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Pope, in Albania, Says Killing in God’s Name Is Sacrilege

22 Sep 2014 – By Carol Glatz

TIRANA, Albania (CNS) — Killing in the name of God is sacrilege, and religious leaders must denounce the use of faith to justify violence and oppression, Pope Francis said during a one-day visit to Albania.

In a world “where an authentic religious spirit is being perverted and where religious differences are being distorted and exploited,” Albania is an “aspiring example” to everyone that peaceful coexistence is possible, Pope Francis told Albania President Bujar Nishani and other dignitaries upon his arrival in the country on 21 September.

No one should “consider themselves to be the ‘armor’ of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression,” the pope said.

The pope told reporters on the papal plane he chose to visit the Balkan nation because the peaceful collaboration between its Muslim-majority population and minority Catholic and Orthodox communities “is a beautiful sign for the world.”

“It’s a signal I want to send,” he said, that religion, far from causing division, is the very foundation of freedom and brotherhood.

In a meeting with Muslim, Christian and Catholic leaders and representatives, Pope Francis said “authentic religion is a source of peace, not violence” and any “distorted use of religion must be firmly refuted as false.”

“To kill in the name of God is sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman,” he said.

The pope encouraged Albania’s religious communities to continue working toward the common good.

“We need each other,” he said, and the “more men and women are at the service of others, the greater their freedom.”

The pope said Albania was a “land of heroes” and a “land of martyrs,” whose people stood firm in the face of oppression and persecution.

It withstood centuries of Ottoman rule, followed by an independence that degenerated into decades of oppressive communist control. The totalitarian regime founded by Enver Hoxha claimed to liberate the people from the constraints of all religions, turning the country into the only atheist nation in the world.

“It promised a paradise without God, but it left instead a hell with no consolation,” Archbishop Rrok Mirdita of Tirana told the pope during a morning Mass in Mother Teresa Square.

Despite the risks of torture, imprisonment and execution, people held onto their faith, praying and passing on their traditions underground.

Hearing of such atrocities brought the pope to tears in one of the most moving moments of the one-day trip.

Tirana’s cathedral was otherwise silent as 84-year-old Father Ernest Simoni recounted his story during a vespers service.

Father Simoni spent nearly 30 years in prison work camps, where he suffered continual physical and psychological torture because he refused to denounce the church.

When the atheist regime fell in 1991, the priest immediately went back to his ministry, urging feuding Christians in mountain villages to embrace God’s love and let go of hatred and revenge.





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