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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

POPE RECALLS APOSTOLIC VISIT TO CROATIA

VATICAN CITY, 8 JUN 2011 (VIS) - In the Wednesday general audience celebrated in St. Peter's Square today, the Pope recalled his apostolic visit to Croatia this past weekend, 4-5 June, which had the theme "Together in Christ".

  The Holy Father noted that the main reason for his visit was the first National Day of Croatian Catholic Families, culminating in Sunday morning's Eucharistic celebration, which took place in Zagreb's Hippodrome with a great number of faithful present.

  "In Europe today, the nations of firm Christian tradition", he stated, "have a special responsibility to defend and promote the value of the family based on marriage, which continues to be crucial both in the educational as well as the social arena. This message, therefore, has a special importance for Croatia that, with its rich spiritual, cultural, and ethical heritage, is preparing to enter into the European Union".

  During the Mass for the families, the Pope continued, he had the chance to "emphasize the gift and commitment of communion in the Church as well as to encourage married couples in their mission. In our days, while there are, unfortunately, a growing number of separations and divorces, the faithfulness of married couples has become a meaningful witness of Christ's love that allows them to live marriage for what it is: the union of a man and a woman who, with Christ's grace, love one and help one another for their entire lives, in joy and sorrow, in health and in sickness".

  "Faith in the God who is love", he continued, "is mainly spread through the witness of faithfulness in conjugal love, which naturally translates into love for the children who are the fruit of that union. But this faithfulness is not possible without God's grace, without the support of the faith and the Holy Spirit".

  Then, referring to the vigil with the youth held Saturday evening, Benedict XVI noted that the young persons present told him that "God seeks them before and more than they themselves seek Him. This it the joy of faith: discovering that God loves us first! It is a discovery that keeps us always disciples and, therefore, always young in spirit!".

  Another moment of his trip was celebrating, with the bishops, priests, religious, and seminarians, evening vespers at Zagreb's Cathedral where is found "the monumental tomb of Blessed Cardinal Aloysius Viktor Stepinac, Bishop and Martyr. In Christ's name, he courageously opposed the abuses of Nazism and fascism, and then later, of the communist regime".

  The Pope commented that in his meeting with representatives of civil society and the political, academic, cultural, and business worlds as well as the diplomatic corps and religious representatives in the National Theater of Zagreb, "I paid homage to the great Croatian cultural tradition, which is inseparable from its history of faith and the living presence of the Church".

  "Once again it has been made clear to all that Europe has a profound vocation to preserve and renew a humanism that has Christian roots and that can be defined as 'catholic', that is, universal and whole. It is a humanism that lies at the center of the human being's conscience, its transcendent openness and, at the same time, its historical reality, which is capable of inspiring political projects that are diverse but convergent in building a substantial democracy based on the ethical values rooted in human nature itself".

  The Holy Father concluded by thanking all who had prayed for his travels and asked that "through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Croatians, may what I have tried to sow bear abundant fruit for the Croatian families, for the entire nation, and for all of Europe".
AG/                                    VIS 20110608 (610)

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