John Paul II Says Croatian Trip Aimed to Spur Reconciliation

Reflects on His Latest Journey Abroad

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 11, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II says his apostolic visit to Croatia was to confirm the brethren in the faith and to promote reconciliation in the Balkans’ postwar era.

The Pope took advantage of the midweek general audience, which gathered some 13,000 people in St. Peter’s Square today, to evaluate his June 5-9 trip.

“It was my 100th apostolic trip,” he said at the start of the audience. “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 a message of peace and of reconciliation,” he added.

The Holy Father went on to mention the highlights and most important topics of his third visit to Croatia, which had the theme “The Family: Way of the Church and of the People.”

First, he mentioned the beatification, on June 6 in Dubrovnik, of Sister Maria of Jesus Crucified Petkovic (1892-1966), founder of the Franciscan Congregation of Daughters of Mercy. During that ceremony, he addressed “a special message to Croatian women” to encourage them “to offer to the Church and to society their spiritual and moral contribution.”

On that occasion he also asked consecrated women “to be an eloquent sign of the loving presence of God among people.”

On June 7, the Holy Father celebrated Mass in Osijek, where he said that 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.”

The next day, Pentecost Sunday, in Rijeka, the Pope invoked “a renewed outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit on the Christian families of Croatia and of the world.”

“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,” he said.

Lastly, the Pope recalled his farewell on Monday, which took place in the city of Zadar, with the celebration of the Liturgy of the Word on the feast of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.

“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,” the Pontiff explained.

This visit served to prove “how much Christianity has contributed to the artistic and cultural, but above all to the spiritual and moral development of Croatia and its people,” the Pope added.

“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,” he concluded.

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