VATICAN CITY — (CNA/EWTN News) — Pope Benedict said on June 8 that he hopes his visit to Croatia this past weekend “will bear abundant fruit for Croatian families, the entire nation and throughout Europe.”
The Pope said at his Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square that the June 4-5 visit was characterized by what he called “an intense spirit of faith.” In his review of the trip, he said that he primarily wanted to highlight his message to families delivered at the first annual Croatian National Family Day.
In an era of divorce and separation, the Pope said that “the fidelity of spouses has become in itself a significant sign of the love of Christ.” He described this witness as “the first education in the faith” by which “children learn, without anything being said, that God is love, loyal, patient, respectful and generous.”
“Faith in the God who is love is primarily transmitted through the testimony of a faithful conjugal love, which naturally translates into love for children, the fruit of such a union.”
Pope Benedict also recalled with affection his meeting with more than 50,000 youngsters in Zagreb’s Ban Jelacic Square.
“There I was able to meet the new Croatian generation, and I felt the full force of their young faith, animated by a great enthusiasm for life and its meaning, for the good, for freedom, that is to say for God.”
He explained that he was able to remind the young people that God loved them first, a discovery that the Pope said “keeps us always disciples and, therefore, always young in spirit.”
Just prior to leaving Croatia, the Pope prayed second vespers (evening prayers) at the tomb of the former archbishop of Zagreb, Blessed Aloysius Stepinac, in Zagreb’s cathedral. Blessed Aloysius was the leader of Croatia’s Catholics through the Nazi invasion of the Second World War and then the communist oppression in subsequent years. He was jailed following a show trial in 1952, died under house arrest in 1960 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1998.
“In the light of his testimony,” said Pope Benedict said at the audience, “I encouraged bishops and priests in their ministry, urging them to communion and apostolate.”
Finally, the Pope commented upon his meeting with representatives of civil society — academics, cultural figures and business leaders — at Croatia’s National Theatre in Zagreb. There he had outlined the importance of Europe to the Church and the world.
“Once again it has been made clear to all that Europe has a profound vocation to preserve and renew a humanism that has Christian roots and that can be defined as ‘catholic,’ that is, universal and whole.”
“It is a humanism that lies at the center of the human being’s conscience, its transcendent openness and, at the same time, its historical reality, which is capable of inspiring political projects that are diverse but convergent in building a substantial democracy based on the ethical values rooted in human nature itself.”
The Pope then asked the pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square to pray to “the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Croatians,” before imparting his apostolic blessing.