Pope Appeals to Croatia to Respect Life and Family

Welcomes Thousands of Pilgrims at the Vatican

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II welcomed some 7,000 Croatians at the Vatican and exhorted Croatian society to respect the sacred value of life and the family.



Shortly before the audience in Paul VI Hall on Saturday, the Pope had a brief meeting with Ivica Racan, president of Croatia. With their pilgrimage to Rome, Croatian Catholics thanked the Holy Father for last June's visit to their country.

Racan gave the Holy Father an album of photographs of his trip and a book on the history of Croatia. The country is holding legislative elections Nov. 23.

In the presence of newly created Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb and president of the Croatian episcopate, John Paul II thanked the pilgrims for "the very warm welcome" he had always received in their homeland.

The Pope said that during his 2002 visit, when he beatified Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified Petkovic, he was able to confirm Croatian Catholics in the faith "to which you gave beautiful witness in the midst of numerous adversities and sufferings."

"In this way, I wished to sustain your hope, often put to a harsh test, and to encourage your charity by stimulating you to persevere in your adherence to the Church in the new climate of freedom and democracy re-established 13 years ago," he said.

Appealing to Croatia's capacity "to address adequately the challenges of the present moment," John Paul II expressed his desire that its citizens construct "a society founded on religious and human values which throughout the centuries have inspired the generations that preceded you."

He also exhorted the pilgrims to construct a society that "respects the sacred character of life and God's great plan for the family, and to promote "the spirit of communion and co-responsibility."

"The commitment to man and to his genuine good draws strength also from the Gospel and, therefore, is part of the mission of the Church," the Pope added. "Nothing of what is genuinely human should be foreign to the disciples of Christ."