Cardinal Simoni was a seminarian in December 1944, when an atheistic communist regime came to power in Albania. In 1948, communists shot and killed his Franciscan superiors. He continued his studies in secret and was later ordained a priest.
Four years later, communist leaders gathered together priests who had survived and offered them freedom if they distanced themselves from the Pope and the Vatican. Cardinal Simoni and his brother priests refused.
On Dec. 24, 1963, as he was concluding Mass, four officials served him an arrest warrant and decree of execution. He was handcuffed and detained. During interrogation, they told him he would be hanged as an enemy because he told the people, "We will all die for Christ if necessary."
He suffered immense torture, but said "the Lord wanted me to keep living." He was later freed from the death sentence and given 28 years of forced labor instead, during which time he celebrated Mass, heard confessions, and distributed Communion in secret.
Cardinal Simoni was released only when the communist regime fell and freedom of religion was recognized. Pope Francis made him a cardinal in the consistory of Nov. 19, 2016.
Built in an neo-renaissance and Italianate style of architecture, the Church of St. Teresa of Calcutta will eventually have two bell towers, each 230 feet tall, making it one of the tallest buildings in the city.