During his third visit to Croatia, Pope John Paul II honoured Rijeka with his presence over five days.

On the Feast of Pentecost, 8 June 2003, following the great mass celebration at Rijeka’s Delta where the Pope sent a message to Croats to be "a nation of hope", the Pope made his pilgrimage to Our Lady of Trsat.

The successor of Peter visited the sanctuary both as an expression of his piety and his support of Our Lady of Trsat, as well as to show his gratitude to the Franciscan monks for their perseverance and devotion (550 years long) in preserving the various values and symbols of Mary’s Trsat and their interpretation of the "holy and inviolable features of the Christian family", and all its expressions of morality, generosity, devotion and harmony.

This is irrefutably one of the most beautiful chapters in this sanctuary’s history and serves as confirmation of the importance of the prominent seven century long history of Trsat. The sanctuary has inherited a permanent relationship with the Holy See (particularly from 1420 until today, with the Pope’s confirmation of various privileges); certainly a rarity as it unites such strong emotions and amazement by its visitors and its Franciscan protectors.

The Pope’s third visit to Croatia, entitled "Family - the path of the Church and the people", in the prayers of the Pope before the statue of the Virgin, permeated a special ambient and, as a new mark imprinted in the Trsat sanctuary, he delivered his clear message on the fundamental Christian values. His message concentrated on the constant need to return to the sources of the Gospels; the need to defend family faith, honour and steadfastness, strength and "the wisdom of women"; the effort to learn the art and joy of giving love; and the promotion of a "civilization of love." The Pope gave the Trsat sanctuary a rosary and blessed the foundation stone of the future multipurpose Pastoral centre at Trsat, named "John Paul II" in his honour. This centre will be yet another significant gathering place for believers and all guests.