After his visit to the Catholic University of Our Lady of Good Counsel, the Holy Father made his way to the Cathedral of Saint Paul, to celebrate vespers with the priests, religious, seminarians and members of various lay movements.
Archbishop Rrok K. Mirdita, gave a welcoming address and was followed by the testimonies of an elderly priest and religious sister, witnesses of the persecution suffered under the communist regime.
Fr. Ernesto Simoni Troshani, an 84 year old diocesan priest, recalled when the Communist party came to power and began detaining and murdering priests, some he said who died saying “Long live Christ the King”. He also said that his diocesan superiors were killed by firing squad.
He added that after 8 years of priesthood, he was discovered, arrested and imprisoned under inhumane conditions. “We hit because you preach Christ”, he recalled them saying. When he was at the point of death, they set him free.
He also recalled a moment when a false prisoner was placed with him in order to deceive him into speaking against communism, and thus assuring his execution. He was imprisoned for 18 years and in his cell he wrote: ‘Jesus is my life’. The elderly priest also served in forced labor during his imprisonment. With the fall of communism and the return of religious freedom, he now serves as pastor of a local parish.
After his witness, Fr. Troshani approached the Holy Father and knelt, kissing his ring. The Pope, visibly moved by his testimony, wept and held the priest in a long embrace.
Sr. Maria Kaleta, an Albanian nun, recalled how her pastor was imprisoned for 8 years. The priest, who was close to death, was released from prison. Upon his release, he immediately left to see his faithful but discovered that his parish no longer existed. Today, she said, the process of canonization of this priest has been opened.
Sr. Kaleta belonged to Stigmatine Religious Congregation for 7 years, before the communist regime shut down their convent, forcing the nuns to flee. The religious sister recalled how she and several other local religious continued to maintain their faith despite the odds.
“Sometimes I wasn’t sure if they were spying on me, but I continued to defend the faith,” she said. Shortly after, the Communist began to impose forced labor in the country.
The religious sister recounted how a woman from a communist family asked her about seeking baptism for her child. Sr. Kaleta said she feared that it was a trap but nonetheless, brought some water and baptized the child. During that period, she remembered her desire to go to Mass, to receive the Sacraments.
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On ZENIT’s webpage:
For the translation of the Holy Father’s homily at the Celebration of Vespers, go to: