The Associated Press website reports that Pope Benedict XVI today (June 5, 2011) denounced the "disintegration" of family life in Europe, and called for couples to make a commitment to marry and have children -- not just to live together -- as he reaffirmed traditional Catholic family values during his second and final day in Croatia.
Benedict also voiced the Vatican's opposition to abortion at an open-air Mass today at Zagreb's hippodrome -- the highlight of his trip to mark the local church's national day of families. Tens of thousands of people -- waving small plastic Croatian and Vatican flags -- began arriving before dawn at the field muddled by overnight thunderstorms.
The sun shone through the clouds as Benedict arrived for the Mass in his white bulletproof "popemobile," waving to the crowd as he looped around the field, which has a capacity of some 300,000 and appeared nearly full, with faithful from across Croatia and neighboring countries.
This is Benedict's first visit as pope to Croatia -- a Balkan nation that is 90 percent Catholic -- which is expected to join the European Union (EU) soon. The Vatican has strongly supported Croatia's bid to join the EU, as it is eager to see another country that is predominantly Catholic join the 27-member bloc.