Pope Francis devoted today's general audience to recounting last Sunday's trip to Albania. The Holy Father confirmed that it was important to encourage this population on the path to the peaceful co-existence of the different religious components of society. “Indeed, the various religious expressions have in common a path of life and the will to do good to one's neighbour, without denying or diminishing their respective identities”.
Francis recalled his meeting with priests, consecrated persons, seminarians and lay movements, as well as a number of elderly people who had experienced, “in their own flesh, terrible persecutions”. “It is precisely from the intimate union with Jesus, from the relationship of love with Him, that these martyrs, like all martyrs, found the strength to face the painful events that led them to martyrdom … and it is the strength the Church finds in Christ's love. A strength that supports us in moments of difficulty and inspires our apostolic action today, to offer goodness and forgiveness to all, and thereby bearing witness to God's mercy”.
The Pontiff also mentioned the forty priests executed during the communist dictatorship, for whom the cause for beatification is under way. “They take their place among the hundreds of Christians – and Muslims – assassinated, tortured, incarcerated and deported simply because they believed in God. These were dark years, during which religious freedom was razed to the ground and it was forbidden to believe in God; thousands of churches and mosques were destroyed, transformed into warehouses and cinemas for the propagation of Marxist ideology, religious books were burnt, and parents were forbidden from giving their children the religious names of their ancestors. … Their blood was not shed in vain; it was the seed that will bear the fruit of peace and fraternal collaboration. Today Albania offers an example not only of the rebirth of the Church, but also of peaceful co-existence between religions”.
The Pope concluded by thanking the Lord for the trip, “which enabled me to meet a courageous and strong population that has not given way to suffering”. He encouraged the brothers and sisters of Albania to “be brave and good, to build the present and the future of their country and of Europe … and may the Virgin continue to guide the path of this population of martyrs”.