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Tuesday, June 7, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 7 JUN 2011 (VIS) - This coming Sunday, 12 June, the Holy Father will celebrate Mass for the Solemnity of Pentecost at 9:30am in St. Peter's Basilica, according to a notice issued today.
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VATICAN CITY, 4 JUN 2011 (VIS) - As is traditional on international apostolic journeys, Benedict XVI granted a brief interview to the journalists who accompanied him on the flight to Croatia.

  The first question was: Your Holiness, you have already been to Croatia on other occasions and your predecessor travelled there three times. Could you speak of a particular relationship between the Holy See and Croatia? What are the most meaningful reasons for and aspects of this relationship and this visit?

  The Pope responded that he had travelled to Croatia on two other times, "the first for the funeral of Cardinal Franjo Seper, my predecessor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who was a great friend. ... Later I visited again at the invitation of his personal secretary, Capek, who was also a man of great joy and great goodness, to take part in a celebration at a Marian sanctuary. There I witnessed the people's piety, which, I have to say, is similar to that of my own land. ... Thus I saw and experienced how Croatia, with its millennia-old Catholic history, is always very close to the Holy See and naturally with its prior history of the ancient Church".

  Holy Father, Croatia may soon be united to the other 27 nations that make up the European Union. Recently, however, a certain skepticism toward the European Union has been growing among the Croatian people. In this situation, will you carry a message of encouragement to the Croatians, so that they might see Europe not solely from an economic prospect but also a cultural one and from Christian values?

  Benedict XVI pointed out that Croatia "is a people who are at the center of Europe, of its history and of its culture. I think in this sense that it is logical, right, and necessary that they join the European Union. ... It is understandable that there might be a fear of an overly powerful centralized 'bureaucracy' or of a rationalistic culture that does not take its history sufficiently into account or the richness of that history and the richness of historical diversity. It seems to me that this could be precisely a mission for this people who are now entering: to renew, in unity, this diversity. European identity is precisely an identity of the richness of its different cultures, which converge in the Christian faith and in the great Christian values. It seems to me that it is also precisely a mission of the Croatians, who are now joining, to make this visible and efficient again: to reinforce the historicity of our cultures and the diversity that is our richness, against a certain abstract rationalism. In this sense I encourage the Croatians: the process of entering into Europe is a reciprocal process of giving and receiving. With its history, with its human and economic capacity, Croatia gives, and naturally it receives, thus broadening its horizon and living in this great commerce that is not only economic but above all cultural and spiritual as well".

  The last question was: Many Croatians were hoping that, on the occasion of your visit, Blessed Cardinal Stepinac would also be canonized. What importance today, from your point of view, does his figure hold?

  The Pope responded that "the cardinal was a great pastor and a great Christian as well as a man of exemplary humanism. I would say that Cardinal Stepinac had to live during two opposing dictatorships, which were however both anti-humanist. First, the Ustashe regime, which seemed to embody the dream of autonomy and independence, but which in reality was an autonomy based on a lie because it was used by Hitler for his own ends. Cardinal Stepinac understood this very well and defended true humanism against this regime, defending Serbs, Jews, and gypsies. ... Then there was the opposite dictatorship of communism, under which he again fought for the faith, for the presence of God in the world, and for the true humanism that is dependent on God's presence. Only if the human is an image of God does humanism flourish. This was his destiny: to fight in two different and opposing battles. It is precisely his decision for the truth against the spirit of the times, for this true humanism that comes from the Christian faith, which is a great example, not just for Croatians, but for us all".
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VATICAN CITY, 4 JUN 2011 (VIS) - At 9:30 this morning the Holy Father left Rome's Fiumicino Airport and, after a flight of an hour and a half, landed in Zagreb's Pleso International Airport, thus beginning his nineteenth international apostolic visit, the first he has made to Croatia.

  The Pope was welcomed by Mr. Ivo Josipovic, president of the Republic of Croatia, Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb, and Archbishop Marin Srakic, president of the Croatian Bishops' Conference.

  During his greeting to President Josipovic, Benedict XVI recalled the three pastoral visits to Croatia made by Blessed John Paul II and thanked the Lord for "for the long history of faithfulness that links your country to the Holy See. For over thirteen centuries", he said, "those strong and special bonds have been put to the test and strengthened in circumstances that were sometimes difficult and painful. This history is an eloquent testimony to your people's love for the Gospel and the Church".

