Pope Confirms Plan to Visit Croatia in 2003

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II confirmed his intention to travel to Croatia next year, when he met with Stjepan Mesic, the country’s president.

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The Pope received the Croatian leader today in audience to thank him for the Christmas tree that Croatia donated for display in St. Peter’s Square.

The 28-meter (90-foot) fir will be lit up and fully decorated by Tuesday.

Following the 15-minute audience, President Mesic met the press and revealed that the Holy Father confirmed his desire to return to Croatia, which he visited in 1994 and 1998. The president said he did not know the exact dates of the next papal visit.

The Pope is expected to beatify lay youth Ivan Merz (1896-1928) and religious Mary of Jesus Petkovic (1892-1966) during his trip, according to Vatican sources.

Croatia, a republic that declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, has 4.39 million inhabitants, 72% of whom are Catholics.

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