VATICAN CITY, JUN 5, 2003 (VIS) - Pope John Paul began his landmark 100th foreign apostolic trip this afternoon, arriving in Rijeka, Croatia at 4:45 p.m., after a brief flight from Rome. He greeted civil and religious authorities, especially those of the diocese of Krk, where Rijeka is located, and he saluted members of other Churches and ecclesial communities and the followers of Judaism and Islam.
"I have come among you," said the Pope in Croatian, "in order to fulfill my mission as the Successor of Peter and to bring all those living in this country greetings of peace and a heartfelt prayer for peace."
He noted that "the Island of Krk has a rich Glagolitic heritage which has developed in the liturgical use and in the daily experience of the Croatian people. Christianity greatly contributed to Croatia's development in the past. It can also continue to make an effective contribution to Croatia's present and its future. For there are values - like the dignity of the human person, moral and intellectual integrity, religious freedom, the defense of the family, openness to and respect for life, solidarity, subsidiarity and participation, respect for minorities - which are inscribed in the nature of every human being, but which Christianity had the merit of clearly identifying and proclaiming. It is on these values that the stability and true greatness of a nation is based."
The Holy Father stated that "Croatia has recently asked to become an integral part, also from the political and economic point of view, of the great family of the European peoples. I can only express my hope that this aspiration will be happily realized."
John Paul II spoke of the "painful signs of a recent past" for Croatia and neighboring countries and asked that civil and religious leaders "never tire of trying to heal the wounds caused by a cruel war and of rectifying the consequences of a totalitarian system that for all too long attempted to impose an ideology opposed to man and his dignity."
The Pope concluding by remarking on the "almost thirteen years that Croatia has trod the path of liberty and democracy," and saying that "it now needs to consolidate ... a social stability that will further promote steady employment, public assistance, an education system open to all young people and freedom from all forms of poverty and inequality."
After the ceremony, Pope John Paul travelled by car to the port of Omisalj on the island of Krk where he then embarked on a catamaran for the 15 kilometer trip to the port of Rijeka. After being welcomed by the mayor and by port authorities, he went to the Rijeka archdiocesan seminary for a meeting with Croatia's president, Stiepan Mesic. He dined with the staff and seminarians and spent the night here.
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