Pope heads to croatia with pro-EU message

By the Associated Press | June 4, 2011 | 4:00 AM EDT

A man rides a bicycle past a poster depicting Pope Benedict XVI in Zagreb, Croatia, Friday, June 3, 2011. Pope Benedict XVI will be visiting the Croatian capital on June 4 to 5 for the first time. Poster reads "Together in Christ" in Croatian. (AP Photo/ Marko Drobnjakovic)

ROME (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI has departed for Croatia for a weekend trip aimed at boosting the Balkans nation's aspirations to join the European Union.

Benedict left Rome Saturday morning aboard an Alitalia jet on his first trip as pope to predominantly Catholic Croatia. The late John Paul II made three papal pilgrimages to the nation, which emerged from the bloody breakup of Communist-run Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Benedict returns to the Vatican on Sunday evening.