Pope Francis met with the six spiritual leaders of the main religious confessions of Albania: Muslims, Bektashis, Catholics, Orthodox, Evangelicals and Jews.
The Pope explained that this meeting proved that peaceful religious coexistence is possible. He also recalled the consequences of excluding God from society.
"When, in the name of an ideology, there is an attempt to remove God from society, it ends up adoring idols, and very soon men and women lose their way, their dignity is trampled and their rights violated.”
For the Pope, true religious freedom must promote respect and dialogue, and has nothing to do with sectarianism.
"We cannot deny that intolerance towards those with different religious convictions is a particularly insidious enemy, one which today is being witnessed in various areas around the world.”
Pope Francis asked all believers to stand up against any distortion of religion, especially using faith as a pretext for violence.
"No one must use the name of God to commit violence. To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman.”
There are two ways of promoting religious freedom, according to Pope Francis: acknowledging that all human beings are brothers and standing for the common good.
Although all the religious authorities paid close attention to the Pope's words, he joked about their seating arrangement.
"With some sense of humor, one could say that this looks like two soccer teams: the Catholics against the rest.”
After drawing some laughs from those present, Pope resumed his speech encouraging them to embrace dialogue without rejecting their religious identity.