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Friday, June 6, 2003


VATICAN CITY, JUN 5, 2003 (VIS) - Pope John Paul began his landmark 100th foreign apostolic trip this afternoon, arriving in Rijeka, Croatia at 4:45 p.m., after a brief flight from Rome. He greeted civil and religious authorities, especially those of the diocese of Krk, where Rijeka is located, and he saluted members of other Churches and ecclesial communities and the followers of Judaism and Islam.

"I have come among you," said the Pope in Croatian, "in order to fulfill my mission as the Successor of Peter and to bring all those living in this country greetings of peace and a heartfelt prayer for peace."

He noted that "the Island of Krk has a rich Glagolitic heritage which has developed in the liturgical use and in the daily experience of the Croatian people. Christianity greatly contributed to Croatia's development in the past. It can also continue to make an effective contribution to Croatia's present and its future. For there are values - like the dignity of the human person, moral and intellectual integrity, religious freedom, the defense of the family, openness to and respect for life, solidarity, subsidiarity and participation, respect for minorities - which are inscribed in the nature of every human being, but which Christianity had the merit of clearly identifying and proclaiming. It is on these values that the stability and true greatness of a nation is based."

The Holy Father stated that "Croatia has recently asked to become an integral part, also from the political and economic point of view, of the great family of the European peoples. I can only express my hope that this aspiration will be happily realized."

John Paul II spoke of the "painful signs of a recent past" for Croatia and neighboring countries and asked that civil and religious leaders "never tire of trying to heal the wounds caused by a cruel war and of rectifying the consequences of a totalitarian system that for all too long attempted to impose an ideology opposed to man and his dignity."

The Pope concluding by remarking on the "almost thirteen years that Croatia has trod the path of liberty and democracy," and saying that "it now needs to consolidate ... a social stability that will further promote steady employment, public assistance, an education system open to all young people and freedom from all forms of poverty and inequality."

After the ceremony, Pope John Paul travelled by car to the port of Omisalj on the island of Krk where he then embarked on a catamaran for the 15 kilometer trip to the port of Rijeka. After being welcomed by the mayor and by port authorities, he went to the Rijeka archdiocesan seminary for a meeting with Croatia's president, Stiepan Mesic. He dined with the staff and seminarians and spent the night here.

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 5, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Accepted the resignation from the office of Auxiliary of the diocese of Joliet, U.S.A., presented by Bishop James Edward Fitzgerald in accordance with Canons 411 and 401, para. 2, of the Code of Canon Law.

- Accepted the resignation presented by Archbishop Luigi Conti from the office of apostolic nuncio in Malta and Libya upon having reached the age limit.

- Appointed Archbishop Felix del Blanco Prieto, apostolic nuncio in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, as apostolic nuncio in Malta.

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 6, 2003 (VIS) - In recent weeks the following prelates died:

- Cardinal Francesco Colasuonno, former apostolic nuncio in Italy and the Republic of San Marino, on May 31 at age 78.

- Archbishop-Bishop Packiam Arokiaswamy, emeritus of Tanjore, India on May 22 at age 82.

- Bishop George Edward Lynch, former auxiliary of Raleigh, U.S.A. on May 25 at age 86.

- Bishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nho, coadjutor of Nha Trang, Vietnam on May 21 at age 66.

- Bishop Emmanuel Pothanamuzhy, C.M.I., of Mananthavady, India on April 6 at age 70.

- Bishop Michael Praphon Chaicharoen, S.D.B., of Surat Thani, Thailand on May 20 at age 73.

- Bishop Teodoro Ubeda Gramage of Mallorca, Spain on May 18 at age 71.

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 6, 2003 (VIS) - Early this morning the Holy Father went by plane from Rijeka to Dubrovnik, a city of approximately 46,000 people located on the southern coast of Croatia, where he celebrated Mass and beatified Servant of God Sister Marija of Jesus Crucified Petkovic. After his arrival, he rode in the popemobile to the harbor, where he was welcomed by an estimated 50,000 people who had been waiting anxiously for hours for his arrival. Among the many Croatian authorities present was President Stiepan Mesic.

In his homily the Holy Father affirmed that Sister Marija, "overwhelmed by God's love, chose to consecrate herself to Him forever and to fulfill her aspiration to total devotion to the spiritual and material well-being of those most in need. Later she founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Mercy of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis, with the specific task of 'spreading knowledge of God's love through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy'." He added that, despite many difficulties, the Blessed persevered, "offering up her sufferings as so many acts of worship and supporting her Sisters by her words and her example. For forty years she guided her Institute with maternal wisdom, opening it to missionary commitment in various countries of Latin America."

"The figure of Blessed Marija Propetoga Isusa reminds me of all the women of Croatia, those who are wives and mothers, those whose lives were for ever changed by the grief of losing a family member in the cruel war of the 1990s or by other bitter troubles which they have endured."

John Paul II emphasized that "the frenetic pace of modern life can lead to an obscuring or even a loss of what is truly human. Perhaps more than in other periods of history, our time is in need of 'that genius which belongs to women, and which can ensure sensitivity for human beings in every circumstance'. Women of Croatia, conscious of your lofty vocation as 'wives' and 'mothers', continue to see every person with the eyes of the heart. Continue to reach out to them and to stand beside them with the sensitivity born of your maternal instinct. Your presence is indispensable in the family, in society, and in the ecclesial community."

"In a particular way, I think of you, consecrated women, who, like Marija Petkovic, have accepted the invitation to follow with an undivided heart Jesus Christ, chaste, poor and obedient. Be tireless in responding faithfully to the one Love of your life. For the consecrated life is not only a generous commitment on the part of a human being; it is first and foremost a response to a gift from on high which cries out to be accepted in complete openness. May the daily experience of God's freely-given love inspire you to give your lives unreservedly to the service of the Church and of your brothers and sisters commending all things, present and future, to his hands."

The Pope concluded by saying: "May your Christian community grow and be strengthened in mutual forgiveness, charity and peace."

After the beatification, the Holy Father went to Bishop Zelimer Puljic's residence in Dubrovnik for lunch.

This afternoon, the Pope is scheduled to return to Rijeka by plane where he is to spend the night in the archdiocesan seminary.

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