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Kicking off tomorrow, Pope Benedict XVI’s first apostolic journey abroad of this year will take him across the Adriatic Sea to Croatia. The rather short visit (only two days in a country with some 3.8 million Catholics) will not take him beyond the capital of Zagreb, but there are a few interesting events scheduled nonetheless.
On Saturday evening there will be a prayer vigil with the Croatian youth, and on Sunday morning a Mass on the occasion of the National Day of Croatian Catholic Families. These and other, more regular, events will undoubtedly see the Holy Father address topics like family and marriage, the propagation of faith among young people, and ecumenism, especially with the Orthodox. Other topics will also be unique to Croatia and the wider Balkans, an area with a chaotic recent history. In time, I’ll be making choice picks from the various addresses and homilies made.
As mentioned, Croatia is a predominantly Catholic country, with some 88% of the population belonging to the Church. The country is divided into five archdioceses, eleven dioceses and 1 military ordinariate. At the head of the 26 bishops and ordinaries sits Josip Cardinal Bozanic, the archbishop of Zagreb, and Archbishop Marin Srakic of Ðakovo-Osijek, the president of the Croatian Bishops Conference. Representing the Holy See ans nuncio, since 2008, is Archbishop Mario Roberto Cassari.
Croatia has been visited by a pope before. Blessed John Paul II visited the country three times, in 1994, 1998 and 2003. This will the first visit of Pope Benedict to the country