Pope Asks Support for Families to Overcome Social Fragmentation

Suggests That the Sacredness of Sundays Be Rediscovered

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RIJEKA, Croatia, JUNE 8, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II appealed for effective support of the family as the indispensable condition to overcome the social fragmentation typical of contemporary societies.

Celebrating the Mass of Pentecost before 140,000 people gathered in the central square of Rijeka, the Pope focused his homily on the central theme of his third visit to Croatia, «The Family: Path of the Church and of the Nation.»

«Nowadays the family, also in Croatia, requires special consideration and concrete policies aimed at promoting and protecting its essential nature, its development and its stability,» John Paul II said today during the homily.

«Among other things, I am thinking of the serious problems associated with housing and employment,» he said. Croatia has an unemployment rate of about 22%.

«It must not be forgotten that in helping the family we also help to resolve other important problems, such as providing assistance to the sick and the elderly, halting the spread of crime, and finding a remedy to drug use,» the Holy Father said.

«If this is to happen, it is essential to show respect for the sacredness of Sunday, which enables members of the family to recollect themselves and to join in giving due worship to God,» he added.

Political leaders and labor unions in Croatia are debating a plan to liberalize work on Sundays. Among those at the Mass were Prime Minister Ivica Racan and President Stipe Mesic.

The Pope gave his support to a program launched a few years ago by the country’s Catholic bishops, entitled «The Croatian Catholic Family Prays Daily and Celebrates the Eucharist Every Sunday.»

When greeting Archbishop Ivan Devcic of Rijeka, the Pope acknowledged that Croatian families are experiencing «severe tests of an economic, moral and cultural nature» to which the authorities should offer solutions.

The Holy Father asked Christian families to witness with their lives «God’s authentic plan for the family as a community of life founded on marriage.»

He emphasized that marriage is based «on the stable and faithful union of a man and a woman, bound to each other by a bond which is publicly manifested and recognized.»

The Pope reminded parents that they must «provide for the human and Christian education of your children, trusting also in the expert assistance of committed and well-trained educators and catechists.»

He added: «You, too, must help your children to encounter Jesus and to follow him, even amid the temptations to which young people are continuously exposed, along the path that leads to authentic joy.

«Society today is tragically fragmented and divided. This is the reason why it is so desperately unfulfilled. But Christians do not become resigned to weariness or paralyzed by inertia. May you be people of hope! May you be a people that prays.»

In the afternoon, the Pope received Prime Minister Racan at the seminary of Rijeka. Later, he was to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Trsat, Queen of the Adriatic, where according to tradition the Holy House of Nazareth was kept from 1291 to 1294, before being transported to Loreto, Italy.

John Paul II will leave Croatia on Monday from the airport of Zadar, a city where he will first preside over the celebration of a Liturgy of the Word.

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