Martyrs' legacy and coexistence key themes of Papal visit to Albania

September 22, 2014

At the end of his one day visit to the former communist country Albanian, Pope Francis has left the capital, Tirana. After a brief farewell ceremony, on September 21, 2014 as the president and prime minister said goodbye to their special guest, the Pope’s Alitalia plane took off slightly ahead of schedule and was expected to arrive back in Rome just before 9.30pm.

The brief, but very intense 11 hour journey to Albania has been focused on two main themes: the witness of the martyrs and the importance of peaceful co-existence.

Looking to the martyrs of Albania’s atheistic communist regime means looking to the past – but not to a dead past. The witness of Albania’s Church of Silence speaks loudly, bearing witness to the nation’s traditions of faith, the firm rock upon which the future can be built.

It is a future that can be built around the mutual coexistence that has characterized Albania since the fall of communism. More than simply living in the same place, living together in peace and harmony involves mutual respect for the person of the other – a respect for the dignity of the human person that must be rooted in faith in God, the Creator of all.

The Albanian people clearly have a strong sense of the past, especially the tragic history of the recent past. Albanian Catholics are rightly proud of their martyrs, who, relying on God, stood firm in their Faith.

Their hopes for the future, awakened in the transition toward democracy, have yet to be achieved. One can sense the concern for the future, the fear that the promise of a new springtime for Albania might not live up to expectations. But if they are worried about the future, they are not discouraged. One can sense the optimism in everyone you meet.

Pope Francis came to Albania to support and encourage this “young people.” He reminded them that the future cannot be built on the empty promises of individualism and selfishness. It must be built on mutual love and respect, which must ultimately rest on the message of salvation of Jesus Christ. Pope Francis prompted  Albanians: do not be afraid of responding to Christ.

That is the great message of encouragement and hope – a hope that will never disappoint – that Pope Francis has brought to the people of Albania.

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