Benedict XVI Visit to Croatia (June 2011) 

Pontiff's Press Conference En Route to Croatia
"Entrance Into Europe Is a Reciprocal Process of Giving and Receiving"

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, JUNE 4, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's press conference aboard the plane en route to Croatia, where the Pope will celebrate on Sunday the National Day of Croatian Catholic Families.

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Q: Holy Father, you have already been to Croatia several times and your predecessor made three trips to this country. Can we speak of a special relationship between the Holy See and Croatia? What are the reasons for this relationship and the most meaningful aspects of this trip?

Benedict XVI: Personally, I have been to Croatia twice. The first time for the funeral of Cardinal Franjo Seper, my predecessor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who was my great friend, also because he was the president of the Theological Commission, of which I was a member. So I came to know his goodness, his intelligence, his discernment, his joyfulness. And this gave me an idea of Croatia itself, because he was a great Croatian and a great European.

And then again I was in Croatia at the invitation of his personal secretary, Capek, who was also a man of great joy and great goodness, for a symposium and a celebration in a Marian sanctuary. There I witnessed the people's piety, which is similar to that in my own country, I must say. And I was very happy to see this incarnation of the faith: a faith lived with heart, where the supernatural becomes natural and the natural is illuminated by the supernatural.

In these visits, I saw and experienced Croatia, with its millennia-old Catholic history, always very close to the Holy See and naturally with its prior history of the ancient Church. I also saw a very profound brotherhood in the faith, in the desire to serve God for the good of man, in Christian humanism. In this way, it seems to me, there is a natural connection in this true Catholicity, which is open to all and transforms the world or wants to transform the world according to the ideas of the Creator.

Q: Holy Father, shortly Croatia may be united to the other 27 nations that make up the European Union. But recently a certain skepticism toward the European Union has been growing among the Croatian people. In such a situation, will you carry a message of encouragement to the Croatians, so that they look toward Europe not just as an economic prospect but also a cultural one with Christian values?

Benedict XVI: I think that the majority of Croatians essentially view this moment of joining the European Union with great joy, because they are a profoundly European people. Cardinals Seper, Kuharic and Bozanic have all always told me, "We are not Balkans, but Mitteleuropeans." So they are a people who are at the center of Europe, of its history and of its culture. I think in this way it is logical, right and necessary that they join.

I also think that the prevalent sentiment is one of joy, of being historically and culturally where Croatia has always been. Naturally, one can also understand a certain skepticism when a people, not numerically large, enters into this Europe which is already made and constructed. One understands that perhaps there is a fear of a central bureaucracy which may be too heavy, or of a rationalistic culture which does not take history sufficiently into account, or the richness of that history and also of the richness of historical diversity. It seems to me that precisely this could be a mission of the people who enter now: to renew diversity in unity.

European identity is precisely an identity of the richness of diverse cultures, which converge in the Christian faith, in the great Christian values. It seems to me that it is one of the missions of the Croatians who enter in now, to make this visible and efficient; 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 entrance into Europe is a reciprocal process of giving and receiving. Croatia gives with its history, with its human and economic capacity, and naturally receives by broadening its horizon and living in this great commerce, which is not only economic but especially cultural and spiritual.

Q: Many Croatians had hoped that the occasion of your visit would also bring with it the canonization of Blessed Cardinal Stepinac. What do you think is the importance of his figure today?

Benedict XVI: The cardinal was a great pastor and a great Christian and so also a man of exemplary humanism. I would say that it was the destiny of Cardinal Stepinac that he had to live in two different dictatorships, that were however both anti-humanist. First, the Ustashe regime, which seemed to espouse the dream of autonomy and independence, but in reality the autonomy was 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, Gypsies. Let us say that he gave strength to a true humanism, even suffering for it.

Then there was the dictatorship which was the contrary of communism, where once again he fought for the faith, for the presence of God in the world, for true humanism that is dependent on the presence of God: only man is in the image of God and humanism flourishes. This was, let us say, his destiny: to fight in two different and contrasting fights and precisely in this decision for the truth against the spirit of the times, this true humanism that comes from Christian faith, there is a great example not just for Croatians, but for us all.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Holy Father's Address Upon Arriving in Croatia
"Inject New Life Into That Priceless Common Heritage of Human and Christian Values"

ZAGREB, Croatia, JUNE 4, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon arriving at the Pleso International Airport in Zagreb.

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic' greeted the Holy Father, as did Cardinal Josip Bozanic', the archbishop of Zagreb and the president of the Croatian Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Marin Srakic' of Đakovo-Osijek, and Archbishop Mario Roberto Cassari, the apostolic nuncio to Croatia.

