branc, who regularly prepares Slovenian culinary delights for various events.
Fr. Krizolog said that he came to New York for two years and has stayed for 30 years. At the time of independence, everyone wanted to help Slovenia establish itself in the metropolis of the world. "We collected funds and renovated the building, and it was no longer just a religious building, but a kind of Slovenian house, where Slovenians from all over the world could come."
The church is threatened with closure in a few years because there are no Franciscans in Slovenia who could take over Fr. Krizolog's position, which means that after his departure, the fate of the building will be decided by the archbishop of New York. The Archdiocese of New York has no interest in preserving ethnic churches and would sell the building. There is an interest in keeping the church in Slovenian ownership. The state has already helped with reconstruction once in the past.
When asked if there is an interest in preserving the church, Pahor answered in the affirmative. He said that, of course, this is not a matter for the state, but it is aware of some co-responsibility or desire for something like this to remain here.
"The Slovenian state showed support immediately after independence when the decision was made to provide financial assistance. There is no doubt that the answer to your question is that this is an important institution that performed a unifying role. That is why we presented Father with the award because it is his personal merit. This is the center for Slovenians, religious or not," said the President.
In October 2016, the church celebrated its 100th anniversary with a mass led by Ljubljana Archbishop Stanislav Zore. The celebration was attended by former ambassadors, including the former high representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, and the former ambassador to Germany, Marta Kos. New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan said at the time that Slovenians are an important part of the wonderful diversity in the USA and the New York Archdiocese.
In 2018, the former US ambassador to Slovenia, Brent Hartley, with then Prime Minister Miro Cerar and former UN Ambassador Darja Bavdaž Kuret, learned more about the efforts to protect the church as Slovenian cultural heritage in the US.
In 2017, based on a reciprocal agreement with the United States, the government ranked the church at the top of the priorities of Slovenian heritage in the United States. Slovenia has, for example, taken care of the medieval synagogue in Maribor, which was restored in 2001.
In September 2019, the Prime Minister at the time, Marjan Šarec, also advocated for the protection and preservation of the church. "Procedures or efforts are underway to protect it as a cultural monument, to keep it as it is, because this is of great importance for Slovenia," Šarec said at the time.
The history of the Church of St. Cyril will remain recorded for future generations also in the form of Matjaž Brojan's book, which was published last year on the 105th anniversary of the church.
Translated from an article at 24ur.com. Presidential press release at predsednik.si. Announcement with comments on Twitter.