(Photo: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)
Pope Benedict XVI has warned couples that co-habiting is no replacement for marriage, as he held an open-air mass focusing on family values before up to 400,000 pilgrims in Croatia Sunday June 5.
The Roman Catholic head told worshippers how modern society has seen a disintegration of family values.
He urged people not to give in to the “secularized mentality” that living together was a reasonable replacement for marriage.
The historic mass marked Pope Benedict’s first visit to the predominantly Catholic country, and since his arrival on Saturday he has been excitedly greeted by thousands.
Before the mass, Pope Benedict made his way to the altar in his white pope-mobile, and hundreds of thousands of well-wishers waved flags, many of them in the yellow and white colors of the Vatican and the blue, white and red of Croatia.
However, a number of flags from neighboring Slovenia, Bosnia and Serbia could also be seen. Those countries like Croatia were parts of the former Yugoslavia.
As he made his way through the crowds, Pope Benedict’s vehicle stopped so that security guards could life a baby into the pope-mobile. The pontiff gave a short blessing for the child before he was returned to his parents.
Following the pope’s arrival on Saturday he expressed his support for Croatia’s current bid to join the European Union. He told that he understood fears of a loss of cultural identity by joining the EU, but said Europe needed to remember its Christian roots.
“From its beginning, your nation has belonged to Europe,” the Pope explained.
Pope Benedict’s family-focused message also condemned abortion, and he told followers to give their backing to legislative measures that would support families in “giving birth to children and educating them”.
Following Sunday’s mass the pope is scheduled to visit the tomb of controversial war-time Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac and to lead a prayer.