  "From its earliest days", he continued, "your Nation has formed part of Europe, and has contributed, in its unique way, to the spiritual and moral values that for centuries have shaped the daily lives and the personal and national identity of Europe's sons and daughters. In the face of the challenges posed by today's culture - marked as it is by social differentiation and instability, and by an individualism that gives rise to a vision of life without obligations and a constant search for 'private space' - there is a need for convinced witness and active dynamism aimed at promoting the fundamental moral values that underpin social living and the identity of the Old Continent".

  The Pope emphasized that, "twenty years after the declaration of independence and on the eve of Croatia's full integration into the European Union, this country's remote and recent history can stimulate reflection on the part of all the other peoples of the Continent, helping them, individually and collectively, to preserve and to inject new life into that priceless common heritage of human and Christian values. So may this beloved Nation, in the strength of its rich tradition, help to steer the European Union towards a fuller appreciation of those spiritual and cultural treasures".

  Noting that he had come to celebrate the first National Day of Croatian Catholic Families, with the theme: "Together in Christ", the Holy Father hoped that "this important event will serve as an opportunity for proposing afresh the values of family life and the common good, for strengthening unity, renewing hope and leading people to communion with God, the foundation of fraternal sharing and social solidarity".

  After the welcome ceremony, Benedict XVI travelled to the presidential palace for a courtesy visit to President Josipovic.

  At 1:00pm, the Pope went to the apostolic nunciature in Zagreb where he received in audience Croatia's prime minister, Jadranka Kosor. At the end of the meeting the Holy Father had lunch with the members of his entourage.
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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.
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VATICAN CITY, 4 JUN 2011 (VIS) - At 7:15pm Benedict XVI travelled by Popemobile to Josip Jelacic Square, Zagreb's main square, capable of accommodating 50,000 persons, where he held a prayer vigil with the youth.

  Before the Pope's arrival some young persons carried in procession the image of the Virgin of the Stone Gate, protectress of Zagreb, and placed it at the podium.

  After reading some verses of the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, two young persons offered their witness.

  Afterward, the Holy Father gave his address. Referring to the reading in which St. Paul invites the community to "rejoice in the Lord always", the pope said that the Apostle's experience, which he writes while imprisoned, "reveals how it is possible, along the journey of our lives, to preserve joy even in moments of darkness".

  "We all know", he stated, "that lodged in the heart of every person is a strong desire for happiness. Every action, every decision, every intention holds hidden within itself this deep, natural desire. But all too often we realize that we put our trust in things that cannot fulfill that desire, things that turn out to be shifting sands. At such moments we recognize our need for something 'greater', capable of giving meaning to our daily lives".

  "This time of youth...", he continued "is a time of vast horizons, of powerful emotions, but also a time of concern about demanding, long-term choices, a time of challenges in your studies and in the workplace, a time of wondering about the mystery of pain and suffering. What is more, this wonderful time of life is marked by a deep longing which, far from canceling everything else, actually lifts it up and fulfils it".

  "Jesus speaks to you today, through the Gospel and his Holy Spirit. He is your contemporary! He seeks you even before you seek him! While fully respecting your freedom, he approaches each one of you and offers himself as the authentic and decisive response to the longing deep within your hearts, to your desire for a life worth living. Let him take you by the hand! Let him become more and more your friend and companion along life's journey. Put your trust in him and he will never disappoint you!".

  "Jesus enables you to know at first hand the love of God the Father; he helps you realize that your happiness comes from his friendship, from fellowship with him. Why?  Because we have been created and saved by love, and it is only in love, the love which desires and seeks the good of others, that we truly experience the meaning of life and find happiness in living it, even amid difficulties, trials and disappointments, even when it means swimming against the tide".

  Benedict XVI emphasized that "Jesus is not a Teacher who deceives his disciples: he tells us clearly that walking by his side calls for commitment and personal sacrifice, but it is worth the effort". In this sense he encouraged the youth to not let themselves "be led astray by enticing promises of easy success, by lifestyles which regard appearances as more important than inner depth. Do not yield to the temptation of putting all your trust in possessions, in material things, while abandoning the search for the truth which is always "greater", which guides us like a star high in the heavens to where Christ would lead us. Let it guide you to the very heights of God!".

