Croatian Leader Confers With John Paul II

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 23, 2005 ( Prime Minister Ivo Sanader of Croatia was the first political leader John Paul II received in audience since his hospitalization and weeklong retreat.

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The private, 10-minute meeting with the representative from Zagreb took place Tuesday in the Pope’s private library.

Sanader came to Italy to open an exhibition in the Vatican Museums. The exhibition displays the results of archaeological excavations carried out in the Roman city of Narona — present-day Vid, near Metkovic, Croatia — in which statues of emperors were found.

«We thank you because we have been the first,» said Sanader, alluding to John Paul II’s resumption of audiences. «We are praying for your health.»

After the meeting, Sanader introduced his wife and entourage to the Holy Father.

During the photo session, open to journalists after the private meeting, the Pope had an intent look but he made no comments.

Last Dec. 11, when receiving Croatia’s new ambassador to the Holy See, John Paul II requested that this country be able to form part of the European Union. Croatia, a country of 4.4 million, is 80% Catholic. The Pope visited the country on three occasions.

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