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Pope Celebrates Mass In Croatia

Pope Benedict XVI leads Mass in Zagreb
Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass on June 5 in front of tens of thousands of people in the Croatian capital, Zagreb.

During his homily, he called on Catholics to "be courageous" in defense of the traditional family: "Do not give in to that secularized mentality which proposes living together as a preparation or even substitute for marriage."

Pope Benedict kicked off his first visit to the predominantly Catholic nation on June 4 by highlighting Europe's Christian roots and Croatia's place in Europe.

Later on June 5, the Pontiff was due to visit the tomb of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac before returning to Rome.

Many Croatian Catholics regard Stepinac as a hero who spoke out against the Nazi-backed regime during World War II and later refused to bow to the communist rulers of Yugoslavia.

But critics say he did not sufficiently condemn the persecution of Serbs and Jews by the Nazis. The late Pope John Paul II put Cardinal Stepinac on the road to sainthood.

compiled from agency reports