  While stressing that the saints would give them support during their youth, the Pope pointed out that "here in Croatia, ... Blessed Ivan Merz ... discovered the beauty of the Catholic faith and came to understand that his own calling in life was to experience, and to help others experience, the friendship of Christ. ... He died on 10 May 1928, at only 32 years of age, after a few months of sickness, offering his life for the Church and for young people".

  "This young life, completely given over to love, bears the fragrance of Christ; it invites all of us not to be afraid and to entrust ourselves to the Lord as did the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, who is venerated and loved here under the title of Our Lady of the Stone Gate," he concluded.

  After the address there followed a moment of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which remained exposed throughout the night for the faithful who wanted to remain in prayer, preparing themselves for Sunday's Mass.

  The Holy Father said goodbye to the youth and travelled to the nunciature for dinner and to spend the night.
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VATICAN CITY, 5 JUN 2011 (VIS) - At 9:00am the Holy Father travelled from the apostolic nunciature to the Zagreb Hippodrome, which is eight kilometers distant and located on the banks of the Sava River. The hippodrome has a capacity of 300,000 persons.

  Upon arriving, the Pope encircled the grounds in the hippodrome by Popemobile, traveling through the crowd to reach the altar to celebrate Holy Mass for the National Day of Croatian Catholic Families. The stage had the form of two hands: one protecting the source of eternal life, that is, the altar, the point of human-divine encounter in Christ, while the other hand, which forms the canopy, symbolizes the pneumatological action and the presence of the Spirit of God in the Church.

  "We have recently celebrated the Ascension of the Lord and we prepare ourselves to receive the great gift of the Holy Spirit", the Pope said in his homily. "In the first reading, we saw how the apostolic community was united in prayer in the Upper Room with Mary, the mother of Jesus. This is a picture of the Church with deep roots in the paschal event. ... Remaining together was the condition given by Jesus for them to experience the coming of the Paraclete, and prolonged prayer served to maintain them in harmony with one another. We find here a formidable lesson for every Christian community. Sometimes it is thought that missionary efficacy depends primarily upon careful planning and its intelligent implementation by means of specific action. Certainly, the Lord asks for our cooperation, but his initiative has to come first, before any response from us: his Spirit is the true protagonist of the Church, to be invoked and welcomed".

  Benedict XVI then thanked the Croatian Bishops for their invitation to visit the country on the occasion of the first National Day of Croatian Catholic Families. He spoke of his great appreciation "for this attention and commitment to the family, not only because today this basic human reality, in your nation as elsewhere, has to face difficulties and threats, and thus has special need of evangelization and support, but also because Christian families are a decisive resource for education in the faith, for the up-building of the Church as a communion and for her missionary presence in the most diverse situations in life".

  "Everyone knows that the Christian family is a special sign of the presence and love of Christ and that it is called to give a specific and irreplaceable contribution to evangelization. ... The Christian family has always been the first way of transmitting the faith and still today retains great possibilities for evangelization in many areas. Dear parents, commit yourselves always to teach your children to pray, and pray with them; draw them close to the Sacraments, especially to the Eucharist, ... introduce them to the life of the Church; in the intimacy of the home do not be afraid to read the sacred Scriptures, illuminating family life with the light of faith and praising God as Father. Be like a little Upper Room, like that of Mary and the disciples, in which to live unity, communion and prayer!".

  "By the grace of God, many Christian families today are acquiring an ever deeper awareness of their missionary vocation, and are devoting themselves seriously to bearing witness to Christ the Lord. ... In today's society the presence of exemplary Christian families is more necessary and urgent than ever. Unfortunately, we are forced to acknowledge the spread of a secularization which leads to the exclusion of God from life and the increasing disintegration of the family, especially in Europe. Freedom without commitment to the truth is made into an absolute, and individual well-being through the consumption of material goods and transient experiences is cultivated as an ideal, obscuring the quality of interpersonal relations and deeper human values; love is reduced to sentimental emotion and to the gratification of instinctive impulses, without a commitment to build lasting bonds of reciprocal belonging and without openness to life. We are called to oppose such a mentality! Alongside what the Church says, the testimony and commitment of the Christian family - your concrete testimony - is very important, especially when you affirm the inviolability of human life from conception until natural death, the singular and irreplaceable value of the family founded upon matrimony and the need for legislation which supports families in the task of giving birth to children and educating them".

