Pope Arrives in Croatia to Help Heal Wounds

Highlights Country’s Christian Roots and Supports Its Entry in European Union

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

RIJEKA, Croatia, JUNE 5, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Croatians gave John Paul II an enthusiastic welcome as he arrived on his 100th international trip with a message of peace.

«I have come among you in order to fulfill my mission as the Successor of Peter and to bring to all those living in this country greetings of peace and a heartfelt prayer for peace,» the Pope said after arriving this afternoon at Rijeka airport on the Island of Krk.

The Holy Father was welcomed by Stipe Mesic, president of the former Yugoslavian republic, who was surrounded by the country’s highest political and religious authorities. Croatia has just under 4.5 million inhabitants, 80.5% of whom are Catholics.

In visiting Rijeka, Dubrovnik, Osijek, Djakovo and Zadar, John Paul II said he wishes «to honor the ancient Christian roots of this land steeped in the blood of countless martyrs,» among whom he mentioned Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac. In 1946 the latter was sentenced by a Yugoslavian Communist court in 1946 to 16 years of forced labor.

The fundamental values that recognize the dignity of the human person «are inscribed in the nature of every human being … which Christianity had the merit of clearly identifying and proclaiming,» the Pope said.

«It is on these values that the stability and true greatness of a nation is based,» he said.

In his welcome address, the Croatian president asked the Holy Father for his support for his country’s entry in the European Union.

John Paul II responded by expressing his «hope that this aspiration will be happily realized.»

«The rich tradition of Croatia will surely contribute to strengthening the Union as an administrative and territorial unit, and also as a cultural and spiritual reality,» he said.

The Pontiff also greeted the Christians of other Churches and ecclesial communities, as well as faithful of Judaism and Islam, important minorities in the country, saying that he was «pleased that on this occasion too we can join in testifying to our common responsibility for the building up of society in justice and mutual respect.»

For this reason, he asked that political as well as religious leaders «never tire of trying to heal the wounds caused by a cruel war and of rectifying the consequences of a totalitarian system that for all too long attempted to impose an ideology opposed to man and his dignity.»

Lastly, the Pope said that 13 years after its independence, Croatia must «consolidate, with the responsible and generous contribution of everyone, a social stability that will further promote steady employment, public assistance, an education system open to all young people, and freedom from all forms of poverty and inequality, in a climate of cordial relations with neighboring countries.»

Following the welcome ceremony, John Paul II for the first time in his pontificate boarded a catamaran, named «Marko Polo,» to cover the distance that separates the Island of Krk from the port of Rijeka, where he was awaited by thousands of pilgrims.

The Pope will stay overnight in the seminary of this city, a port on the Adriatic Sea of some 160,000 inhabitants, during his visit to Croatia. The visit ends Monday.

Croatia’s red and blue colors, and the Vatican’s yellow and white, were seen everywhere on the streets of the city.

On Friday in Dubrovnik, John Paul II will beatify Sister Maria of Jesus Crucified Petkovic, founder of the Franciscan Congregation of Daughters of Mercy.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation