(Joh 14:27) Peace I leave with you: my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled: nor let it be afraid.
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VALLEY CATHOLIC: Pope Francis’ one-day trip expected to give Albanians hope, healing
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.
Catholics make up only about 16 percent of Albania’s 3 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. Luigj Mila, secretary-general of the Albanian bishops’ peace and justice commission, said he expects a large number of Muslims to welcome the pope. Mila said Albania’s interreligious harmony is rooted in people’s common ethnicity and shared history of persecution.
Starting in 1944, Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha sought to cleanse the country of all religion, even passing a 1967 constitutional law that banned any trace of the divine, which made Albania the first and so-far only atheist nation. Catholics were disproportionally targeted, he said, because “they had been warning about the dangers of communism.”
Almost all of Albania’s fewer than 200 priests were jailed and scores killed. Countless laypeople and religious faced arrest, torture, firing squads, concentration camps and forced labor while thousands of places of worship were confiscated and demolished or turned into movie theaters, gyms and meeting halls.
Though Catholics passed down their beliefs in secret, they had no religious structures or institutions to help pick up the pieces once the communist dictatorship dissolved in the early 1990s. That’s what made St. John Paul II’s visit in 1993 so important to the then-newly democratic nation. Albanians saw the Polish pope as a vision of hope, “a prophet bringing good news to everyone,” upholding the freedom of conscience and human dignity, said Albert P. Nikolla, coordinator in Albania of the papal trip and head of Caritas Albania.
Pope Francis’ visit falls on the feast of St. Matthew, a day of enormous significance for the pope, who, as a 17-year-old boy, strongly felt God’s presence and mercy, inspiring him to religious life. His episcopal and papal motto -- “Because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him” -- is based on the account of Jesus seeing Matthew, a sinner and tax collector, and calling him to “Follow me.”
ITINERARY: Although the Holy Father will be in Albania just one full day, his schedule will be very full. After meeting with the President and other civil authorities upon his arrival, he will preside at a solemn Mass in the Mother Teresa Square in the heart of Tirana. Pope Francis will then meet with the nation’s Bishops before heading to Tirana’s Catholic University for a meeting with leaders of the various Christian denominations and religious communities in Albania. The Pope will then go to Tirana’s cathedral where he will celebrate Vespers with priests, religious, seminarians, and members of lay movements.
The day’s events will conclude with a journey to visit children at the Betania Centre, along with various people from other charitable centres in Albania.
The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Discretion
62. Abraham, who was a disciple of Agatho, once asked Poemen, 'Why do the demons attack me?' Poemen said to him, 'Is it the demons who attack you? It is not the demons who attack me. When we follow our self-will then our wills seem like demons and it is they who urge us to obey them. If you want to know the kind of people with whom the demons fight, it is Moses and those like him.'
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