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Tuesday, June 7, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 4 JUN 2011 (VIS) - After greeting the national organization committee of the apostolic visit at the nunciature of Zagreb the Holy Father travelled to the National Theater at 5:45pm to meet with representatives of civil society and the political, academic, cultural, and business realms as well as with the diplomatic corps and religious leaders.

  Benedict XVI was welcomed by a small musical ensemble and was greeted by Archbishop Zelimir Puljic, of Zadar, president of the Croatian Bishops' Conference Cultural Commission and Prof. Niko Zurak, chair of Ethics in Zagreb's Faculty of Medicine and member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

  The Pope began his address speaking of "the dimension of universality, characteristic of art and culture, [which] is particularly appropriate for Christianity and the Catholic Church. Christ is fully human, and whatever is human finds in him and in his Word the fullness of life and meaning".

  "This splendid theatre", he continued, "is a symbolic place, expressive of your national and cultural identity. For me to come together with you in this place is a further cause of joy in spirit, because the Church is a mystery of communion and always rejoices in communion, in the richness of diversity. The participation of representatives from other Churches and Christian communities, as well as the Jewish and Muslim religions, helps remind us that religion is not a separate area marked off from society. Rather, it is a natural element within society, constantly recalling the vertical dimension: attentive listening to God as the condition for seeking the common good, for seeking justice and reconciliation in the truth. Religion places man in relation with God, the Creator and Father of all, and must therefore be a force for peace. Religions need always to be purified according to their true essence in order to correspond to their true mission".

  The Holy Father then introduced the main topic of his reflection, the theme of conscience, which "is fundamental for a free and just society, both at national and supranational levels. Naturally", he said, "I think of Europe, to which Croatia has always belonged on the historical and cultural plane, and which it is now about to enter on the political and institutional level. Truly, the great achievements of the modern age - the recognition and guarantee of freedom of conscience, of human rights, of the freedom of science and hence of a free society - should be confirmed and developed while keeping reason and freedom open to their transcendent foundation, so as to ensure that these achievements are not undone, as unfortunately happens in not a few cases. The quality of social and civil life and the quality of democracy depend in large measure on this 'critical' point - conscience, on the way it is understood and the way it is informed. If, in keeping with the prevailing modern idea, conscience is reduced to the subjective field to which religion and morality have been banished, then the crisis of the West has no remedy and Europe is destined to collapse in on itself. If, on the other hand, conscience is rediscovered as the place in which to listen to truth and good, the place of responsibility before God and before fellow human beings - in other words, the bulwark against all forms of tyranny - then there is hope for the future".

  Benedict XVI then emphasized that it is necessary to remember the Christian roots of many Croatian institutions "for the sake of historical truth, and it is important that we understand these roots properly, so that they can feed the present day too. It is crucial to grasp the inner dynamic of an event such as the birth of a university, of an artistic movement, or of a hospital. It is necessary to understand the why and the how of what took place, in order to recognize the value of this dynamic in the present day, as a spiritual reality that takes on a cultural and therefore a social dimension".

  To this end, the Pope cited Fr. Ruder Josip Boskovic, S.J., who was born in Dubrovnik 300 years ago and who "is a good illustration of the happy symbiosis of faith and scholarship, each stimulating the other through research that is at the same time open, diversified and capable of synthesis. ... In Boskovic, there is analysis, there is study of multiple branches of knowledge, but there is also a passion for unity. This is typical of Catholic culture. Hence, the foundation of a Catholic University in Croatia is a sign of hope. I trust that it will help to foster unity among the various fields of contemporary culture, the values and the identity of your people, lending continuity to the fruitful contribution of the Church to the history of the noble Croatian Nation".

  Benedict XVI returned to the theme of conscience as "the keystone on which to base a culture and build up the common good. It is by forming consciences that the Church makes her most specific and valuable contribution to society. It is a contribution that begins in the family and is strongly reinforced in the parish, where infants, children and young people learn to deepen their knowledge of the sacred Scriptures, the 'great codex' of European culture; at the same time they learn what it means for a community to be built upon gift, not upon economic interests or ideology, but upon love, 'the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity'".

  "This logic of gratuitousness, learnt in infancy and adolescence, is then lived out in every area of life, ... and once it has been assimilated it can be applied to the most complex areas of political and economic life so as to build up a polis that is welcoming and hospitable, but at the same time not empty, not falsely neutral, but rich in humanity, with a strongly ethical dimension. It is here that the lay faithful are called to give generously of the formation they have received, guided by the principles of the Church's Social Doctrine, for the sake of authentic secularism, social justice, the defense of life and of the family, freedom of religion and education", the Holy Father concluded.

  At the end of this meeting with representatives of civil society, Benedict XVI travelled in the Popemobile to Josip Jelacic Square where he is scheduled to meet with the youth at 7:30pm.
PV-CROATIA/                            VIS 20110604 (1060)

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