Sat, Jun 4 2011
CROATIA 4-5 Jun 2011 Pope Benedict XVI visits a Catholic bastion
Pope Benedict XVI can expect a like-minded reception when he visits conservative and Catholic Croatia for the first time, but protests are also expected. Activists plan to turn out to protest against the cost of the trip to the cash-strapped country, as well as to the pope’s opposition to gay marriage, abortion and the ordination of women. There could also be pressure on the pope during the visit to advance the cause for canonization of the Blessed Aloysius Stepinac, a controversial figure in the region.
The state will spend around six million Euros in preparation for the visit, according to the Croatia Times. Critics say the country, which is in a two-year economic downturn, cannot afford to finance his visit.
The newspaper reports that members of the Coalition for Secularism, which encompasses 24 non-governmental organizations will be protesting against the expenses of the visit in this financially-strapped country and against some of the pope’s positions, which they describe as detrimental to human rights.
Croatians could read significance into the pope’s planned prayers at the tomb of the late Cardinal Stepinac, the controversial World War II leader of the Croatian Catholic Church. In 1946, in a verdict that polarized public opinion both in Yugoslavia and beyond, a Belgrade court found Stepinac guilty of collaborating with the Ustase, a Nazi-like party, and complicity in allowing the forced conversion of Orthodox Serbs to Catholicism. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison, but released and confined to his home parish after five years. Controversially, Pope John Paul II declared him a martyr and beatified him — the first step to sainthood — in 1998.
Croatia is the first of four foreign countries the pope will visit in 2011. He visits Madrid in August for World Youth Day, Germany in September and Benin in November.
Protests in Britain and hundreds of gay couples kissing in front of the Church of the Sacred Family in Barcelona greeted the papal visit to those countries. Croatian activists are reported to be gearing up for similar demonstrations. (WRITTEN Dec 2010)