A young Church, open to the future

The first national assembly of the ecclesial community 25 years since the fall of Communism. The Pope's visit and new projects

A Church that is still young, mindful of the blood shed by its martyrs, looks at the future with “joy”. It’s the picture of the Albanian ecclesial community, gathered in Scutari June 18-20, for the first national assembly, 25 years since the fall of Communism. During the meeting, focused on the theme: “The Joy of the Gospel yesterday, today and tomorrow,” participants tried to draw a balance of the work carried out in the past years, on the presence of the Catholic Church in the social life and the prospects for the future. “It’s an analysis – underline the organizers – not only of the work, but especially of the commitment of the Church, rooted in her mission of Gospel proclamation”. The meeting was attended by approximately 300 people, including 7 bishops in the country, some 120 priests (on 160 present in the Country), men and women religious (there are 500 in Albania) and many lay persons from the 5 dioceses and from the apostolic administration of southern Albania. A moment of joy. This meeting, greatly anticipated and prepared for a long time, the spokesperson of the assembly, Father Gjergj Meta, from the diocese of Tirana-Durres told SIR Europe, “was a true moment of grace and joy,” since, 25 years since the fall of Communism, all the realities of the Church came together to reflect and look at the future. Participants were all impressed by the Albanian Church as a young Church, in terms of its persons and structures. “This is the fruit – underlined the spokesperson – of a challenging job, and most of all it’s the gift of grace that comes from the blood of our martyrs, an essential nourishment for the new evangelization in Albania”. This is increasingly acknowledged as a fact. The memories of the main street of Tirana (Bulevardi Dëshmorët and Kombit) with the images of the 40 Albanian martyrs displayed on the occasion of the pastoral visit of Pope Francis past 21 September are still vivid. “Our Church – Meta underlined – cannot forget their witness. In fact, we should take them as examples when planning our future,” a future with a busy agenda on various fronts. Proposals and future challenges. “During the assembly – underlined the spokesperson – there emerged proposals for catechesis, for the pastoral care of young people and for the family. An important challenge for the future consists in the pastoral of vocation: many people during the meeting highlighted the low number of vocations in the Country. For this reason it’s important to strengthen our commitment in this sector. Another aspect regards the itineraries of catechesis that should not focus only on the administration of the sacraments but rather represent a path of growth in faith”. Finally, all those present requested “inculturated Catechism,” namely, to “breathe Albanian language and culture”. The suggestion was to set up a national Commission that will operate in this direction. Pastoral proposals were coupled by the analysis of thorny issues that came about in recent years. “It’s true!” remarked Fr Meta, who explained: “Many things could have been done better and more could have been done. For example, major efforts were placed in terms of structures, homes and buildings, but this is not enough to address the needs of our times and of society. For this reason, those present called for a stronger formation of pastoral ministers along with strengthened cooperation and collegiality between bishops, priests and religious”. The commitment of lay people. And the laity? What is asked of the Albanian lay Catholics today? First of all, said the spokesperson, “we must learn to leave room for their presence in ecclesial life”. In concrete terms, lay people are requested “greater attention towards difficult social situations. While it’s true that the new poverties call us into question, it’s also true that in Albania there still is a great amount of material poverty, perceived, in particular, by young people and with many children. This is where Catholic laity is called to action,” but not only… “At the meeting many people asked to transmit our voice on the serious problems that are devastating our Country: corruption, unemployment, crime and ties between the latter, politics and civil power”. Moreover, the Church does not remain silent but cooperates for the creation of the common good. “Which better field of action than this for the laity?” concluded Fr Meta. Looking ahead. The route for the future appears to have been traced. “From the assembly – said the spokesperson – came many proposals that will be valued in time. In the meantime, a secretary will work on a questionnaire that was discussed also during the assembly. Someone asked to repeat this experience every two years or even at a closer distance. This means that we are facing the widespread need to create communion among us. There was also talk of a national synod that would help develop common lines for pastoral action”.

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