Pope Encourages Croatian Contribution to EU

Looking Forward to June Visit

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 11, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging Croatia to bring its own unique contribution to the European Union through conviction in its religious and cultural identity.

The Pope made this appeal today when he received in audience the new Croatian ambassador to the Holy See, Filip Vucak.

The Pontiff acknowledged that “Croatia will soon fully enter the European Union.” The country is currently a candidate for membership and the accession of Croatia to the European Union is expected by the end of 2013.

“This integration must be achieved fully respecting Croatia’s specific characteristics regarding its religious life and culture,” the Holy Father asserted.

He continued: “In entering the European Union your country shall not only be the recipient of an economic and legal system with both advantages and limits, but should also bring its own, typically Croatian contribution.

“Croatia should not be afraid to make a determined claim for respect for its history and its religious and cultural identity.”

Benedict XVI lamented that “dour voices dispute Europe’s religious roots with bewildering regularity.”

“Amnesia and the denial of historical evidence have become customary,” he added.

Christian roots

The Pope pointed out that “to declare that Europe does not have Christian roots is like claiming that a man may live without oxygen or nourishment.”

He told the ambassador, “I am sure that your country will know how to defend its identity with conviction and pride and to avoid the new pitfalls as they appear which, under the pretext of a misunderstood religious freedom, are contrary to natural law, the family, and morality.”

The Pontiff underlined the “rich Croatian historical heritage and the Christian culture with which it is deeply permeated, and which has always supported the Croatian people in times of adversity.”

He affirmed that the country “promotes religious freedom and respects the specific mission of the Church.”

The Holy Father also noted that “Croatia contributes its specific experience to facilitate dialogue and comprehension between people of different traditions co-existing throughout the centuries.”

Highlighting his scheduled June 4-5 trip to Croatia, he stated, “I am most pleased to be able to visit your country in a few weeks’ time.”

“As you know,” Benedict XVI said, “the theme chosen for the trip will be ‘Together in Christ!'”

He concluded, “In the name of Christ, who accompanied the Croatian people throughout centuries with goodness and mercy, I wish to offer encouragement to your country and to the Church that accompanies you.”

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