Vatican City (Fides Service) – This afternoon, Thursday 5 June, Pope John Paul II will start his third visit to Croatia where he will remain until Monday 9 June. This will be the one hundredth Apostolic Journey undertaken by this Pope who has been to 129 different countries and 614 places (not counting repetitions) and has delivered altogether 2,399 speeches. At the end of his General Audience the day before, the Pope asked those present to accompany him with their prayers on this pilgrimage “to a land marked by the testimony of bold disciples of the Gospel. My purpose is to confirm in the faith the brothers and sisters of the Catholic community who at the time of religious persecution remained faithful to Christ and they are not afraid to face the challenges of the present moment in order to proclaim him with courage. In these thirteen years since independence was regained they have consolidated church structures and now devote themselves to ever more effective evangelising work”.
The Pope will visit the dioceses of Dubrovnik and Djakovo Srijem, the archdioceses of Rijeka and Zadar. Every day there will be a liturgical celebration in Croat with elements of other languages according to those present. On Friday 6 June in Dubrovnik the Pope will beatify Sister Marija Petkovic (1892-1966) who founded the Franciscan Daughters of Mercy: the first women in the recent history of the Church in Croatia to be raised to the honour of the altars. The theme chosen by the Croatian Bishops for the Papal Visit is “Family; via Ecclesia et populi” and it intends to direct pastoral attention towards the family facing the challenges of society today in which Christians are called to promote a culture of life and communion. The first two visits the Pope made to Croatia were 10-11 September 1994 and 2-4 October 1998. For this visit a special web page has been opened in Croat and English www.papa.hr
The Church in Croatia
(Church’s Book of Statistics 2001):
Population: 4.660.000; Catholics: 3.772.000; ecclesiastical circumscriptions 15; parishes 1.554; bishops 27;diocesan priests 1.444; religious priests 816; Brothers 84; Sisters 3.436; major seminarians: 383; Catechists 1.610; schools: 34; centres social assistance and charity work 131.
With regard to the Papal Visit see interview with Mgr Tomo Petrić, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Fides 20/5/2003. (S.L.) (Fides Service 5/6/2003 – lines 29; words 387)