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On Monday, 24th with the down the Icon of Our Lady from Jasna Gora left the cathedral in Krk and hit the road towards Istria, the biggest Croatian peninsula. On the Istrian side of tunnel Učka Virgin Mary was welcomed by father Krzysztof Rodak, head of the Office for Family Pastoral of Poreč-Pula dioceses and Ms. Anđelina Greblo as well as few members of praying and family communities active in Istria.

The organizers in Istria had more time then other hosts in Crotia so they managed to prepare more stops for the Virgin Mary to be venerated. The first of them was Pula, famous for its well preserved amphitheater from Roman times. The Icon was took up the stairs to Franciscan church of St. Francis where She was greeted by the faithful whose hearts were warmed with affection. Holy Mass was celebrated by father Rodak, a Pauline born in Poland, who is pastorally active in Croatia for many years and widely known for his spiritual guidance on pilgrimages to Poland he regularly organizes whereas Jasna Gora is unavoidable destination.

On the way to final destination of the day namely to Pauline monastery in Sveti Petar u Šumi (St. Peter in the Woods) Our Lady was greeted in three more places (Vodnjan, Svetvinčent and Žminj) where she stopped for a while not leaving the trailer. On all those places faithful were delighted and grateful to the organizers that they got the opportunity to have the Icon of Black Madonna from Czestohowa in their parishes.

The central event of the day was organized in parish of St. Peter's and St. Paul's in Sv. Petar u Šumi where few hundred of faithful from all parts of Istria came to meet Virgin Mary. After the reception and Joyful Mysteries of Rosary father Czeslav Bielen, the prior of the monastery celebrated the Holy Mass and in his homily emphasized that it is not the icon that is really important but that what the Virgin Mary is telling us through it. The church was packed with faithful that some of then could not squeeze into it but had to stay outside. The over-the- night vigil in front of the Icon started after the Mass and it was animated by different groups including the Movement for the Unborns because in the monastery there is a first Pauline Center for Unborn Life in Croatia founded in September 2004 as well as the Chapel to Mary Mother of Life consecrated in December same year.

Chruch was full all the night long as the vigil lasted until next morning (Tuesday 25th September) and the Morning Prayer of the Liturgy of Hours that was attended by priests and faithful. The morning mass followed. The farewell ceremony started at 9 am. and it has a special moment when the children  from the local school came to say goodbye. It was very emotional when they waived the Virgin Mary with white handkerchiefs as She started her journey to Umag, her final destination in Croatia.

The reception of the Icon was organized in the square adjacent to the parish church of Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Peregrin who was martyred in that location. After the warm welcome the Icon was taken to the church full of faithful who together with their pastor venerated the Virgin Mary praying the prayers from the liturgical guide and singing traditional Marian songs. In the meanwhile the trailer was hooked up the the other car and after the program in the Church Our Lady was ready to leave Istria and Croatia on her way to Italy. The taking down of Croatian flag from the trailer at the border crossing marked that the Croatian part of the peregrination came to it's end. In conclusion, it is interesting to notice that the path of Our Lady left the sign “Y” on peninsula of Istria, that has the highest number of abortion and divorces. Hopefully, this means YES to Virgin Mary and YES to civilization of life and love not only in Istria but in whole Croatia.

Peter Kasimir Hodzič

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