Religious intolerance is insidious enemy being witnessed around the world, pope says
Pope Francis met with leaders of the different religious communities in Albania on Sunday afternoon, insisting that no one can use the name of God to commit violence.
Speaking at the Catholic University of Tirana, the Pope said, “Authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence….To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman.”
Noting that religious freedom cannot be guaranteed by legislation alone, the Pope urged his listeners to promote attitudes of respect and cooperation in the service of the common good. When a person is secure of his or her own beliefs, he said, there is no need to impose or put pressure on others.
The theme of peaceful coexistence among adherents of different religions was a theme that came up again and again during the Pope’s one-day visit to Albania, a majority Muslim country. Catholics number around 15% in the Balkan nation, and Orthodox around 10%.
On his flight from Rome to Tirana, the Pope told journalists that the peaceful coexistence between religions in Albania is a “good signal for the world.”
The voyage, his first as Pope to a European country outside of Italy, came amid a backdrop of an international coalition, led by the United States, beginning to confront the Islamic State extremist group that has been persecuting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria. The Pope celebrated Mass in Tirana’s central square and appeared at other events in the city amid heightened security amid worries of a threat to his life from Islamic extremists.
But papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that before the Pope’s arrival in Tirana a gathering of Muslims in a central mosque had prayed for the success of his visit. During Sunday Mass in Tirana’s Mother Teresa Square, there were many Muslims present who wanted to be with the Pope and to receive his blessing, Father Lombardi told journalists.
He also revealed that the Pope, in a private meeting this morning with Albanian President Bujar Faik Nishani, focused on the harmony between religions which reinforces democracy and is very important for the nation. The president recalled the history of the diplomatic ties between the Holy See and the nation, and as a Muslim expressed his hope that this journey will be a blessing for all Albanians
After this meeting, the Pope gave his first major address in Albania, with Nishani, government officials, civil authorities and the diplomatic corps gathered at the Presidential Palace in Tirana. The Ponfiff spoke with joy and appreciation of the climate of respect and mutual trust that exists in the nation btween Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims.
And speaking of the respect for human rights, religious freedom and freedom of expression that, he said, allow for creativity and the unleashing of human potential and personality that further the common good, the Pope said the Albanian experience shows that a "peaceful and fruitful coexistence between persons and communities of believers of different religions is not only desirable, but possible and realistic."
Here is the full text of the Pope’s meeting with leaders of other religions and Christian denominations in Albania:
It is a great pleasure to be here at this meeting which brings together leaders of the main religious confessions present in Albania. With deep respect I greet each one of you and the communities that you represent; and I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to Archbishop Massafra for his words of introduction. It is important that you are here together: it is a sign of the dialogue which you experience daily, seeking to build among yourselves bonds of fraternity and cooperation for the good of the whole of society.