  "Dear families, be courageous!", the pontiff exclaimed. "Do not give in to that secularized mentality which proposes living together as a preparation, or even a substitute for marriage! Show by the witness of your lives that it is possible, like Christ, to love without reserve, and do not be afraid to make a commitment to another person! Dear families, rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood! Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them! The good of the family is also the good of the Church. I would like to repeat something I have said in the past: 'the edification of each individual Christian family fits into the context of the larger family of the Church which supports it and carries it with her ...  And the Church is reciprocally built up by the family, a "small domestic church"'. Let us  pray to the Lord, that families may come more and more to be small churches and that ecclesial communities may take on more and more the quality of a family!".
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VATICAN CITY, 5 JUN 2011 (VIS) - After Holy Mass had ended, Benedict XVI prayed the Regina Coeli with the faithful gathered in Zagreb's Hippodrome.

  "I have come here today to confirm you in your faith", the Pope said. "This is the gift I bring you: the faith of Peter, the faith of the Church! But at the same time you give me this same faith, enriched with your experience, your joys and sufferings. In a special way you give me your faith lived in the family, so that I may keep it in the patrimony of the whole Church. I know that you find great strength in Mary, the Mother of Christ and our Mother. So we now turn to her, spiritually oriented towards her Shrine at Marija Bistrica, and we entrust to her all Croatian families: parents, children, grandparents; the journey of husband and wife, the task of education, professional activities and home-making. We invoke her intercession that public institutions may always sustain the family, the basic cell of the social fabric".

  The Holy Father also entrusted the celebration of the VII World Day of Families, which will be celebrated in Milan, Italy next year to the Virgin. He then noted that the Cathedral of Burgo de Osma, Spain was today celebrating the beatification of Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, "an outstanding bishop of seventeenth-century Mexico and Spain.  He was a man of vast culture and profound spirituality and a great reformer, a tireless pastor and defender of the Indians. May the Lord grant to his Church many holy pastors like Blessed Juan".

  At the end of the Regina Coeli, the Pope returned by Popemobile to the apostolic nunciature, where he had lunch.
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VATICAN CITY, 5 JUN 2011 (VIS) - After taking his leave of the apostolic nunciature, the Pope travelled to Zagreb's Cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and to St. Stephen I of Hungary, where he celebrated vespers with the bishops, priests, religious, and seminarians.

  "This evening", the Holy Father said in his address, "we gather for a devoted and prayerful remembrance of Blessed Aloysius Viktor Stepinac, a fearless pastor and an example of apostolic zeal and Christian fortitude, whose heroic life continues today to illuminate the faithful of the Dioceses of Croatia, sustaining the faith and life of the Church in this land. The merits of this unforgettable bishop are derived essentially from his faith: in his life, he always had his gaze fixed on Jesus, to whom he was always conformed, to the point of becoming a living image of Christ, and of Christ suffering. Precisely because of his strong Christian conscience, he knew how to resist every form of totalitarianism, becoming, in a time of Nazi and Fascist dictatorship, a defender of the Jews, the Orthodox, and of all the persecuted, and then, in the age of communism, an advocate for his own faithful, especially for the many persecuted and murdered priests. Yes, he became an advocate for God on this earth, since he tenaciously defended the truth and man's right to live with God".

  "Blessed Aloysius Viktor Stepinac responded with his priesthood, with the episcopate, with the sacrifice of his life: a unique 'yes' united to that of Christ. His martyrdom signals the culmination of the violence perpetrated against the Church during the terrible period of communist persecution. Croatian Catholics, and in particular the clergy, were objects of oppression and systematic abuse, aimed at destroying the Catholic Church, beginning with its highest Authority in this place. That particularly difficult period was characterized by a generation of bishops, priests, and religious who were ready to die rather than to betray Christ, the Church and the Pope. The people saw that the priests never lost faith, hope, and charity, and thus they remained always united. This unity explains what is humanly inexplicable: that such a hardened regime could not make the Church bow down".

  Benedict XVI asserted that "today too, the Church in Croatia is called to be united, to meet the challenges of a changed social context, identifying with missionary fervor new ways of evangelization, especially in the service of younger generations". In this sense he referred to the importance "above all for bishops priests to strive for reconciliation among separated Christians and between Christians and Muslims, following the footsteps of Christ who is our peace. Regarding your priests, do not neglect to offer them clear spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral directions. While the Christian community admits legitimate diversity within itself, it cannot render faithful witness to the Lord except in the communion of its members. This requires of you the service of vigilance, offered in dialogue and with great love, but also with clarity and firmness".

