The memory of those Christians who gave their lives during the Communist persecution in Albania was very present during the meeting of Pope Francis with the Albanian priests and religious people.
"Our martyr died crying 'Long live the Pope!' and we also want to cry it out together.”
A 84-year-old Albanian priest told Pope Francis how he faced hard labor in a concentration camp for 27 years. A nun who had to live in clandestinity also gave her testimony, and couldn’t help getting emotional when she greeted Pope Francis.
The Pope himself set aside his written speech and improvised another one. He made a comment on the Gospel of the day, that talked about the consolation that God brings to his people.
For the Pope, the priest and nun that shared their experiences were living examples of martyrdom. He explained how they survived religious persecution.
"We can ask them: how did you survive so much suffering? And they will answer what we read on on this passage of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians: God is a merciful Father and a God of comfort. It was Him who comforted us.”
Pope Francis also highlighted that they could overcome such hard times thanks to the prayer of a lot of Christians. In a friendly way, he asked Christians not to look for comfort far from God.
"I don't want to scold you today, eh? I don't want to play the executioner part here. But pay attention, eh? If you look for comfort somewhere else, you'll never be happy.”
The Pope admitted that he wasn't aware of the ferocious the Communist persecution was until he had studied it carefully in the last two months. He also confessed that was surprised to see how much suffering the Albanian people had undertaken.
Before leaving St. Paul’s cathedral in Tirana, the Albanian bishops gave a cross that had pictures of martyrs, as well as an icon of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Patroness of Albania.