The Church leaders of Albania say they are ecstatic the Pope will visit September 21.
“Very grateful and happy” were the words the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Albanian capital of Tirana, Rrok Mirdita, used to describe the Catholic Church’s response to the news of the Pontiff’s upcoming visit there, in an interview with Vatican Radio on Thursday.
The archbishop said the Pope aims to help anchor Albanians in their faith and to pay homage to those Catholics and others who suffered martyrdom during the communist dictatorship.
When asked about inter-faith relations, Archbishop Mirdita noted that followers of the nation’s four main religious groups, Sunni Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Bektashi Muslims live together peacefully. He added Albania can be seen as “an exemplary model of peaceful co-existence” between different religions.
Speaking on the Catholic Church itself, he said it is now flourishing after putting behind it the persecutions during communist rule. He expressed his hope that the visit will help give a fresh impetus and prevent the local Church from becoming too stuck in its ways.
Despite how much Albanian society has changed since the fall of communism, Archbishop Mirdita stressed many challenges remain unsolved, such as corruption, poverty, unemployment and organized crime.
On the plus side, he noted, Albania has the youngest population in Europe with strong family values and respect for the elderly. He underscored how the nation’s 3.2 million people, two-thirds of whom are Muslims, have been able to maintain social peace despite the trauma of its past history.
Moreover, the coordinator of the papal visit to Albania, Albert Nikolla, told Vatican Radio that the Church and Albanians, in general, are very happy about the Pope’s visit.
On Zenit’s Web page:
Pope’s Program in Albania: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-program-for-albania-trip-released