.- Benedict XVI hosted His Beatitude Anastas, Archbishop of Albania at the Vatican this morning as rain poured down on St. Peter's square just outside. The Pope praised the Orthodox Church of Albania and the personal contributions of the prelate in keeping the faith alive there and maintaining fraternal relations with Roman Catholics.In his address, the Pontiff called attention to the witness of the "wonderful and indelible traces in the first lines of history, literature and the arts" left by our Christian forefathers on the culture of Albania. The Gospel, he noted, arrived to the region in Apostolic times.
"Yet the most impressive witness is surely always found in life itself," said Pope Benedict of the fact that Christianity has survived in Albania despite the presence of "repressive and hostile atheistic regime" in the last century.
The Pope praised the "missionary activity" of Anastas "in the reconstruction of places of worship, the formation of clergy and the catechetical work now being done, a movement of renewal which (he) has rightly described as Ngjallja (Resurrection)."
The Pope also reflected on the ability of the Orthodox Church of Albania "to participate fruitfully in the international theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox" since the fall of the regime.
"Your commitment in this regard happily mirrors the fraternal relations between Catholics and Orthodox in your country and offers inspiration to the entire Albanian people, demonstrating how it is possible for fellow Christians to live in harmony."
Benedict XVI referred to new initiatives the Albanian Church has made to improve and maintain inter-faith relations. "These are timely efforts to promote mutual understanding and tangible cooperation, not only between Catholics and Orthodox, but also among Christians, Muslims and Bektashi."
"I rejoice with Your Beatitude and with all the Albanian people in this spiritual renewal."