"I Am Sure the Future Will Be Better," Pope Tells Croatia

At Farewell Meeting in Zadar

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ZADAR, Croatia, JUNE 9, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Inviting Croats to be «credible witnesses and generous apostles,» John Paul II bid their country farewell during the celebration of a Liturgy of the Word in the Forum of Zadar.

«Thank you, Croatian people, who have welcomed me with your heart and open arms,» the Pope said during today’s farewell meeting which drew 50,000 people despite the scorching sun.

«I know your suffering, caused by the war that is still visible on your faces,» he said. «I also know your strength, your courage and your hope. I am sure the future will be better.»

In this historic Dalmatian city, the Pope received a multicolored farewell. He highlighted the role of the Blessed Virgin.

The Pontiff encouraged «the growth and expansion of different forms of lay engagement and apostolate. … Learn from Mary how to be credible witnesses and generous apostles, as you make your own contribution to the great enterprise of the new evangelization.»

«And never forget that a genuine apostolate demands, as a prior condition, a personal encounter with Jesus, the Living One, the Lord,» he added.

«Mary Most Holy remains a model for all who hear the word of God and put it into practice,» the Holy Father emphasized. «The poor and the humble in every age were not mistaken when they made Mary in silence their Advocate and Mary in service their Queen.»

He ended with a prayer, asking Mary to «help us ever to bear witness to the fruitfulness of love and the authentic meaning of life; teach us to build with you the Kingdom of your Son, the Kingdom of justice, love and peace.»

Following the celebration of the Word, the Pope went to Zadar’s airport. Croatian President Stipe Mesic, as well as civil, political and religious authorities of the country were there to bid him farewell.

Thousands of people lined the road, along the 15 kilometers (9 miles) that separate the city from the airport, despite the soaring temperatures. Croatian and Vatican flags were waving in a final farewell to the Pope, at the close of his 100th international trip.

John Paul II weathered the extreme heat and exhaustion of the visit, which started last Thursday. During the visit he traveled by plane on seven occasions, and covered some 100 kilometers by car. He was in good spirits, smiling all the time, and shaking hands with those within reach.

The Pope plans to return to the Balkans on June 22 to visit Banja Luka, in Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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