21 September 2014 will be remembered as a historical date for Albania. Less than ten days later I retraced the memorable images of an unforgettable Sunday, concluded with a sigh of relief when the Papal plane landed in Ciampino airport. It was a sigh motivated by two factors. First of all, in the previous days the media had “inflated” the news of possible dangers that could pose a risk to the Pope’s visit to Albania, linked to international terrorism and to developments in the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the Middle East. Second, a miracle had just occurred: a day that God wanted. For those who were involved in the organization of the event like myself it was evident and clear that we were witnessing a miracle. A day such as this one could not have been conceived even by the most creative imagination. Everything went smoothly since the beginning. There is a “triptych” that the Pope’s visit left in Albania. There are three works that are linked to each other. However distinct, they open up to one another and unfold to create a whole. The first of these works is martyrdom. Since the visit was first announced, the Holy Father spoke of the suffering of a people for the consequences of past ideologies (Angelus, June 15). Bergoglio paid homage to that martyrdom. He repeated it on several occasions, during Mass, remembering the wall of the cemetery of Scutari. We saw it in the extended crucifix placed above the platform of the Eucharistic celebration at the concathedral of Durazzo that preserves the mortal remains of Mons. Vincenc Prennushi, that tops the list of Albanian martyrs. But in particular, it was experienced during the Vespers in the cathedral of Tirana, where the Pope touched martyrdom with his own hands. In Francis’ embrace with Fr Ernest Troshani and Sister Maria Kaleta, who survived the regime’s persecutions, there was a moment of deep emotion. It was almost as if the Holy Father had just embraced all the martyrs that gave their lives to Christ, in “odium fidei”. The second work is fraternity. On the way back, answering questions from journalists on the papal plane – in particular of Mira Tuci, who for a happy coincidence bears the same surname of the only woman of the forty martyrs venerated in Albania, Marie Tuci – the Pope dismissed the term “tolerance” and replaced it with “fraternity”. It’s not a detail for the Albanian population: in the darkest moments of our history we have not been able to act as siblings. Fraternity understood as the description of peaceful coexistence between different religions echoes the original fraternity, corrupted by the jealousy and the sin of Cain and Abel, restored by the Cross of Christ. Fraternity is also a foundation for peace, as Pope Francis highlighted in his message for the Day of Peace 2014. Finally, the last work is hope. While hope was the slogan chosen by the bishops to describe the visit’s expectations – “Together with God, towards unfailing hope” – it now represents openness to the future. In the past, addressing the youth in particular, the Pope said: “Don’t let your hope be stolen!” Two moments should guide the Church’s reflection, along with Albanian society as a whole: the image of the eagle that doesn’t forget the nest but has the courage to fly up high, towards the sky, that represents the infinite, the mystery, the future Kingdom; and second, Albanian young people. I welcomed with joy the appeal to young people. In fact, we had intentionally chosen to have young collaborators in the organization of the event. My staff for the media consisted of young people under 30. Turning to them the Pope opened the way to hope, to the future. Young people must be given hope, for they can make miracles. I cherish deep hopes for the future in these three images that represent three benchmarks. I am convinced that they will not remain empty words but that they will be at the centre of the Church and of society in Albania. (*) responsible for communication on the occasion of the Pope’s visit to Albania
Martyrdom, fraternity and hope: a "tryptich" that Bergoglio left to Tirana to view the future with renewed thrust " "