The Pope received Archbishop Anastas of Tirana, Durres and All Albania today in the Vatican.
"Christ's saving message has borne fruit in your country" from Apostolic times "down to our own day," the Pontiff acknowledged.
He continued, "As the very earliest writings of your culture bear witness, through the survival of an ancient Latin baptismal formula along with a Byzantine hymn about the Lord's resurrection, the faith of our Christian forefathers left wonderful and indelible traces in the first lines of the history, literature and arts of your people."
In recent years, the Holy Father affirmed, the "Christians in Albania, both Orthodox and Catholic, kept the faith alive there in spite of an extremely repressive and hostile atheistic regime; and, as is well known, many Christians paid cruelly for that faith with their lives."
Now, with the fall of this regime, a time of reconstruction is taking place, he noted.
Benedict XVI acknowledged in particular the work of the archbishop, "in the reconstruction of places of worship, the formation of the clergy and the catechetical work now being done, a movement of renewal which Your Beatitude has rightly described as Ngjallja (Resurrection)."
He noted the Albanian Orthodox participation in the international theological dialogue between all Orthodox and Catholics.
"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," the Pope pointed out.
He emphasized the elements of faith shared between the Churches: "a common profession of the Nicene --Constantinopolitan creed; a common baptism for the remission of sins and for incorporation into Christ and the Church; the legacy of the first Ecumenical Councils; the real if imperfect communion which we already share, and the common desire and collaborative efforts to build upon what already exists."
The Pontiff expressed gratitude to the Orthodox leader for his "personal contribution to fostering fraternal relations with the Catholic Church."
He concluded, "Be assured that we, for our part, will do all that we can to offer a common witness of brotherhood and peace, and to pursue with you a renewed commitment to the unity of our Churches in obedience to the new commandment of our Lord."
--- --- ---
On the Net:
Full text: www.zenit.org/article-27743?l=english