VATICAN CITY, JUNE 11, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II’s address during today’s general audience, which he dedicated to recall the highlights of his third apostolic visit to Croatia, from June 5-9. The address was in Italian.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. Today, I would like to recall with you the trip to Croatia which I was able to carry out in the past days, and which had as its theme “The Family: Way of the Church and of the People.” It was my 100th apostolic trip! From the depth of my heart, I raise a most profound thanksgiving to the Lord, who for 100 times has opened to me the roads of the world and of nations, so that I can bear witness to him.
I returned to the noble land of Croatia to confirm the brethren in the faith; I wished to take to all message of peace and of reconciliation, and I was granted the joy to raise to the honor of the altar Sister Marija Propetoga Isusa Petkovic.
I wish to express my cordial gratitude to the episcopate for having invited and received me with attention and affection. My gratitude is extended also to the president of the republic and to the other civil and military authorities, for their courteous support and solicitous collaboration. Lastly, I thank the Archdiocese of Rijeka, as well as its seminary, for their hospitality to me and my collaborators.
2. The first stage was the ancient and glorious city of Dubrovnik, proud of its history and of its tradition of liberty and justice. I celebrated a Mass there, during which Sister Maria of Jesus Crucified Petkovic, outstanding daughter of the Church in Croatian lands, was beatified. A woman gifted with a heroic desire to serve God in the poorest brethren, she founded the […] Daughters of Mercy of the Third Regular Order of St. Francis, to propagate, through spiritual and corporal works of mercy, knowledge of divine Love.
In light of this admirable figure, I addressed a special message to Croatian women, whom I encouraged to offer to the Church and to society their spiritual and moral contribution; I asked, in a special way, the consecrated women to be an eloquent sign of the loving presence of God among people.
3. The following day, at Osijek, at the extreme northeastern area of the country, Diocese of Djakovo and Srijem, I had the pleasure to preside over the solemn conclusion of the second diocesan synod and to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the ecclesiastical province of Zagreb.
On that occasion, I reflected on holiness as the vocation of every Christian, one of the central teachings of the Second Vatican Council. In particular, I invited the lay faithful to fully appreciate the grace of baptism and confirmation. Only one who is motivated by a robust faith and generous love can be an apostle of reconciliation and moral reconstruction, there, where the wounds of a painful and difficult past remain open.
In Djakovo, I was able to stop briefly in the beautiful cathedral, where I greeted the seminarians and their professors, together with a vast group of women religious.
4. During the Mass on Sunday, June 8, feast of Pentecost, at Rijeka, I prayed for a renewed outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit on the Christian families of Croatia and of the world. I wished to put them all under the special protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Moreover, it seemed useful to me to confirm the primary social value of the institution of the family, soliciting for it special attention and concrete steps, which favor its constitution, development and stability.
In the afternoon, I went to the Shrine of Trsat, situated on a hill of the city of Rijeka to join myself ideally to the pilgrims who venerate the Mother of God there. In fact, according to a pious tradition, the Holy House of Nazareth was placed there, before arriving in Loreto.
5. The last stage of my trip was Zadar in Dalmatia, a city rich in history. In the shadow of the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, martyr of Sirmio, I celebrated sext [“l’Ora Sesta”], on the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. This Marian feast, which prolongs the solemnity of Pentecost, made us relive the atmosphere of the Cenacle. As then, also today, Mary continues to be present in the ecclesial community: a humble and discreet presence, but animating prayer and life according to the Spirit; a contemplative presence, capable of recalling pastors and faithful to the primacy of the spiritual life, of listening to and assimilating the Word of God, indispensable condition for a convincing and effective evangelical proclamation.
Dear Brothers and Sisters! During this trip I was also able to see how much Christianity has contributed to the artistic and cultural, but above all to the spiritual and moral development of Croatia and its people. It is on this solid base that now, at the start of the third millennium, the dear Croatian nation will be able to continue to build its cohesion and stability, to integrate itself harmoniously in the consortium of European peoples.
May God continue to bless and protect Croatia! It will always have a special place in my affection and in my prayer.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father gave this summary in English:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I would like to speak briefly about my recent pilgrimage to Croatia, the theme of which was “The Family: The Way of the Church and of the People.” This was my 100th apostolic visit, and I give heartfelt thanks to Almighty God for opening to me once more the roads of the world so that I could bear witness to him among the nations.
During this pilgrimage, my third to Croatia, I had the joy of beatifying Sister Maria Propetoga Isusa Petkovic in her noble homeland. I also encouraged women to make their unique spiritual and moral contribution to society, and reminded all the Lord’s disciples that everyone is called to holiness. On Pentecost Sunday, I invoked a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Christian families in Croatia and throughout the world.
May God continue to bless and protect Croatia; this country will always have a special place in my heart and in my prayer.
I offer special greetings to the English-speaking visitors present today. Upon all of you, especially those from England, the West Indies, and the United States of America, I invoke the grace and peace of our Savior Jesus Christ.