RIJEKA, Croatia - Weak but determined, Pope John Paul II on Thursday began his landmark 100th pilgrimage: a five-day visit to Croatia, a Roman Catholic stronghold in the Balkans.
The 83-year-old pontiff's plane landed at an Adriatic island airport, where the ex-Yugoslav republic's president and top church leaders welcomed him.
"I thank Almighty God for having allowed me to come back among you on this, my hundredth pastoral visit," John Paul said to applause.
Although his left arm shook and he gulped deep breaths, the pope delivered his arrival speech in Croatian with a strong and clear voice before being spirited by high-speed catamaran across a bay to Rijeka's harbor, where thousands of cheering pilgrims gathered near the docks to greet him.