- Created on 05 December 2009
VATICAN CITY, 4 DEC 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience His Beatitude Anastas, archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania, who was accompanied by other representatives of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania.
"As is well known", said the Pope in his English-language address to the group, "Illyricum received the Gospel in apostolic times. Since then, Christ's saving message has borne fruit in your country down to our own day. As the very earliest writings of your culture bear witness, through the survival of an ancient Latin baptismal formula along with a Byzantine hymn about the Lord's Resurrection, the faith of our Christian forefathers left wonderful and indelible traces in the first lines of the history, literature and arts of your people.
"Yet", he added, "the most impressive witness is surely always found in life itself. During the latter half of the past century, Christians in Albania, both Orthodox and Catholic, kept the faith alive there in spite of an extremely repressive and hostile atheistic regime; and, as is well known, many Christians paid cruelly for that faith with their lives".
The Holy Father went on: "The fall of that regime has happily given way to the reconstruction of the Catholic and Orthodox communities in Albania". In this context he praised the archbishop's missionary activity, "particularly in the reconstruction of places of worship, the formation of the clergy and the catechetical work now being done, a movement of renewal which Your Beatitude has rightly described as 'Ngjallja' (Resurrection).
"Since it acquired its freedom, the Orthodox Church of Albania has been able to participate fruitfully in the international theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. Your commitment in this regard happily mirrors the fraternal relations between Catholics and Orthodox in your country and offers inspiration to the entire Albanian people, demonstrating how it is possible for fellow Christians to live in harmony.
"In this light, we would do well to emphasise the elements of faith which our Churches share: a common profession of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed; a common Baptism for the remission of sins and for incorporation into Christ and the Church; the legacy of the first ecumenical councils; the real if imperfect communion which we already share, and the common desire and collaborative efforts to build upon what already exists".
Benedict XVI then went on to mention two initiatives currently underway in Albania: the establishment of the Inter-confessional Biblical Society and the creation of the Committee for Inter-religious Relations, describing them as " timely efforts to promote mutual understanding and tangible co-operation, not only between Catholics and Orthodox, but also among Christians, Muslims and Bektashi".
Closing his remarks the Pope expressed his joy at the "spiritual renewal" of the Albanian people, and gave assurances to Archbishop Anastas that the Catholic Church "will do all she can to offer a common witness of brotherhood and peace, and to pursue with you a renewed commitment to the unity of our Churches".
AC/ALBANIA/ANASTAS VIS 091204 (500)