Pope Benedict XVI said recently on his visit to Croatia that secularization is breaking down the concept of the traditional family in Europe.
The pontiff, on his second day in Croatia, also said that there is a need to introduce new laws that will help families to support and educate their children, Reuters reported
The pope issued this statement during an open air mass that he held in the Balkans which has long been viewed as a stronghold of the Roman Catholic faith. Hundreds of thousands attended to see the pope, Reuters said.
The pope told the crowd, “Unfortunately, we are forced to acknowledge the spread of a secularization which leads to the exclusion of God from life and the increasing disintegration of the family, especially in Europe,” Reuters reported.
Benedict, 84, spoke on the day that this nation of 4.4 million (90 percent Catholic) proclaims Family Day. He also spoke against artificial birth control, cohabitation without marriage and abortion. The pope urged Catholics not to succumb to a “secularized mentality,” according to Reuters.
From the start of the pontiff’s visit to Croatia he immediately cited the role it can play in preserving Europe’s identity saying, “From its earliest days your nation has formed part of Europe, and has contributed, in its unique way, to the spiritual and moral values that for centuries have shaped the daily lives and the personal and national identity of Europe’s sons and daughters,” according to Catholic Culture.
The pope also met with the country’s cultural and civic leaders, and strongly stated that the attempt for absolute separation of political and religious affairs will endanger the future of Europe, Catholic Culture said.
The pope said, “If, in keeping with the prevailing modern idea, conscience is reduced to the subjective field to which religion and morality have been banished, then the crisis of the West has no remedy and Europe is destined to collapse in on itself,” Catholic Culture reported.
The Pontiff said he hopes Croatia will “help to steer the European Union toward a fuller appreciation of those spiritual and cultural treasures” that have sprung from the Christian heritage of Europe, Catholic Culture said.
The pope visited Zagreb to lend encouragement to the local church. He also prayed before the tomb of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, who was charged with collaborating with Nazi-allied rulers and jailed by the communists for 16 years, Reuters said.
Benedict said Stepinac “knew how to resist every form of totalitarianism, becoming, in a time of Nazi and Fascist dictatorship, a defender of the Jews, the Orthodox and of all the persecuted, and then, in the age of communism, an advocate for his own faithful, especially for the many persecuted and murdered priests,” Reuters reported.
A number of Jews did not think it was right for Benedict to praise Stepinac. Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants told Reuters, “Holocaust survivors join all victims of the Nazi-aligned Ustasha regime in wartime Croatia in expressing disappointment that Pope Benedict would honor Cardinal Stepinac.”
Steinberg told Reuters, “Stepinac was an avid supporter of the Ustasha whose cruelties were so extreme that they even shocked some of their Nazi masters. Pope Benedict was right in condemning the evil Ustasha regime; he was wrong in paying homage to one of its foremost advocates.”
In 1998 the late pope John Paul II beatified Stepinac, which left him one step from sainthood. John Paul II, in turn, was recently beatified by Benedict, who succeeded him.