Ecumenism Is Among Topics Awaiting the Pope in Croatia

Visit Comes as Country Looks Toward Entry Into European Union

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ZAGREB, Croatia, JUNE 3, 2003 ( John Paul II will visit Croatia “to give the Church in the country guidelines at the beginning of the new millennium,” says the president of the Croatian bishops’ conference.

Archbishop Josip Bozanic told Vatican Radio that the Croatian episcopate has organized the June 5-9 papal visit around the theme “The Family, Way of the Church and of the People.”

The call of the baptized to holiness, ecumenism, the relation between faith and culture, the new evangelization, and the Marian dimension of the Church are other topics that will characterize the Pope’s third visit to Croatia in 10 years.

In the first visit “of 1994, he came as an angel of peace; in the second, four years later, he beatified Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac,” the archbishop said.

This time, the Pope’s visit might be significant in terms of Croatia’s entry to the European Union. Croatia, “especially [its] youth, is very open to Europe. We feel ourselves within Europe, we are in Europe,” Archbishop Bozanic said.

This new reality also has repercussions in the Croatian Catholic Church’s relations with the rest of the churches of the continent.

In fact, the country is participating in Central Europe’s Catholic project “Katholikentag.” The project “is made up of eight countries: Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia,” Archbishop Bozanic noted.

The presidents of those countries’ episcopal conferences met here last week. The meeting concluded that “the Churches in these countries must always ask themselves what they can do together and how this union, this communion, that Europe expects, can be demonstrated,” the archbishop said.

The highlight of the “Katholikentag,” or Congress of Catholics, will be the “peoples’ pilgrimages” that take place next May 22-23 at the Mariazell Shrine in Austria. The Pope has been invited to that event.

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