Albanian Leader Thanks Pope for Peace Efforts

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2002 ( Albanian President Alfred Moisiu thanked John Paul II for his efforts for the peaceful coexistence of ethnic groups in the Balkans.

The president arrived for a papal audience today accompanied by a delegation that included Jozefina Topalli, president of the Albanian Parliament, and Edi Rama, mayor of the capital, Tirana.

In his conversation with the Pope, held in Italian, the Albanian head of state encouraged the work of the Catholic Church in his country, one of Europe’s poorest. Corruption has hampered development there in the years after the fall of Communism.

Moisiu later visited the headquarters of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic movement active in peace efforts in the Balkans.

Moisiu, 73, the first non-Muslim president of Albania, took office June 24. An Orthodox Christian, he leads some 3.5 million inhabitants, 70% of whom are Muslims, 20% Orthodox and 10% Catholics.

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