  While recalling that Blessed Stepinac had said that "one of the greatest evils of our time is mediocrity in the questions of faith", the Pope noted that "the Church's moral teaching, often misunderstood today, cannot be detached from the Gospel. It falls particularly to the bishops to propose it authoritatively to the faithful, in order to assist them in evaluating their personal responsibilities and in harmonizing their moral choices with the demands of the faith".

  The Holy Father urged the priests not to lose heart in spite of the scarcity of vocations and to "remain vigilant in prayer and in your spiritual lives, in order to perform your ministry fruitfully: to teach, to sanctify and to guide all those who are entrusted to your care. Welcome with magnanimity those who knock at the door of your heart ... Persevere in communion with your bishops and in mutual cooperation. Nourish your commitment at the life-giving waters of Scripture, the Sacraments, the constant praise of God, always open and docile to the actions of the Holy Spirit. You will thus be effective workers in the new evangelization, which you are called to realize together with the laity, in a coordinated way and without confusing what pertains to ordained ministry with what belongs to the universal priesthood of all the baptized. Keep close to your hearts the promotion of vocations to the priesthood".

  He assured the consecrated men and women in attendance that "the Church expects much" of them. "May God himself", he said, "be your only treasure. Let yourselves be formed by him, thus making visible to the men and women of today a thirst for true values: the holiness, truth, and love of our heavenly Father".

  Finally, he asked young people preparing for the priesthood or the consecrated life, that their "hearts always be ready. May the heroic testimony of Blessed Aloysius Viktor Stepinac inspire a renewal of vocations among the young people of Croatia".

  At the end of the celebration, Benedict XVI prayed at the tomb of Blessed Stepinac.
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VATICAN CITY, 5 JUN 2011 (VIS) - After visiting the residence of Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb, where he signed the archbishopric's Golden Book and met with the archdiocese's auxiliary bishops, the Holy Father travelled to Pleso International Airport to take his leave of the Croatian authorities, concluding his apostolic visit to Croatia.

  On arriving at the airport, he was received by Mr. Ivo Josipovic, president of the Republic of Croatia, but due to a strong storm neither the Holy Father nor the president could give the addresses they had planned. The pontiff's plane left 45 minutes late. Following is the text of the address that Benedict XVI would have given:

  "My visit to your country is drawing to a close. Though brief, it has been graced with encounters that have made me feel part of you, and part of your history, and they have given me the opportunity to confirm the faith of the pilgrim Church in Croatia in Jesus Christ, our only Savior. That faith, which came to you through the brave witness of many of your brothers and sisters, some of whom did not hesitate to die for Christ and his Gospel,  I have found to be alive and sincere. Let us give thanks to God for the abundant gifts of grace which he dispenses generously on the daily path of his sons and daughters! I wish to thank everyone who helped in the planning and the smooth progress of my visit.

  "These days have left a deep impression on my mind and my heart. The people's participation in this morning's celebration of Mass on the occasion of the National Day of Croatian Catholic Families was unanimous and heartfelt. In yesterday's gathering at the National Theatre I was able to share some thoughts with representatives of civil society and religious communities. The young people present at the prayer vigil showed me the radiant face of Croatia turned towards the future, illumined by a sincere faith, like the flame of a precious lamp handed down by our forebears for us to guard and replenish along the way.  The prayer at the tomb of Blessed Cardinal Stepinac reminded us in a special way of all who have suffered - and still suffer today - on account of their faith in the Gospel. Let us continue to invoke the intercession of this fearless witness of the Risen Lord, so that every sacrifice, every trial offered to God out of love for him and for our neighbor, may be like the grain of wheat fallen to the ground that dies so as to bear fruit.

  "It was a joy for me to experience today the vitality of your people's long-standing Christian tradition. I could sense it in the warm welcome given to me by the people, just as they welcomed Blessed John Paul II on his three visits, recognizing them as visits from the Successor of Peter who comes to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith. This ecclesial vitality, which must be maintained and strengthened, will surely have positive results for society as a whole, thanks to the cooperation between the Church and public institutions, which it is hoped will always be serene and fruitful. At a time when stable and trustworthy reference points seem to be lacking, Christians united 'together in Christ', the cornerstone, can continue to act as the 'soul' of the Nation, helping it to develop and to make progress.

