Albania Harmony

Pope Francis’ choice of Albania as the destination of his first international trip in Europe reflects his trademark pastoral approach: head to the peripheries; bring healing to the suffering. But his Sept. 21 visit to the poor, Muslim-majority nation also will highlight, to a world increasingly torn apart by sectarian strife, a hopeful example of Muslims and Christians living in harmony. “The presence of the pope will say to the people, ‘See you can work together,’” Pope Francis told reporters last month, praising the Albanian government’s efforts to promote interreligious cooperation. “The pope values this, wants to show Albania as an example and encourage it,” said the Rev. Gjergj Meta, media coordinator for the Archdiocese of Tirana-Durres. Catholics make up only about 16 percent of Albania’s three million inhabitants; about 65 percent are Muslim and 20 percent Orthodox. Yet Muslims, Orthodox Christians and even people of no faith “see the pope as a charismatic person who defends the weak and the voiceless,” Father Meta said.

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