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Mr President,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It gives me great joy to come among you as a pilgrim in the name of Jesus Christ. I offer my most cordial greetings to the beloved land of Croatia, and as Saint Peter’s Successor I warmly embrace all its inhabitants. In particular, I greet the Catholic community: the Bishops, priests, men and women religious, and the lay faithful, especially the families of this land where the preaching of the Gospel has borne fruit, bringing hope of life and salvation for all. I extend a respectful greeting to you, Mr President, and to the other civil and military Authorities gathered here. I thank you, Mr President, for the kind words you have addressed to me and I offer you my best wishes for the high office entrusted to you, and for the peace and prosperity of the whole Nation.

At this time, my thoughts go back to the three pastoral visits to Croatia made by my beloved predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, and I thank the Lord for the long history of faithfulness that links your country to the Holy See. For over thirteen centuries, 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, 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.

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.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, with the motto "Together in Christ", I have come to join you in celebrating the First National Day of Croatian Catholic Families. May this important event 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.

In anticipation, I sincerely thank all those who have helped with the preparation and organization of my visit. In view of the challenges confronting the Church and civil society today, I invoke upon this land and all its inhabitants the intercession and assistance of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, the beloved and venerable Shepherd of your people. May he accompany the young generations as they strive to live by that charity which prompted the Lord Jesus Christ to give his life for all people. May Saint Joseph, watchful guardian of the Redeemer and heavenly Patron of your Nation, together with the Virgin Mary, "Fidelissima Advocata Croatiae", obtain for you peace and salvation, today and always. Thank you!

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Words to World of Politics, Culture and Business
"Conscience Is ... the Bulwark Against All Forms of Tyranny"

ZAGREB, Croatia, JUNE 4, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon meeting with representatives of civil society, the political, academic, cultural, and business worlds, the diplomatic corps, and religious figures in the National Croatian Theater of Zagreb.

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Mr President,

Dear Cardinals,

Brother Bishops,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Brothers and Sisters,

I am very glad that the first engagement of my visit should be with you, representing as you do key sectors of Croatian society and the Diplomatic Corps. My cordial greetings go to each of you personally and also to the important communities to which you belong: religious, political, academic and cultural, the world of the arts, finance and sport. I thank Archbishop Puljic' and Professor Zurak for the kind words they have addressed to me, and I thank the musicians who have welcomed me in the universal language of music. This dimension of universality, characteristic of art and culture, 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 fulness of life and meaning.

This splendid theatre 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.

Here I would like to introduce the main topic of my brief reflection: the theme of conscience. This cuts across all the different fields in which you are engaged and it is fundamental for a free and just society, both at national and supranational levels. Naturally, 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.

I am grateful to Professor Zurak for reminding us of the Christian roots of many of the cultural and academic institutions of this country, as indeed all over the European Continent.

We need to be reminded of these origins, not least 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. At the heart of all these institutions are men and women, persons, consciences, moved by the power of truth and good.

Some examples have been quoted, from among the famous sons and daughters of this land. I would like to single out Father Ru?er Josip Boškovic', a Jesuit born in Dubrovnik three hundred years ago on 18 May 1711. He 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. His principal work, Theoria philosophiae naturalis, which was published in Vienna and later in Venice in the mid 18th century, bears a highly significant sub-title: redacta ad unicam legem virium in natura existentium, that is, "according to the one law of the forces existing in nature". In Boškovic', 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.

To return to Father Boškovic', the experts say that his theory of "continuity", which holds true both in the natural sciences and in geometry, accords well with some of the great discoveries of modern physics. What are we to say? Let us pay tribute to the illustrious Croat, but also to the true Jesuit; let us pay tribute to the cultivator of truth who knows how far the truth surpasses him, but who also knows, in the light of truth, how to engage fully the resources of reason with which he has been endowed by God himself.

As well as paying tribute, however, we must learn to appreciate the method, the mental openness of these great men. This brings us back to 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" (Caritas in Veritate, 1). This logic of gratuitousness, learnt in infancy and adolescence, is then lived out in every area of life, in games, in sport, in interpersonal relations, in art, in voluntary service to the poor and the suffering, 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 defence of life and of the family, freedom of religion and education.

Distinguished friends, your presence here and Croatia’s cultural tradition have prompted these brief reflections. I offer them to you as a mark of my esteem and above all of the Church’s desire to walk in the midst of this people in the light of the Gospel. I thank you for your attention, and from my heart I bless all of you, all those you love and all that you do.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Holy Father's Message to Croatian Youth
"Rooted in Christ, You Will Fully Become the Person You Are Meant To Be"

ZAGREB, Croatia, JUNE 4, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered at a prayer vigil with the Croatian youth in Zagreb's Ban Josip Jelacic Square.

