Pope in Albania to honour martyrs, promote inter-religious coexistence
(Vatican Radio) At a briefing today, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, announced details of Pope Francis’ first Apostolic Voyage in Europe.
Pope Francis’ journey to Albania will be his fourth international voyage, and the first to European country outside of Italy.
Listen to Christopher Wells’ report:
Father Lombardi said one of the main reasons for the Pope’s visit was to honour the martyrs for the faith who lived in Albania, the victims of atheistic Communism. Albania, he noted, was considered the first officially atheistic state, with atheism formally enshrined in the constitution.
Pope Francis himself, as he returned from his recent journey to Korea pointed out another motive for his visit: the desire to encourage interreligious coexistence. Albania, the only majority Muslim country in Europe, could offer a message of coexistence between different confessions and religions for other countries and other parts of the world.
In his briefing, Father Lombardi also pointed to two significant figures for the voyage. Pope St John Paul II in 1993 was the first Pope to travel to Albania; during his voyage, he “practically re-established the [Catholic] hierarchy” in the country by ordaining four bishops in the Cathedral of Scudari.
The other is Blessed Mother Teresa, one of the greatest figures of Albanian history. Mother Teresa, who was beatified by John Paul II, was present with that Pope during his visit to her country. “In Albania,” Father Lombardi said, “Mother Teresa is a national heroine, as well as a figure of extraordinary Christian holiness.”
Although the Holy Father will be in Albania just one full day, his schedule will be very full. After meeting with the President and other civil authorities upon his arrival, he will preside at a solemn Mass in the Mother Teresa Square in the heart of Tirana. Pope Francis will then meet with the nation’s Bishops before heading to Tirana’s Catholic University for a meeting with leaders of the various Christian denominations and religious communities in Albania. The Pope will then go to Tirana’s cathedral where he will celebrate Vespers with priests, religious, seminarians, and members of lay movements.
The day’s events will conclude with a journey to visit children at the Betania Centre, along with various people from other charitable centres in Albania.