Pope Speaks of Own Death as Croatia Trip Nears End
Sun Jun 8,
By Philip Pullella
RIJEKA, Croatia (Reuters) - Pope John Paul Sunday
spoke of his own death as he neared the end of a visit to Croatia,
the 100th foreign trip of his papacy.
Visiting a sanctuary in the Croatian port city of Rijeka, the pope
announced in unprepared remarks that he was leaving behind a gold
rosary and added: "I hope that you will pray for me during my life
and after my death."
The 83-year-old pontiff, who suffers from Parkinson's disease (news
- web sites) and other ailments, has been speaking more frequently
in recent years about his own death. He made almost identical
comments during a visit to his native Poland last August.
John Paul is the fourth-longest serving pope in history and will
mark 25 years since his election on October 16 this year.
His latest remarks came during a visit to the sanctuary of Our Lady
of Trsat, where the home of the Virgin Mary is said to have been
reconstructed after being dismantled and removed from the Holy Land
during the Crusades. It was later moved to Italy.
The Pope appeared tired after another long day in Croatia.
Temperatures have been around 86 degrees on every day of the visit,
which began Thursday and ends Monday afternoon.
Earlier, he urged Catholics to defend traditional family values and
oppose innovations such as gay marriages to put a "tragically
fragmented" society back on track with God's wishes.
He made his plea at an open air mass for more than 100,000 people in
Rijeka, an Adriatic city that was part of Italy and known as Fiume
between the two world wars.
Despite hot weather, the Polish pontiff's doctor said he was holding
up fairly well.
"He is suffering from the heat like all of us but there are no new
serious problems," Renato Buzzonetti told reporters.
FOCUS ON FAMILY
The pope has spent much of this trip preaching reconciliation for
the people of the Balkans torn apart by the wars of independence in
the early 1990s.
But Sunday his focus was on the traditional family. He told the
crowd Catholics should not be afraid of publicly defending
traditional family values in modern society.
"God's authentic plan" for the family, he said, was founded on "the
stable and faithful union of a man and a woman, bound to each other
with a bond that is publicly manifested and recognized."
It was a clear reaffirmation of his opposition to gay marriage and
the legal recognition of common-law heterosexual unions -- a
recurring theme of his papacy, which marks its 25th anniversary in
In the past few years the Vatican (news - web sites) has opposed
moves to give homosexuals the right to marry, to receive the same
benefits as heterosexual couples, and to adopt children.
"Society today is tragically fragmented and divided. This is the
reason why it is so desperately unfulfilled," the pope told the
cheering crowd packing the streets of the city that was once the
chief port of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The pope used a special motorized hydraulic chair, first tried
overseas in Spain in May, that allows him to move around and lifts
him up to the altar so he can say mass while seated.
Despite his ailments, the pope appears to have no intention of
slowing down. He is due to visit Bosnia on June 22 and Slovakia in
September. He may also go to Mongolia in late August.
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