In a signed editorial published in today's edition of the semi-official Vatican newspaper, Giovanni Maria Vian recalled the enthusiasm with which Croatia welcomed the Pope, beginning with the nation's president, Ivo Josipović.
"President Josipović -- who, although he defines himself as a nonbeliever, wanted to be present at all of the events during the visit -- and hundreds of thousands of people welcomed the Pope with affection and enthusiasm," Vian wrote. "It was a visit which, after those undertaken by John Paul II in Croatia (three times in less than 10 years), has revealed itself to be important not only for the small and proud nation, which considers itself Mitteleuropean, but for the entire continent."
The director of the Vatican daily noted that while Croatia is "profoundly united to Rome," it has also been "ravaged by war and violence throughout the entire course of the twentieth century."
"In this context," he continued, "the Pope strongly recalled that, 'religion is not a separate area marked off from society,' and therefore should not be reduced to the private and subjective sphere."
Quoting Benedict XVI, Vian said that the current trend toward secularization "leads to the exclusion of God from life," which has had "disastrous consequences for human life, which is threatened in many ways, and for the family, weakened also by a flood of substitute ways of living matrimony."
Vian reflected in particular on the Saturday night prayer vigil that gathered some 20,000 youth in Jelacic' Square, which he described as "an impressive sight for the warmth of greeting of the tens of thousands of young men and women and even more for the long silence during the Eucharistic Adoration."
"Once again," the director said, "the Pope knew how to find simple words which touch the heart. In recalling the typically youthful need to not settle for second best, and the search for joy and happiness that lives in every human heart. To go beyond and against the tide, even if it costs commitment and personal sacrifice: because 'it is worth the effort'; to overcome the need for material acquisitions and look for the truth, like a 'star high in the heavens.' Without fear of committing oneself to life."