Recalling the decades of atrocious suffering and harsh persecutions against Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, we can say that Albania was a land of martyrs: many bishops, priests, men and women religious, laity, and clerics and ministers of other religions paid for their fidelity with their lives. Demonstrations of great courage and constancy in the profession of the faith are not lacking. How many Christians did not succumb when threatened, but persevered without wavering on the path they had undertaken! I stand spiritually at that wall of the cemetery of Scutari, a symbolic place of the martyrdom of Catholics before the firing squads, and with profound emotion I place the flower of my prayer and of my grateful and undying remembrance. The Lord was close to you, dear brothers and sisters, to sustain you; he led you and consoled you and in the end he has raised you up on eagle’s wings as he did for the ancient people of Israel, as we heard in the First Reading. The eagle, depicted on your nation’s flag, calls to mind hope, and the need to always place your trust in God, who does not lead us astray and who is ever at our side, especially in moments of difficulty.
Today, the doors of Albania have been reopened and a season of new missionary vitality is growing for all of the members of the people of God: each baptized person has his or her role to fulfil in the Church and in society. Each one must experience the call to dedicate themselves generously to the announcing of the Gospel and to the witness of charity; called to strengthen the bonds of solidarity so as to create more just and fraternal living conditions for all. Today, I have come to thank you for your witness and also to encourage you to cultivate hope among yourselves and within your hearts. Never forget the eagle! The eagle does not forget its nest, but flies into the heights. All of you, fly into the heights! Go high! I have also come to involve the young generations; to nourish you assiduously on the Word of God, opening your hearts to Christ, to the Gospel, to an encounter with God, to an encounter with one another, as you are already doing and by which you witness to the whole of Europe.
In the spirit of communion among bishops, priests, consecrated persons and laity, I encourage you to bring vitality to your pastoral activities, which are activities of service, and to continuously seek new ways of making the Church present in society. In particular, I extend an invitation to the young, of whom there were so many along the way from the airport to here. This is a young people, very young! And where there is youth, there is hope. Listen to God, worship him and love one another as a people, as brothers and sisters.
To the Church which is alive in this land of Albania, I say “thank you” for the example of fidelity to the Gospel. Do not forget the nest, your long history, or your trials. Do not forget the wounds, but also do not be vengeful. Go forward to work with hope for a great future. So many of the sons and daughters of Albania have suffered, even to the point of sacrificing their lives. May their witness sustain your steps today and tomorrow as you journey along the way of love, of freedom, of justice and, above all, of peace. So may it be.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Before concluding this celebration, I wish to greet each of you who have come from all over Albania and from nearby countries. I thank you for your presence and for the witness of your faith.
In a particular way, I wish to greet the young! They say that Albania is the youngest country in Europe and I wish to greet you. I invite you to build your lives on Jesus Christ, on God: the one who builds on God builds on rock, because he is always faithful, even if we sometimes lack faith (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13). Jesus knows us better than anyone else; when we sin, he does not condemn us but rather says to us, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Dear young people, you are the new generation, the new generation of Albania, the future of the country. With the power of the Gospel and the example of your ancestors and the martyrs, you know how to say “No” to the idolatry of money – “No” to the idolatry of money! –, “No” to the false freedom of individualism, “No” to addiction and to violence; you also know how to say “Yes” to a culture of encounter and of solidarity, “Yes” to the beauty that is inseparable from the good and the true; “Yes” to a life lived with great enthusiasm and at the same time faithful in little things. In this way, you will build a better Albania and a better world, in the footsteps of your ancestors.
Let us turn to the Virgin Mary, whom you venerate above all under her title of “Our Lady of Good Counsel”. I stand before her, spiritually, at her Shrine in Scutari, so dear to you, and to her I entrust the entire Church in Albania and all the people of this country, especially families, children and the elderly, who are the living memory of the people. May Our Lady guide you to walk “together with God towards the hope that does not delude.”
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Pope Francis I, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
Monday 6 October 2014, First Reading:
Extracted from the letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians 1:6-12
I am astonished at the promptness with which you have turned away from the one who called you and have decided to follow a different version of the Good News.
Not that there can be more than one Good News; it is merely that some troublemakers among you want to change the Good News of Christ; and let me warn you that if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one we have already preached to you, whether it be ourselves or an angel from heaven, he is to be condemned.
I am only repeating what we told you before: if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one you have already heard, he is to be condemned.
So now whom am I trying to please – man, or God? Would you say it is men’s approval I am looking for? If I still wanted that, I should not be what I am – a servant of Christ.
The fact is, brothers, and I want you to realise this, the Good News I preached is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, First Reading:
Extracted from the prophet Ezekiel 18:25-28
The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows:
‘You object, “What the Lord does is unjust.”
Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust?
When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed.
When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.’
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Responsorial: Psalm 25:4-9
Response: Remember your mercy, Lord.
Lord, make me know your ways. Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me: for you are God my saviour.
In you I hope all day long because of your goodness, O Lord.
Remember your mercy, Lord, and the love you have shown from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth. In your love remember me.
The Lord is good and upright. He shows the path to those who stray,
He guides the humble in the right path, He teaches his way to the poor.