By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
ZAGREB/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– Pope Benedict XVI says he supports Croatia’s membership in the European Union (EU) if the mainly Catholic Balkan nation helps to defend Christian values. The pontiff made his remarks in the capital, Zagreb, at the start of his two-day trip to the country.
A small boy and a small girl, dressed in traditional Croatian costumes, were among the first to meet Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday, June 4, handing him a bouquet of flowers. The pontiff’s arrival at Zagreb’s Pleso airport marked the beginning of his first visit to Croatia, at a time when it seeks membership in the European Union.
A military honor guard stood nearby as the 84-year-old pope slowly walked over a red carpet to a platform to shield him from the burning Balkan sun.
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Farmotel Stefania is on the way to Slovenian and Croatian Adriatic sea coast.
There, Croatia’s President Ivo Josipovic told Pope Benedict XVI that his trip comes at a historic moment for Croatia, where nearly nine out of 10 people are Roman Catholics. Josipovic said that as president he shares “the joy of millions of Croatian Catholic believers who are greeting” the pope on this pastoral visit.
The president recalled that Croatia “declared itself an independent democratic state 20 years ago and that the Vatican was among the first to recognize this” Balkan nation. The 20th anniversary also coincides with the expected completion of Croatia’s European Union membership negotiations.
President Josipovic also said the Roman Catholic church played a key role in “ending aggression” against his country, a reference to attacks by Serb forces who opposed Croatia’s independence from Serb-led Yugoslavia in 1991.
Pope Benedict XVI stood up, saying he supports European Union membership for Croatia. However, he also made clear that he expects Croatia to protect Christian values.
The pontiff spoke of Croatia “sharing its human and Christian values with other European countries” as it enters the European Union, and that he wants Croatia to help Europe preserve what he called the “common heritage” of Christian values.
The Vatican has expressed concerns about what it views as Europe straying away from Christianity, amid growing materialism and secularism.
Croatia is expected to learn this month or next if talks to join the 27-member EU can be concluded, with membership expected in 2012 or 2013. Croatian officials made clear thet hope pope’s visit will help to make more people enthusiastic for membership.
Anti-EU sentiment grew in April after the Netherlands-based United Nations Tribunal sentenced wartime General Ante Gotovina to 24 years in prison because of his role in a 1995 military offensive to drive Serb rebels out of land they had occupied.
The EU had made his transfer to the tribunal a key condition for Croatia’s membership, but many Croats view the general as a hero.
There have also been protests against the pope’s arrival by people who oppose spending several millions of dollars on the trip at a time of economic crisis.
On Sunday, the Catholic leader was to celebrate Mass to mark the Croatian national family day. He was also to pray before the tomb of World War II era anti-communist Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, whom the late Pope John Paul beatified during a 1998 trip.
Serbs and Jewish people have criticized Stepinac, saying he worked together with the Nazis.
Pope trey to defend christianite,the crusade against christian is global, EU no cross an tahe street Spain ,Poland,France,Italy soon rest of the countrys murder christian in Egypt and Afryka,USA propaganda against christian,Obama is more speeking against christianite,remove all cross from churches wen he made speeches that hes recomandation ,to moslem he start to bekome like mesiash, he care more over his gospel than about the USA country with bigg problems with no end,he used only USA-Masons to expend they influance and take over the Human World an planet Earth and the planet itself under okupation-sad-sad story,GOD have passion,have mercy.Earth is over 70% destroy,christian ghet murder,churches ghet burn,Evil power take over the country,destroy christian,spreed homosexualite under children,destroy famili,and destroy the country same time,peopel ,Pope praye only and beg the Presidents to save the Katolik Church the christian do NOT take the FUTURE from Humanite,Masons,Syjonist have no Mercy,never have before,is invisible war start 1974 year. Will the GOD show his visible power an Earth,that every human can seen? yes it will, wil comt very smoll, will put all superpower an the kne,they will begger for mercy,When? we start from July, in peace will comt,give your a gift,your seen your will believe,the mercyless power is coming,against all masons,syjonist,army,country,dyktators and is not negotiator have no mercy,bring your children the famili future an Earth,Your wilby witnes of all of this event,no one after seen destruktion he made what weapon is used will relase all grip an own population with own government or the all will die,GOD have supreise for HUMAN an Earth