Monday, December 27, 2010

Pope Benedict to meet top Croatia’s officials and believers next June

Pope Benedict XVI will meet ordinary Croatians as well as political and religious leaders during a two-day visit in June next year, the Croatian Bishops’ Conference announced.

After arriving at Zagreb airport on June 4, the Pope would meet President Ivo Josipovic and Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, the conference said in a statement quoted by the Croatia’s Catholic Press Agency.

Following meetings with intellectuals, business and society figures, he would attend a prayer vigil with young people on the central Zagreb square, it said.

The central event of his visit would be an open-air Sunday Mass at the Zagreb Hippodrome on June 5, IKA reported.

After Mass, Pope Benedict XVI would lead the prayer and send a message to the faithful throughout the world in his tradi-tional Sunday noon address, it said.

Before leaving Croatia, he would lead vespers in the Zagreb cathedral and pray at the grave of beatified Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, the statement added.

Cardinal Stepinac, who headed Croatia’s Catholic Church during World War II, was beatified by John Paul II during his 1998 stay in Croatia.

The move caused controversy as critics claimed he did not stand up against persecution of Serbs and Jews by the country’s World War II pro-Nazi regime.

After the war, Cardinal Stepinac was detained by the communist authorities and died in house arrest in 1960 after serving five years of a 16-year jail term for alleged collaboration with the pro-Nazi government.