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Full Text of In-Flight Papal Press Conference From Albania

“The Albanian is not tolerant; he is a brother. He has the capacity of fraternity: and more than that. This is witnessed in the coexistence, in the collaboration between Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics.”

Here below is an English translation of the transcript of Pope Francis’ press conference given on the flight back from Tirana yesterday evening. 

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(Father Lombardi) – Well, now: We are very grateful to the Holy Father for being with us, even at the end of such a demanding day. He wished to be at our disposition for some questions, but a few, on the trip. And so we adopted as criteria to have questions of our three Albanian colleagues, who made the whole trip with us: they came to Rome precisely to travel with you, and now they are also returning to Rome to conclude their experience with you. They are from three Albanian television channels. We begin with Mrs. Mira Tuci, who is from Albanian National Television.

(Journalist) – Your Holiness left with an idea in mind for the Albanians, for Albania — how Albanians have suffered, but they are also tolerant. Did you find some other quality in Albanians, which you have been able to see? Are these qualities the right ones to make the eagle return to the nest?

(Pope Francis) – I will say that I have adjusted somewhat those things that you say, but the suffering that you Albanians have had I’ve seen closer up. As for tolerance … I change the word. The Albanian is not tolerant; he is a brother. He has the capacity of fraternity: and more than that. This is witnessed in the coexistence, in the collaboration between Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics. And they collaborate but as brothers, no? And then, something else struck me from the beginning: the youth of the country. When I made this comment, I was told that it’s the youngest country in Europe. But Albania has, in fact one sees, a superior development in culture and also in governance, thanks to this fraternity.

(Journalist) – Your Holiness, moving on the central boulevard of Tirana, under the portraits of clerics martyred during the Communist regime, in a country in which atheism of State was imposed up to 25 years ago, what personal emotion did you have?

(Pope Francis) – I have been studying somewhat for two months that difficult period of Albania to understand it. I have also studied the beginning to a degree. But you have most beautiful cultural roots, and strong, of great culture, since the beginning. I have studied this period and it was a cruel period: the level of cruelty was terrible. When I saw those photographs, not only of Catholics but also of Orthodox, even Muslims, … and when I thought of the words addressed to them “But you must not believe in God” – “I do believe!” – boom, and they did so . Therefore I say that all three of the religious components gave witness of God and now give witness of fraternity.

(Journalist) – Your Holiness, you visited Albania which is a country of Muslim majority. However, the visit happened at a precarious moment given the global situation. You yourself stated that the Third World War has already begun. Is your message of the visit only for the Albanians or does it go beyond?

(Pope Francis) – No, it goes beyond. Albania has made a journey of peace, of coexistence and of collaboration that goes beyond; it goes to other countries that also have diverse ethnic roots. You have said: “It’s a Muslim country in the majority.” Yes, but it isn’t a Muslim country. It’s a European country. This was a surprise for me. Albania is a European country, in fact, because of its culture – the culture of coexistence, also because of the historical culture it has had.

(Journalist) – You have now made this trip to Albania, which is in Europe. What are the next ones?

(Pope Francis) – Yes, I can’t change the geography. The next trips will be November 25, Strasbourg, the European Council and the European Parliament, both, – and, then, the 28th – perhaps – Turkey, to be there for the feast on the 30thof Saint Andrew, with Patriarch Bartholomew.

(Journalist) – Holiness, we have understood that you have a vision of Albania that is somewhat different from that of Europeans, that is, we look at Europe almost as the European Union. You have chosen, as the first country of Europe to visit, a country of the periphery that does not belong to the European Union. What can you say to those who look only at the Europe of the “powerful”?

(Pope Francis) – That my trip is a message, it’s a sign; it’s a sign I want to give.

(Journalist) – We all saw you, I believe, weep, for the first time, you were very moved in that meeting: I think it was the most moving moment of the trip.

(Holy Father) – To hear a martyr speak of his own martyrdom is intense! I think that all of us who were there were moved, all of us. And those witnesses spoke as if they were speaking of another, with naturalness, with humility. This did me good! Thank you so much and good evening.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

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