Pope Benedict to visit Croatia next year

Pope Benedict
Pope Benedict

.- Croatia's Cardinal Josip Bozanić has announced that Benedict XVI will make a trip to Croatia in 2011. This will be his first time to the country as Pope.

Vatican Radio cited Croatia's Catholic news agency IKA, which reported that the announcement came after a meeting between Croatia's president Ivo Josipovic and Cardinal Bozanic, the current archbishop of Zagreb.

A commission to decide on the particulars of the trip will be comprised of Church and State officials, the president told IKA. One detail of the schedule is already known: the Pope will pray at the tomb of Blessed Aloysius Stepinac, an archbishop of Zagreb in the mid-20th century.

He died in 1960 after much persecution by communist authorities, even being jailed for a number of years while he was the standing archbishop. He was declared a martyr of the Church and beatified by John Paul II in 1997.

Benedict XVI remembered the 50th anniversary of Stepinac's death during the general audience last Feb. 10. Speaking in Croatian, he remembered the bishop and martyr, "who sacrificed his life ... in testimony for the faith."

He told the Croatian pilgrims present, "protect the memory of your martyrs, and on their heroic example in today's Church, be "the salt of the earth and the light of the world."

Pope Benedict XVI will have the chance to spread that message during next year's trip, which will likely come in the first half of 2011.

John Paul II visited Croatia three times during his pontificate. The first of the three visits came in 1994, at which time he remembered Bl. Stepinac at his tomb as "undoubtedly the most prominent" martyr in Croatian history.


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