Albanian President Visits Pontiff

Consider Albania's Path to EU Membership

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI and the president of Albania discussed Saturday the nation's path to full integration in the European Union, as Bamir Topi visited the Pontiff at the Vatican.

According to the Vatican press office, the president went on to meet with the Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

The discussions centered on the "good relations that exist between the Holy See and the Republic of Albania," according to the communiqué, as well as "questions of mutual interest regarding relations between the ecclesial and civil communities, including interreligious dialogue and the Church's contribution in the fields of education and social care."

The president and the Holy Father also spoke about the "current international and regional situation, with particular focus on the economic crisis."

Just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, Albania continues to be one of Europe's poorest countries, as since 1991 it has struggled to implement democracy after Communist rule under the USSR and then China.

It is difficult to judge the religious affiliation of Albanians after the years of state atheism, since current statistics are not available. Still, it is estimated that some 70% are Muslim, with another 20% Orthodox and 10% Catholic.