It was the place where St. Paul´s Cathedral was to be built, inaugurated officially on Saturday, in a dedication ceremony presided over by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state. He attended as the papal legate for the occasion.
The Vatican delegation processed into the cathedral at 10 a.m. Cardinal Sodano was accompanied by Archbishop Rrok Mirdita of Durazzo-Tirana; Archbishop Angelo Massafra of Scutari, president of the Albanian episcopal conference; bishops of the country; and priests who administer the dioceses in Kosovo and Montenegro where Albanian Catholics reside.
Several thousand Catholics of Tirana, who looked forward to the completion of the cathedral begun in 1998, attended the celebration.
Among those who greatly anticipated this moment was Spanish Father Segundo Teyado, who has worked in the Balkan Peninsula for the past 10 years. The new parish has been entrusted to him. He is also the director of Caritas-Albania. The cathedral is added to four existing parishes.
“In recent years, thousands of people have arrived in Tirana, who have left the fields to pursue the prospect of a more worthy life here,” Father Teyado explained.
Following the confusion caused by the 1999 war in neighboring Kosovo, and the subsequent arrival of 400,000 Kosovars, most of them returning to their villages, this country of 3.5 million has experienced great political and economic difficulties, despite the international aid it receives.
“Yet, those who stay are inspired to begin again to reconstruct a social fabric destroyed by 40 years of Communism, in which Catholics suffered painful persecutions,” Father Teyado explained.
Of the 300,000 inhabitants in Tirana, only 12% are Christians. But that is not the only problem facing the Church.
“The decades of dictatorship have emptied these people of all religious content, dismantling the values on which their culture was based,” the Spanish priest said. Also, the arrival of numerous religious sects has confused people.
The cathedral, which was designed by architect Dortmund Winfried Hinz, was financed by Caritas, numerous episcopal conferences, and Aid to the Church in Need, which allocated more than $600,000 to the Tirana Diocese.