· The Papal Visit to Croatia begins Saturday ·
The Church in Croatia is ready to welcome Benedict XVI with great joy in Zagreb June 4th and 5th. The Pope comes on the occasion of the National Day of Croatian Catholic Families to recall the importance of the family and promote the values connected to marriage and the family which, as a gift for the existence of every man, is the institution in which each person learns to love and be loved, developing his own identity and personality.
The visit of the Successor of Peter is a blessing for every Church and people. It is an event which offers the possibility to reflect on how far we have come, where we are now and especially to open our hearts to the hope that the Pope’s words instill in us, illuminating our future.
For the Croatian Church, Benedict XVI’s visit is a true gift of the Spirit in this Easter time. We know well how many faithful wish to videre Petrum , to be close to the Pope, to communicate with him not only in the intimacy of prayer – in those ways that are known only to God – but also to visibly demonstrate their desire to encounter the Pontiff, through participation in the celebrations.
The seeds of the Pope’s word will fall on ground made up of different realities and experiences in Croatia. We should remember that only twenty years have passed from the fall of the communist regime and that immediately following that, our country had to endure a war which caused destruction and injuries that cannot be healed only through political or economic measures, but need historical truth and a personal encounter with God, the merciful Father. The Church in Croatia is grateful for the very many testimonies of radical adhesion to the Gospel throughout our history, through the era of oppression by the communist regime and through the recent war. It is a richness given to us by martyrs and by witnesses to the Gospel, especially represented in the life and death of the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac. The Church, despite strong, ongoing opposition by a part of our society to the need for purification of memory, gives a great example of the rich spiritual inheritance left by the testimony of the Christian lives of many people, which can never be reassumed by historic facts alone. Along with Blessed Stepinac, there are many men and women, religious and lay people, who have transmitted Christian values to us and are testament to a true Christian humanist culture.
Joseph Ratzinger has already met Croatian faithful and encountered our history and culture in various circumstances as a professor, bishop and cardinal. He is deeply familiar with the most profound dimensions of Croatian culture and expression of faith. In his Apostolic Visit, he will also meet a generation of young people, most of whom were born after the fall of the communist regime, who live the same reality as their European counterparts, but who are also very sensitive to the spiritual values and initiatives of the Church.
The visit will consist of four pastoral encounters, which form a beautiful unity. They represent the milestones of pastoral action and symbolically embrace the different areas of human life: the world of culture, youth, Catholic families, priestly and religious vocations.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 28, 2020
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