What Ails Albania

Shkoder’s Archbishop Sees Foreign Aid as Key to Overcoming Poverty

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SHKODER, Albania, DEC. 9, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Given a past scourged by Communism and war, Albania needs foreign help to undertake its reconstruction and looks with confidence especially to Europe, says the archbishop of Shkoder.

Between 1990 and 1992, Albania put an end to a four-decade-long Communist regime and began its difficult path to democracy. Out of a population of 3.7 million, Catholics represent 13% of the total, Orthodox 20%. Muslims comprise much of the rest.

The massacre of bishops, priests, nuns and many lay people is part of the country’s most recent history. Its churches were destroyed and all religions prohibited.

Just under 500,000 Catholics are served by 123 parishes in seven dioceses, in a country where «today one lives in relatively peaceful conditions» and «democracy, still young, seems to be reinforcing itself and enjoying popular support,» Archbishop Angelo Massafra told the Italian episcopate’s SIR news service last week.

The greatest problem is poverty, he said; «unemployment reaches terrifying levels,» in a country where half the population is under 25.

«There is no work and that is why our young people, and families, dream of being able to emigrate, go to other European nations where they can build a dignified life,» the archbishop explained.

Among the most urgent needs are «houses, factories and schools,» he said. As a country we «can look to the future with confidence if its young people study and prepare themselves to cope with future challenges,» he added.

In the recent past, «the presence of believing communities was essential,» the prelate said. Those who «continued to be Catholics during the Communist regime and the war often paid a very high price, even martyrdom.»

Today, «the Church supports efforts toward democracy and modernization,» the archbishop of Shkoder stressed. «We would like to help all to nurture hope, to remake their lives … without having to flee elsewhere to be able to live.»

This hope encourages many initiatives, he added, especially in the areas of education and assistance: schools, training of nurses and teachers, the care of children and the handicapped, attention to child-victims of vengeance, and domestic care for the seriously ill and the elderly.

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