Updated Monday, June 6, 2011 at 9:03 MDT. Corrects previous report which did not include information about the ceremony being affected by bad weather.
After a short but eventful two-day visit to Croatia, Pope Benedict bid farewell, saying that although his trip was short, it was “graced with encounters” that made him feel one with the Croatian people.
“My visit to your country is drawing to a close,” said the Pope in farewell text that was read to the media by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., at Zagreb international airport on June 5.
The planned farewell ceremony at the airport had to be abandoned due to bad weather. This saw Pope Benedict, instead, having to take shelter under an umbrella as he waved goodbye to Croatia and boarded his plane back to Rome.
“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 Saviour,” said the text.
During his 33-hour visit Pope Benedict addressed Croatian civil society, met with young people at a prayer vigil, addressed families at a Mass for over 400,000 this morning in the capital city of Zagreb, and prayed at the tomb of the great Croatian hero and martyr, Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, just before his departure.
“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,” the Pope said in his farewell remarks.
In return President Ivo Josipovic of Croatia planned to thank the Pope for his visit noting that it came at a significant time in the country’s history. Croats are marking the 20th anniversary of independence this year, at the same time as they are preparing for membership in the European Union.
“Your visit to Croatia is an exceptionally important state event. But it is also a spiritual event in which I have participated with joy, confident that it will give Croatian citizens moral encouragement, a sign of hope and an incentive for the future,” President Josipovic told the Pope.
“Croatia has welcomed you with open arms and is bidding you farewell with love and gratitude. For this reason, thank you for your visit, Your Holiness, thank you for your noble messages of reason, love and peace!”
The Pope then returned to Rome, after a 45-minute delay, onboard a chartered Alitalia flight that was code-named “Shepherd One.”