  "As I leave for Rome, I place all of you in the hands of God. May he who is infinite providence, the giver of all good things, always bless the land and the people of Croatia; may he grant peace and prosperity to every family. May the Virgin Mary watch over the historic journey of your homeland and of the whole of Europe. And let my Apostolic Blessing, which I offer you with great affection, accompany you on your way".
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VATICAN CITY, 6 JUN 2011 (VIS) - Following is the communique issued today at the conclusion of the first phase of the apostolic visitation in Ireland.

  "In accordance with the time-scale indicated in the communique of 12 November 2010, the first phase of the Apostolic Visitation announced by the Holy Father in his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, in order to 'assist the local Church on her path of renewal' (19 March 2010, par. 14), has now been concluded.

  As indicated in the above-mentioned communique, the visitators set out to examine:

  a) 'whether the mutual relationship of the various components of the local Church, seminaries and religious communities is now in place, in order to sustain them on the path of profound spiritual renewal already being pursued by the Church in Ireland';
  b) 'the effectiveness of the present processes used in responding to cases of abuse';

  c) 'the current forms of assistance provided to the victims'.

  The visitation to the four metropolitan archdioceses, the seminaries and the religious institutes has been very useful, thanks to the cooperation of everyone who took part in this initiative. The Holy Father's sincere thanks goes to them, especially to the four Metropolitan Archbishops.

  The visitators' reports have been handed in to the competent dicasteries of the Holy See. Individually, and in the context of interdicasterial meetings specially convened for the purpose and conducted in a constructive atmosphere, the dicasteries in question have carried out an initial evaluation, from which it emerges that:

  1) As far as the Irish dioceses and seminaries are concerned, the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Catholic Education do not envisage further Apostolic Visitations. Having encountered various organizations and individuals, including the suffragan bishops, the visitators have been able to arrive at a sufficiently complete picture of the situation of the Irish Church with respect to the areas under investigation.

  2) The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has analyzed the responses to the questionnaires that were sent to all institutes with religious houses in Ireland. In accordance with the method previously adopted, visits 'in loco' to some religious communities will follow.

  3) In the coming months, the competent dicasteries will give indications to the bishops for the spiritual renewal of the dioceses and seminaries, and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life will do likewise for the religious institutes.

  4) By early 2012, the Holy See will publish an overall synthesis indicating the results and the future prospects highlighted by the Visitation, not least with a view to the nationwide mission announced in the above-mentioned letter of the Holy Father".
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VATICAN CITY, 6 JUN 2011 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father appointed Archbishop Alberto Bottari de Castello, apostolic nuncio to Japan, as apostolic nuncio to Hungary.

  On Saturday, 4 June, the Holy Father appointed:

  - Fr. Hugh Gilbert, O.S.B., abbot of Pluscarden Abbey, as bishop of Aberdeen (area 29,068, population 718,000, Catholics 18,600, priests 49, permanent deacons 11, religious 45), Scotland. The bishop-elect was born in 1952 in Emsworth Hants, England and was ordained a priest in 1982. He succeeds Bishop Peter Anthony Moran, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

  - Fr. Crispin Ojeda Marquez, pastor of Corazon Inmaculada de Maria Parish in the Diocese of Colima, as auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Mexico (area 1,429, population 8,852,000, Catholics 7,909,000, priests 1,797, permanent deacons, 128, religious 7,345), Mexico. The bishop-elect was born in 1952 in Tecoman, Mexico and was ordained as a priest in 1979.

  - Fr. Efrain Mendoza Cruz, rector of the Major Seminary of Tlalnepantla, Mexico, as auxiliary bishop of that same archdiocese (area 682, population 3,980,000, Catholics 3,184,000, priests 342, permanent deacons 11, religious 432), Mexico. The bishop-elect was born in 1959 in Tlalnepantla and was ordained as a priest in 1988.

  - Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo, archbishop emeritus of Seville, Spain, as his special envoy to the closing celebrations of the Jubilee Year of the 500th anniversary of the canonical erection of the first ecclesiastical circumscriptions of the Americas: Santo Domingo y La Vega, Dominican Republic and San Juan de Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, scheduled for 7-8 August 2011.
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