During his return flight to Rome, the Holy Father responded to several questions posed by three Albanian journalists who had covered his apostolic trip to Albania. The three questions, and Pope Francis' answers, are published in full below.
Q: “Did His Holiness set out with an idea in mind about Albanians and Albania? Such as the Albanian who has suffered but is also tolerant. Has he encountered any other quality in the Albanians, or are these the right qualities to enable the eagle to return to the nest?”
Pope Francis: “The Albanian is not only tolerant, he is a brother. He has the capacity for fraternity, which is more. This can be seen in the co-existence and collaboration between Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics. They collaborate, but like brothers. And then, another aspect that struck me at the beginning is the youth of the country – it is the youngest country in Europe. But you can see that Albania has achieved a superior development in culture and governance, thanks to this fraternal quality”.
Q: “Travelling along the central boulevard of Tirana, beneath the portraits of the clerics martyred during the communist regime, in a country in which the State imposed atheism until twenty-five years ago, what was your personal feeling?”
Pope Francis: “For two months I have been studying that difficult period in the history of Albania, in order to understand it, and I have also studied something of its origins. But you have had beautiful and strong cultural roots since the beginning. It was a cruel period; the level of cruelty was terrible. When I saw those photos – but not just the Catholics, also the Orthodox, and Muslims …. and when I thought of the words said to them: 'But you must not believe in God', to which they responded, 'I believe'... Boom! They killed them. This is why I say that all three religious components have given witness to God and now give witness to fraternity”.
Q: “Albania is a country with a Muslim majority. But your visit took place at a moment in which the global situation is precarious. You yourself have declared that the third world war has already begun. The message of your visit is intended solely for Albania, or beyond?”
Pope Francis: “No, it goes far beyond. Albania has constructed a path of peace, co-existence and cooperation that goes far beyond, that touches other countries that also have diverse ethnic roots. It is a country with a Muslim majority, but it is not a Muslim country. It is a European country. Albania is a European country in terms of her culture, the culture of coexistence, and also for her cultural history”.
Q: “After Albania, where will your next trips be?”
Pope Francis: “On 25 November, Strasbourg, to speak at the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. And then, perhaps, on 28 November, Turkey, to be there to celebrate the feast of St. Andrew, with the Patriarch Bartholomaios”.
Q: “We have understood that you have a vision of Albania that is a little different to that of the Europeans; that is, we look at Europe almost as if it were the European Union, whereas you have chosen, as the first European country to visit, a peripheral country that does not belong to the European Union. What would you say to those who look only at the Europe of the 'powerful'?”
Pope Francis: “That my trip is a message, it is a sign: it is a sign I wish to give”.
Q: “We all saw you weep, I think, for the first time, we saw you very moved during that encounter: it was, I think, the most moving moment of the trip...”
Pope Francis: “To hear a martyr speak of his own martyrdom was very powerful. I think that all of us who were there were moved, all of us. And they spoke as if they were talking about other people, simply and with humility. It did me a great deal of good”.