Pope aims to bolster family in Croatia
By David Kerr
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI

.- Pope Benedict XVI will focus on the family during his two day visit to Croatia next month. Plans for his visit were unveiled today, May 31.

The visit to the Eastern European nation will take place on Saturday and Sunday June 4-5.

On the Sunday, the Pope will preside over the Day of Croatian Families. The event is expected to draw over 300,000 to a racetrack venue in the capital city of Zagreb.

“Today, Croatia faces the challenge of secularization: the family and youth are crucial challenges it has to deal with. That’s why the central events of the Pope’s trip are his participation in the meeting with Croatian Catholic Families, and with young people,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., told Vatican Radio.

“The Church relies on Christ to support the unity and mission of the family and to fuel hope for the future of young people. This is how it serves the human community in general, and the national community of Croatia,” said Fr. Lombardi.

The Vatican spokesman said Pope Benedict wanted to raise up heroes for the Croatian people to emulate. So on the Sunday afternoon, the Pope will pray at the tomb of Blessed Aloysius Stepinac in Zagreb Cathedral. He was the Croatian cardinal who was jailed and killed by communist authorities in the mid-20th century.  Here the Pope will be joined in prayer by Croatian seminarians.

It’s somewhat of a return visit for Pope Benedict, who visited Croatia on three occasions when he was a cardinal.

His two day visit will begin on Saturday, May 4, when he arrives at Zagreb Airport. There he will be received by Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, Cardinal Josip Bozanic of Zagreb, and Archbishop Marin Srakić of Dakovo-Osijek, the president of the Croatian Episcopal Conference.

In the afternoon, the Pope will meet various representatives of civil society at the Croatian National Theatre. This will include politicians, business people and leaders of other religions.

He’ll then join over 50,000 young people in Zagreb’s central square to pray the Rosary. The Pope will present the Blessed Virgin Mary with a gold rosary before presiding over benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. 

The motto of the 33-hour visit is “Together in Christ.” Of the four-and-a-half million inhabitants in Croatia, 89% are Catholic.

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