VATICAN CITY — The Vatican spokesperson, Father Federico Lombardi, confirmed reports that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted an invitation by the Croatian government and the church to visit the Balkan nation.
Priests pray around the glass sarcophagus of Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac in the cathedral of Zagreb. (file photo Oct. 1998)
Although there are no set dates, it’s expected he will travel to the capital, Zagreb, sometime in the spring.
He will also visit the tomb of Blessed Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac.
The cardinal served as archbishop of Zagreb and metropolitan of Croatia during both World War II and Marshal Tito’s term of dictatorship.
He strongly opposed the communist regime and was convicted in 1946 by the Yugoslavian communist government on charges he was a Nazi supporter. He died in 1960 while under house arrest. Those charges have been consistently denied by Croatian Catholics.
The church has said the cardinal was persecuted because he refused to break the Yugoslavian church’s allegiance to the Vatican by setting up a national Catholic Church.
Pope John Paul II declared him a martyr and beatified him in 1998.
This is fantastic news. Now we are wondering if the Holy Father will visit Medjugorje, while he is in Croatia! He does not have to endorse the apparitions of Our Lady, Queen of Peace, but could go as a pilgrim, like the millions of his Catholic children do! Just a thought!