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Dear Young People!

I greet all of you with much affection. I am particularly happy to be with you in this historic Square which is really the heart of the city of Zagreb. It is a meeting-place and a centre of communication often overwhelmed by the noise and activity of daily life. Your presence has now transformed it into a kind of church whose vault is the sky itself, which this evening seems almost to bend low over us. In silence we want to receive the word of God which has just been proclaimed, so that it will enlighten our minds and warm our hearts.

I thank Archbishop Srakic', President of the Bishops’ Conference, for his words introducing our gathering; and in a special way I greet and thank the two young people who offered us their fine testimonies. The experience recounted by Daniel evokes that of Saint Augustine: it is the experience of seeking love "outside", and then discovering that it is closer to me than I am to myself; love "touches" me deeply and purifies me. Mateja then spoke of the beauty of community, which opens the heart, the mind and the spirit… I thank you both!

In the reading we have just listened to, Saint Paul tells us to "rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil 4:4). These words are stirring if we consider the fact that the Apostle of the Nations is writing this letter to the Christians of Philippi while imprisoned and awaiting trial. He is in chains, yet the preaching and testimony of the Gospel cannot be chained. Saint Paul’s experience reveals how it is possible, along the journey of our lives, to preserve joy even in moments of darkness. But what is the joy to which he refers? We all know 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 fulfil 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.

Dear friends: this time of youth is given to you by the Lord to enable you to discover life’s meaning! It 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 cancelling everything else, actually lifts it up and fulfils it. In the Gospel of John, Jesus asks his disciples: "What are you looking for?" (Jn 1:38).

Young friends, these words, this question reaches beyond time and space, it challenges every man and woman who is open to life and in search of the right path… And, startlingly, the voice of Jesus also says to you: "what are you looking for?" 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.

Dear young people: if you are rooted in Christ, you will fully become the person you are meant to be. As you know, this is the theme I chose for my Message for the coming World Youth Day, which will see us gathered this August in Madrid and towards which we are now making our way. I began with an incisive expression of Saint Paul: "Rooted and built up in Christ, and established in the faith" (Col 2:7). As you grow in friendship with the Lord through his word, the Eucharist and life in the Church, you will be able, with the help of your priests, to testify to the complete joy of having encountered the One who always stands at your side and enables you to live in confidence and hope. The Lord 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!

Young friends: do not let yourselves 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! In this springtime of your youth, you can find support in the witness which so many of the Lord’s disciples gave in their own days by treasuring the newness of the Gospel in their hearts. Think of Francis and Clare of Assisi, Rose of Viterbo, Theresa of the Child Jesus, Dominic Savio: think of all the many young saints in the great company of the Church!

Here in Croatia, though, you and I think of Blessed Ivan Merz. A brilliant young man, completely involved in social life, who began his university studies after the death of young Greta, his first love. During the years of the First World War he was confronted by destruction and death, but this experience shaped and forged him, helping him to overcome moments of crisis and spiritual struggle. Ivan’s faith grew so strong that he devoted himself to the study of the liturgy and embarked upon an intense apostolate among other young people. He 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. The path of his life was strewn with astonishing and moving acts of charity and goodness! 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. This evening I wish to entrust each of you to her, asking her to accompany and protect you, and above all to help you to encounter the Lord and in him to discover the full meaning of your life. Mary did not fear to surrender herself completely to God’s plan; in her we see the goal to which we are called: full communion with the Lord. Our entire life is a journey towards the Unity and Trinity of Love which is God; we can live our lives in the certainty that we will never be abandoned. Dear young people of Croatia, I embrace all of you as sons and daughters! You have a place in my heart and I leave you my blessing. "Rejoice in the Lord always!" May his joy, the joy of true love, be your strength. Amen. Praised be Jesus and Mary!

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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"The Lord Loves the Family and He Is Close to You"

ZAGREB, Croatia, JUNE 5, 2011.- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the Regina Caeli at the end of Mass at the Zabgreb Hippodrome to mark the National Day of Croatian Catholic Families.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Before concluding this solemn celebration, I wish to thank you for your fervent and devout participation, through which you express your love and your commitment to the family, as Bishop upan – to whom I also express my warm gratitude – has just reminded us.

I have come here today to confirm you in your faith. 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.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, within a year we will celebrate the Seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan. We entrust to our Lady the preparation of this important church event.

Let us be united in prayer at this time with all who, in the Cathedral of El Burgo de Osma in Spain, are 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.

