Pope Francis: 'May Peace Reign in Your Country'

Recalls the Witness and Sacrifice of Christian Martyrs in Albania

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The rainy weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the Albanian faithful who gathered in Mother Teresa Square for the celebration of Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

This is the Pope’s fourth international visit and his first visit to a European country outside of Italy.

The second reading from today’s Mass is of special significance to the Albanian people. It recalls St. Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. «So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ,» the reading states.

«Illyria is the exact region where Albania is found, right after Dalmatia. So, for the Albanian people, this text is a witness to the fact that their religious, Christian and Ecclesial tradition goes back to the times of the Apostles. And they consider St. Paul as the first evangelizer of their country,» Vatican Fr. Lombardi said earlier this week when presenting the Holy Father’s schedule for today’s visit.

The Pope began his homily by reflecting on Jesus’ instructions in sending out the seventy-two disciples to announce the Kingdom of God, telling them to greet the places they visit saying, «Peace be to this house.»

«Being here with you today, dear brothers and sisters of Albania, in this Square dedicated to a humble and great daughter of this land, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I wish to repeat to you this greeting: May peace be in your homes! May peace reign in your hearts! Peace in your country! Peace!»

This message of peace has not always been accepted, he noted, particularly in Albania’s history, which he said at one time was closed, «locked by the chains of prohibitions and prescriptions of a system which denied God and impeded religious freedom.» This prohibition, he continued, occurred despite Paul’s time preaching there.

Recalling his earlier comments during the welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace of Tirana, the Pope said that with the persecution of Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, Albania can be considered a land of martyrs. The Holy Father remembered those who are burred in the cemetery of Scutari, where many Catholics were martyred by firing squads.

«With profound emotion,» he said, «I place the flower of my prayer and of my grateful and undying remembrance.»  

«The Lord was close to you, dear brothers and sisters, to sustain you; he led you and consoled you and in the end he has raised you up on eagle’s wings as he did for the ancient people of Israel. The eagle, depicted on your nation’s flag, calls to mind hope, and the need to always place your trust in God, who does not lead us astray and who is ever at our side, especially in moments of difficulty.»

Albania, he went on to say, has reopened to a season of «new missionary vitality» where all are called give a witness of charity and solidarity. Referring to Albania’s link to the symbol of the eagle, the Pope encouraged them to cultivate hope among themselves and for the younger generations.

«The eagle does not forget its nest, but it flies high. Fly high! Go up!,» he exclaimed.

Concluding his homily, the Pope thanked the Church in Albania for their example of faithfulness and witness to the Gospel.

«So many of your sons and daughters have suffered for Christ, even to the point of sacrificing their lives. May their witness sustain your steps today and tomorrow as you journey along the way of love, of freedom, of justice and above all, on the path of peace,» he said.

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Junno Arocho Esteves

Newark, New Jersey, USA Bachelor of Science degree in Diplomacy and International Relations.

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