Tirana, Albania, Sep 21, 2014 / 05:58 am
In a press briefing Sunday the Vatican's spokesman downplayed worries over Pope Francis' safety in Albania, also noting that Muslims gathered in an important Tirana mosque to pray for the pontiff's visit.
Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists that the Sept. 21 papal visit has been welcomed with joy by all the Albanian religious communities.
On why Pope Francis did not stop the popemobile as he often does to greet children and embrace those with illnesses, the spokesman insisted that this was "because he had to respect the schedule, and not because of increased security measures."
"If the Pope would get down of the jeep and start greeting people as he does in St. Peter's Square, it would be impossible to respect the schedule," Fr. Lombardi said.
The priest also provided some background of the one-day trip, saying that the Pope had made several reflections that have then become part of his morning speeches.
Fr. Lombardi recounted that Pope Francis was sitting in the car together with David Gjugja, the director of the Albanian section of Vatican radio, who had served as interpreter for the visit.
"The Pope noticed that there were many young people greeting him and said he was impressed. This is how he focused even more than previewed on young people, with some off the cuff in his prepared speeches," Fr. Lombardi said.
The director of the Holy See office also revealed that Pope Francis widely commented the symbol of eagle in the Albanian flag.
According to Fr. Lombardi, "the Pope observed that the eagle fly high, but then always get back to the nest. And he made the same observation at the end of the homily, when he said not to forget of the nest, and encourage people to fly high without parting from their roots."
On the trip from the airport to Mother Teresa square where he celebrated Mass, Pope Francis also recalled his meeting with her.
"The Pope recounted he had known Mother Teresa in 1994, during the synod on the consecrated life they were both attending," Fr. Lombardi said.
The Pope was among the leaders – at the time he was auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires – while Mother Teresa was among the members of Papal appointment.
Fr. Lombardi said that "Pope Francis recounted that Mother Teresa was sitting behind him during the assembly, and that he admired the strength and determination of her interventions, which she held without any reverence toward the bishops."
"I would have feared her, if she had been my superior," the Pope joked.
The director of the Holy See Press Office also revealed the sentence Pope Francis wrote in the Golden Book of the presidential palace, where he met with state leaders earlier in the day.
The sentence was: "To the noble people of Albania, with my respect and admiration for their testimony and their fraternità in leading the country."
In his address, the president of Albania Bujar Nishani reminded that coexistence is very important for the life of the country, underscored the deep relationship between the Holy See and Albania and – as a Muslim – expressed his view that the papal trip is a blessing for all the Albanian citizens.
"Speaking with Pope Francis, the president also stressed the need of respect to carry forward the Albanian harmony, and this is the reason why the Pope wanted to underline it with a short out of program in his speech at the presidential palace," Fr. Lombardi said.
There are no official data for the participation to the Mass, but Fr. Lombardi said "it is credible that between 250,000 and 300,000 people have taken place to the celebrations," and that they came by several countries, especially Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia.