Pope Pays Tribute to Feminine "Genius" When Beatifying 1st Croatian Woman

Honors Sister Maria of Jesus Crucified Petkovic

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DUBROVNIK, Croatia, JUNE 6, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II stressed the need to make room for the “genius” of woman in society and the ecclesial community, as he beatified the first Croatian woman.

In this port city, some 50,000 people attended the eucharistic celebration for the beatification of Sister Maria of Jesus Crucified Petkovic (1892-1966), founder of the Franciscan Congregation of Daughters of Mercy.

The figure of the new blessed led the Pope to think of “those who are wives and mothers, those whose lives were for ever changed by the grief of losing a family member in the cruel war of the 1990s, or by other bitter troubles which they have endured.”

“I think of you, dear women, because by your sensitivity, generosity and strength, you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic,” he said.

“In a special way, God has entrusted children to your care, and thus you are called to become an important support in the life of every person, especially within the context of the family,” the Pope said. “The frenetic pace of modern life can lead to an obscuring or even a loss of what is truly human,” he added. “Perhaps more than in other periods of history, our time is in need of that genius which belongs to women, and which can ensure sensitivity for human beings in every circumstance.

“Women of Croatia, conscious of your lofty vocation as wives and mothers, continue to see every person with the eyes of the heart. Continue to reach out to them and to stand beside them with the sensitivity born of your maternal instinct.”

The Holy Father added: “Your presence is indispensable in the family, in society and in the ecclesial community.”

He also highlighted the decisive role of consecrated women, like Maria Petkovic, whom he invited to accept “the invitation to follow the undivided heart of Jesus Christ, chaste, poor and obedient.”

“May the daily experience of God’s freely given love inspire you to give your lives unreservedly to the service of the Church and of your brothers and sisters, commending all things, present and future, to his hands,” he added.

Among those present, under an intense sun, were pilgrims from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and other neighboring countries.

Virtually all of Dubrovnik’s 46,000 inhabitants turned out to receive the Pope, who is visiting their country for the third time in less than 10 years.

Overnight, a group of young people from the Dubrovnik Diocese, accompanied by pilgrims, staged a five-hour vigil in Gruz, the city’s port. The vigil included prayer and spiritual talks.

The roads leading from the airport to the port of Dubrovnik, where the beatification took place, were full of flags and banners welcoming John Paul II.

During the homily, the Pontiff paid tribute to Dubrovnik’s tradition of freedom and justice. A maritime republic during the 15th and 16th centuries, it later became part of the Austrian Empire. As early as 1416, it abolished slavery.

Recalling the figure of Maria Petkovic, the Holy Father highlighted her total dedication “to the spiritual and material well-being of those most in need,” and her missionary spirit which her spiritual daughters would take to Latin America.

After the beatification ceremony, the Pope lunched at the residence of Bishop Zelimir Puljic of Dubrovnik, together with priests of the diocese.

He later toured the historic center of Dubrovnik in the “popemobile.” UNESCO has declared the city a cultural heritage of humanity.

The Pope was scheduled to fly back to Rijeka to spend the night at the archdiocesan seminary. His trip ends Monday.

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