Thousands of pilgrims waited for Pope Francis' arrival to Mother Teresa Square in Tirana, where he eventually celebrated Mass in Latin and Albanian.
During his homily, the Pope recalled the religious persecution undertaken by the Communist regime in Albania. It lasted four decades and almost swept away the Church's presence in the country.
"We can say that Albania was a land of martyrs: many bishops, priests, men and women religious, laity and representatives of other religions paid for their fidelity with their lives. There were a lot of demonstrations of great courage and constancy in the profession of the faith. How many Christians did not give in when threatened, but persevered without wavering on the path they had undertaken!”
Pope Francis thanked the witness given by the Albanian people during those years. Specifically, he thanked Albanian Catholics for their steadfast loyalty to their faith.
"I came here today to give you thanks for your witness, to give you courage and to enlarge your hope and the hope of those around you. I came to involve the new generations, to encourage them to read the Word of God opening their hearts to Christ, to God, to the Gospel, to encountering God.”
Using the image of the eagle that appears in the Albanian national flag, the Pope invited the Albanian people to "fly high,” and to continue being an example of peaceful coexistence for Europe.
As the Mass ended, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with the pilgrims. Addressing Albanian youth, he asked them to follow the path of their martyrs and to build a better world.
"With the power of the Gospel and the example of the martyrs, you know how to say "No” to the idolatry of money, "No” to the false freedom of individualism, "No” to addiction and to violence.”
The Pope asked all of them to embrace the culture of encounter and solidarity. He then thanked pilgrims who traveled to Albania from neighboring countries.