Pope begins visit to Croatia

 Pope John Paul II begins the 100th trip of his pontificate today - when he crosses the Adriatic to visit Croatia. Speaking to pilgrims in St Peter's Square yesterday, the Pope said: "Tomorrow I undertake with great hope my third trip to Croatia, a land marked by the testimony of intrepid disciples of the Gospel. My aim is to confirm in the faith my brothers and sisters of the Catholic community who, at the time of religious persecution, remained faithful to Christ and did not fear facing the challenges of the present moment to continue to announce Him with courage." He added: "in these 13 years of reacquired independence (Croatians) have consolidated ecclesial structures and now are dedicating themselves ever more to an incisive evangelizing action. Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to accompany me in prayer. I entrust this 100th apostolic trip of mine to the Virgin Mary, so venerated in Croatia, that she may guide my steps and obtain for the Croatian people a renewed springtime of faith and civil progress." On Friday in Dubrovnik, the will beatify Sister Marija Petkovic, who founded a religious order to help the poor. On Saturday he will visit Osijek, near the border with mostly Orthodox Serbia and Montenegro. The area around the city was ethnically mixed before the war, especially around Vukovar, which was destroyed by Serb and Yugoslav troops after a brutal siege in 1991. More than 88.6% of Croatia's 4.4million population is Roman Catholic, 4.5% are Orthodox and 1.3% Muslim. Source: VIS

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