VATICAN CITY, JUN 5, 2003 (VIS) - When Pope John Paul leaves Rome for Croatia at 3:30 p.m. today, he will be undertaking the 100th foreign apostolic trip of his nearly quarter-century pontificate. The five-day trip is the third time he has travelled to this Balkan nation, having been there in September 1994 and again in October of 1998.
Croatia, an independent nation since 1991, is a republic of almost 4.8 million people on the eastern shore of the Adriatic. Its 56,538 square kilometers of area include 1,185 islands, of which 66 are uninhabited. The capital is Zagreb. Catholics are 81 percent of the population. There are 15 ecclesiastical circumscriptions, 1,554 parishes, 27 bishops, 2,260 priests, 2 permanent deacons, 3,520 religious, 1,610 catechists, and 383 major seminarians.
Pope John Paul's trip to Croatia will take just over an hour. The papal plane is scheduled to land at Rijeka, an administrative center and university town of 147,700 inhabitants, at 4:45 p.m., where a welcome ceremony, in the presence of President Stiepan Mesic of Croatia, will take place. From there the Pope will go by car to the port of Omisalj, embark on the catamaran "Marko Polo" and travel nine nautical miles (15 kilometers) to the port of Rijeka.
Over the next five days the Pope will travel around Croatia, visit archdiocesan seminaries, meet with the bishops, visit the shrine of Our Lady of Trsat and celebrate three Masses, including a beatification on June 6, and a liturgy of the Word.
Rijeka, where the Pope lands this afternoon, is in the diocese of Krk, home to the Glagolitic language, whose institution is attributed to St. Cyril and which is preserved only in certain areas of the Dalmatia region of Croatia.
According to information on the official Croatian site for the papal trip, the Croatian Glagolitic alphabet has a long and interesting history of more than a thousand years. The Croats using the Glagolitic alphabet were the only ones in Europe given special permission by Pope Innocent IV in 1248 to use their own language and this script in liturgy. The Vatican accorded special care to the Glagolitic liturgy in subsequent centuries, including publishing several Glagolitic missals in Rome. This privilege applied to all Croatian lands using the Glagolitic liturgy, mostly along the coast.
In 1252 the Pope Innocent IV allowed Benedictine Glagolitic monks in Omisalj on the largest Croatian island of Krk to use the Croatian Church-Slavic liturgy and the Glagolitic Script instead of Latin. Members of the Benedictine monastic order were normally strict followers of the Latin liturgy and language everywhere in Europe - except in parts of the Croatian coast.
When Vatican Council II (1962-1965) allowed use of vernacular languages in the liturgy, Glagolitic remained in used in some Croatian churches.