I affectionately greet the Slovenian-speaking faithful. Thank you for being present. May God bless you all!

I affectionately greet the Serbian-speaking faithful. Thank you for being present. May God bless you all!

I affectionately greet the Macedonian-speaking faithful. Thank you for being present. May God bless you all!

I affectionately greet the Hungarian-speaking faithful. Thank you for being present. May God bless you all!

I affectionately greet the Albanian-speaking faithful. Thank you for being present. May God bless you all!

I affectionately greet the German-speaking faithful. Thank you for being present. May God bless you all!

Dear families, do not be afraid! The Lord loves the family and he is close to you!

Queen of Heaven, rejoice…

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Holy Father's Address at Close of Croatia Trip
"These Days Have Left a Deep Impression on My Mind and My Heart"

ZAGREB, Croatia, JUNE 5, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI planned to deliver today at the farewell ceremony in the Pleso International Airport that marked the end of his two-day trip to Croatia. Due to bad weather, the ceremony was cancelled.

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Mr President,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Brothers and Sisters in the Lord!

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 Saviour. 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 neighbour, 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 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.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Words at Vespers With Croat Clergy
"The Church in Croatia Is Called to Be United"

ZAGREB, Croatia, JUNE 5, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today during the celebration of vespers with bishops, priests, religious and seminarians at the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Stephen in Zagreb.

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Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I give thanks to God for this encounter, in prayer, which allows me to spend a special moment of communion with you, Bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, seminarians and novices. I greet all of you with affection and I thank you for the witness that you render to the Church, following the example of many Pastors and Martyrs down the centuries in this land, from Saint Domnius to Blessed Cardinal Stepinac, the beloved Cardinal Kuharic' and many others. I thank Cardinal Josip Bozanic' for the kind words which he has addressed to me.

This evening we gather for a devoted and prayerful remembrance of Blessed Alojzije 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.

"For by a single offering [Christ] has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (Heb10:14). This phrase from the Letter to the Hebrews which we have just heard, invites us to consider the figure of Blessed Cardinal Stepinac according to the "form" of Christ and his sacrifice. Christian martyrdom is in fact the highest measure of holiness, but it is so always and only thanks to Christ, by his gift, as a response to his oblation which we receive in the Eucharist. Blessed Alojzije 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.

Today too, the Church in Croatia is called to be united, to meet the challenges of a changed social context, identifying with missionary fervour new ways of evangelization, especially in the service of younger generations. My dear Brother Bishops, I would like to encourage you above all in the fulfilment of your mission. The more you work in fruitful cooperation among yourselves and in communion with the Successor of Peter, the more you will be able to confront the difficulties of our age. It also important for Bishops above all and for 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. Dear Brothers, adhering to Christ means "keeping his word" (cf. Jn 14:23).

To this end, Blessed Cardinal Stepinac expressed himself in this way: "One of the greatest evils of our time is mediocrity in the questions of faith. Let us not deceive ourselves… Either we are Catholic or we are not. If we are, this must be seen in every area of our life" (Homily on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, 29 June 1943). 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. In this way, your society will make progress towards that "cultural shift" necessary for promoting a culture of life and a society worthy of man.

Dear priests – especially those of you in charge of parishes – I know the importance and the variety of your tasks in an age when the scarcity of priests is beginning to make itself felt strongly. I urge you not to lose heart, 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, offering to each one the gifts that divine goodness has entrusted to you.

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; by your enthusiasm and your fidelity, strive to transmit a living desire to respond generously and without hesitation to Christ, who calls each one to be conformed more intimately to himself, Head and Shepherd.

Dear consecrated men and women, how much the Church expects of you, who have the mission of bearing witness in every age to "the way of life which Jesus, the supreme Consecrated One and missionary of the Father for the sake of his Kingdom, embraced and proposed to his disciples" (Vita Consecrata, 22). May God himself be your only treasure: let yourselves be formed by him, thus making visible to the men and women of today – athirst for true values – the holiness, truth, and love of our heavenly Father. Sustained by the grace of the Spirit, speak to the people with the eloquence of a life transfigured by the newness of Easter. Your whole existence will thus become a sign of, and a service to, the consecration received by each of the baptized when they were incorporated into Christ.

To the young people preparing themselves for the priesthood or the consecrated life, I wish to repeat that the divine Master is constantly at work in the world and he says to all those he calls, "Follow me" (Mt 9:9). It is a call which asks to be confirmed every day with a response of love. May your hearts always be ready! May the heroic testimony of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac inspire a renewal of vocations among the young people of Croatia. And you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the priesthood, do not neglect to offer to young seminarians and novices a balanced formation, to prepare them for a ministry that is well integrated into the society of our time, thanks to the depth of their spiritual lives and the seriousness of their studies.

