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Rome Reports

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Albania: The Church in numbers

Pope Francis' visit to Albania on September 21, will mark his first apostolic trip within Europe. The country has a population of roughly 3 million people. Christians are a minority. About 7 percent belong to the Orthodox Church of Albania, while 10 percent are Catholics. The big majority of the population, though is Muslim. Albanian Christians and Muslims have shared a painful past of persecution. In 1967,  Communist dictator Enver Hoxha officially declared Albania as the first atheist state in the world. As part of the new law, the government closed all mosques and churches.   Now both religions coexist peacefully. This will be an underlying theme of the Pope's visit: the importance of inter-religious dialogue and peaceful co-existence. The presence of the Catholic Church in the country includes eight bishops, 147 priests and 494 religious. When Pope Francis announced his visit, he underlined that one of his main goals will be to "strengthen the faithâ? in the country. He will become the second Pope to visit it. John Paul II visited the country is 1993. PM RR JM -PR Up: PM