Pope Benedict in Zagreb 311R.
(photo credit: Reuters)
ZAGREB - Pope Benedict warned on Sunday that the traditional family in Europe was "disintegrating" under the weight of secularization and called for laws to help couples cope with the costs of having and educating children.
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On the second day of his trip to Croatia, a bastion of Roman Catholicism in the Balkans, the pope said an open-air mass for hundreds of thousands of people and hammered home one of the major themes of his papacy.
"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," he said in his sermon on the edge of the capital.
The 84-year-old Benedict's sermon was the latest in a series of salvos against what the Church sees as growing anti-Catholicism and "Christianophobia" in Europe.
Speaking on the day Croatia, whose population of 4.4 million people is 90 percent Catholic, celebrates its "Family Day," he railed against practices such abortion, cohabitation as a "substitute for marriage", and artificial birth control. The pope urged Catholic families throughout Europe not to give in to a creeping "secularized mentality" and called for "legislation which supports families in the task of giving birth to children and educating them."
The sermon reflected the Vatican's belief that the Catholic Church in
Europe is under assault by some national governments and European
institutions over issues such as gay marriage, abortion, religious
education and the use of Christian religious symbols in public places.
At the start of the trip on Saturday, the pope criticized the European
Union, saying its bureaucracy is overly centralized and sometimes
neglected historical differences and national cultures. The Vatican
strongly supports Croatia's bid to become an EU member, which it is
expected to achieve in 2013. This would put another overwhelmingly
Catholic country in the bloc.