Beloved Church in Croatia, with courage and humility take up the task of being the moral conscience of society, "salt of the earth" and "light of the world" (cf. Mt 5:13-14). Be always faithful to Christ and to the message of the Gospel, in a society which seeks to relativize and secularize every area of life. May the joy of faith and hope dwell within you. My dearest friends! May Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac and all the saints of your land intercede for your people and may the Mother of the Saviour protect you. With great affection, I impart to you and to the entire Church in Croatia my Apostolic Blessing. Amen.

Praised be Jesus and Mary!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Homily on Croatia's Catholic Family Day
"The Christian Family Is a Special Sign of the Presence and Love of Christ"

ZAGREB, Croatia, JUNE 5, 2011 - Here is the homily Benedict XVI delivered today at the Mass to mark the National Day of Croatian Catholic Families at the Zabgreb Hippodrome.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In this Mass at which it is my joy to preside, concelebrating with numerous brothers in the Episcopate and with a great number of priests, I give thanks to the Lord for all the beloved families gathered here, and for all the others who are linked with us through radio and television. I offer particular thanks to Cardinal Josip Bozanic', Archbishop of Zagreb, for his kind words at the beginning of this Mass. I address my greetings to all and express my great affection with an embrace of peace!

We have recently celebrated the Ascension of the Lord and we prepare ourselves to receive the great gift of the Holy Spirit. In the first reading, we saw how the apostolic community was united in prayer in the Upper Room with Mary, the mother of Jesus (cf. Acts 1:12-14). This is a picture of the Church with deep roots in the paschal event: indeed, the Upper Room is the place where Jesus instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood during the Last Supper, and where, having risen from the dead, he poured out the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the evening of Easter Sunday (cf. Jn 20:19-23). The Lord directed his disciples "not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4); he asked that they might remain together to prepare themselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they gathered together in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, waiting for the promised event (cf.Acts 1:14). 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.

In the Gospel, we heard the first part of the so-called "high-priestly prayer” of Jesus (cf. Jn17:1-11a) – at the conclusion of his farewell discourses – full of trust, sweetness and love. It is called "the high-priestly prayer” because in it Jesus is presented as a priest interceding for his people as he prepares to leave this world. The passage is dominated by the double theme of the hour and the glory. It deals with the hour of death (cf. Jn 2:4; 7:30; 8:20), the hour in which the Christ must pass from this world to the Father (13:1). But at the same time it is also the hour of his glorification which is accomplished by means of the Cross, called by John the Evangelist "exaltation”, namely the raising up, the elevation to glory: the hour of the death of Jesus, the hour of supreme love, is the hour of his highest glory. For the Church too, for every Christian, the highest glory is the Cross, which means living in charity, in total gift to God and to others.

Dear brothers and sisters! I very willingly accepted the invitation given to me by the Bishops of Croatia to visit this country on the occasion of the first National Gathering of Croatian Catholic Families. I express my sincere 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. I know the generosity and the dedication with which you, dear Pastors, serve the Lord and the Church. Your daily labour for the faith formation of future generations, as well as for marriage preparation and for the accompaniment of families, is the fundamental path for regenerating the Church anew and for giving life to the social fabric of the nation. May you remain dedicated to this important pastoral commitment!

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. Blessed John Paul II, who visited this noble country three times, said that "the Christian family is called upon to take part actively and responsibly in the mission of the Church in a way that is original and specific, by placing itself, in what it is and what it does as an ‘intimate community of life and love’, at the service of the Church and of society” (Familiaris consortio, 50). 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, as we celebrate the 600thanniversary of the Eucharistic miracle of Ludbreg; and 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. Blessed John Paul II once said: "An authentic family, founded on marriage, is in itself ‘good news’ for the world.” And he added: "In our time the families that collaborate actively in evangelization are ever more numerous [...] the hour of the family has arrived in the Church, which is also the hour of the missionary family” (Angelus, 21 October 2001). 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! 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’” (Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Participants in the Ecclesial Diocesan Convention of Rome, 6 June 2005). 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!

Dear Croatian families, living the communion of faith and charity, be ever more transparent witnesses to the promise that the Lord, ascending into heaven, makes to each one of us: "I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). Dear Croatian Christians, hear yourselves called to evangelize with the whole of your life; hear the powerful word of the Lord: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Croatia, accompany you always on your way. Amen! Praised be Jesus and Mary!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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