Pope Nears Trip to Croatia With "Great Hope"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2003 (Zenit.org).- On his 100th apostolic trip abroad, John Paul II hopes to confirm the faith of Croatia’s Catholics, who suffered under Communist persecution.

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The Pope told the 20,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for today’s general audience that he would set out Thursday on this third trip to Croatia «with great hope.»

He described the country as a «land marked by the testimony of intrepid disciples of the Gospel.»

From Thursday till Monday the Pontiff will visit Krk Island, as well as the cities of Rijeka, Dubrovnik, Osijek, Djakovo and Zadar. In Dubrovnik he will beatify Marija Petkovic, founder of the Franciscan Congregation of Daughters of Mercy.

«The objective is to confirm in the faith the brothers and sisters of the community, who during the times of religious persecution remained faithful to Christ, and are not afraid to face the challenges of the present moment to continue to proclaim it with courage,» the Holy Father said.

«In these 13 years since their regained independence, they have consolidated ecclesial structures and are now increasingly dedicated to an incisive evangelizing action,» the Pope added.

John Paul II requested prayers so that his visit would contribute to «a renewed spring of faith and civil progress.» About 80.9% of Croatia’s 4.3 million inhabitants are Catholic.

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