Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "The peaceful and fruitful coexistence between people and communities belonging to different religions is not only desirable, but also concretely possible and practicable " as evidenced by Albania, a country "long oppressed by an atheist and inhumane regime " who murdered "hundreds of Christians religious and Muslims." And the current situation in Albania confirms that " the martyrs are not the vanquished, but the victors: in their heroic witness the omnipotence of God, who always consoles His people, shines forth, opening new paths and horizons of hope".
The trip last Sunday to the "Land of the Eagles" was the focus of Pope Francis' general audience today with
40 thousand people gathered in St
Peter's Square, despite the light
The audience also gave the Pope the opportunity to appeal for "those countries in Africa that are suffering because of the outbreak of Ebola. I am close to the many people affected by this terrible disease. I invite you to pray for them and for those who have so tragically lost their lives. I hope the international community may provide much needed help to alleviate the sufferings of our brothers and sisters. We pray to Our Lady for those our brothers and sisters who are sick".
The visit in Albania he said, "was born from the desire to go to a country that, having long been oppressed by an atheistic and inhuman regime, is now living an experience of peaceful coexistence among its various religious components. It seemed important to encourage them along this path, so that they might continue with tenacity and deepen all aspects for the benefit of the common good. For this reason, at the centre of the Voyage there was an inter-religious meeting where I was able to see, with great satisfaction, that the peaceful and fruitful coexistence between people and communities belonging to different religions is not only desirable, but also concretely possible and practicable. They practice it! It is a genuine and fruitful dialogue that avoids relativism and takes into account the identity of each. What unites the various religious expressions, in fact, is the journey of life, the good will to do good to others, without denying or downplaying their respective identities.
The encounter with the priests, consecrated men and women, the seminarians and the lay movements was the occasion to remember gratefully, with particular emotion, the many martyrs of the faith. Thanks to the presence of some elderly people, who experienced the terrible persecutions in their own flesh, the faith of many heroic witnesses of the past, who followed Christ to the very end, continues to resonate. It is precisely from the intimate union with Jesus, from the relationship of love with Him, that the strength to face the painful events that led to them to martyrdom rose up in these martyrs, as in every martyr. Even today, as yesterday, the strength of the Church is not given so much by organizational capabilities or structures (which are also necessary). The strength of the Church is not found there. Our strength is the love of Christ! A strength that sustains us in times of trouble and inspires the daily apostolic action to offer to all goodness and forgiveness, thus testifying to the mercy of God.
Travelling along the principle road of Tirana, that takes you from the airport to the great central piazza, I was able to see the pictures of forty priests killed during the communist dictatorship, for whom the cause of beatification has been opened. To these are added the hundreds of Christian religious and Muslims killed, tortured, imprisoned, and exiled solely for believing in God. They were dark years, during which religious liberty was razed to the ground and it was forbidden to believe in God; thousands of churches and mosques were destroyed, transformed into stores and cinemas that propagated Marxist ideology; religious books were burned; and parents were forbidden to give to their children the religious names of their ancestors. The remembrance of these dramatic events is essential for the future of a people. The memory of the martyrs who resisted in the faith is the guarantee for the destiny of Albania; for their blood was not shed in vain, but is a seed that will bear the fruits of peace and fraternal collaboration. Today, in fact, Albania is an example not only of the rebirth of the Church, but also of peaceful co-existence among the religions. Therefore, the martyrs are not the vanquished, but the victors: in their heroic witness the omnipotence of God, who always consoles His people, shines forth, opening new paths and horizons of hope".
Greeting the Arabic speaking pilgrims, especially those from Jordan and the Middle East, the Pope's thoughts also returned to the region. "The witness to Christ - said Pope Francis - appears, in some places, difficult and dangerous, and at times, can even cost people their lives, but if we live faithfully, with perseverance and faith in the One who has conquered death, [this witness] is transformed into an endless source of joy and bliss. In fact Christ never forgets his faithful disciples: always be true witnesses of Christ and the truth; be the cause of reconciliation and unity, be witnesses of justice, peace and charity. May the Lord bless you and protect you always".