Pope Francis on the return flight from Albania praised the country for its youth and its “higher culture” that is “capable of building brotherhood” among Christians and Muslims. The Pope said Albania is “a European country,” evidenced by the cooperation between Muslims, Orthodox Christians and Catholics. He stressed the importance of the majority Muslim country’s culture of “living together,” “tolerance” and “fraternity.” During an in-flight press conference Sept. 21, he said he was impressed by the country’s youth “from the beginning,” Vatican Radio reports. The Pope told journalists that his trip to the country, traditionally regarded as on the periphery of Europe, was intended as a “sign I wanted to give.” The Pope also discussed the persecution of religious believers under Albania’s twentieth century communist government. “It was a cruel period, the level of cruelty was terrible,” he lamented. The Pope recalled the sight of posters of those killed under the communist dictatorship, Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, “because they said they believe in God.” “Each of the three communities have given a witness to God and now bear witness to their fraternity,” he said. He said he was driven to tears by the testimony of a priest jailed for 27 years. The Pope also confirmed two other papal trips later this year. On Nov. 25 Pope Francis will visit Strasbourg, France to visit the European Council, the European Union’s leadership body, as well as the European Parliament, the EU’s legislative body. On Nov. 30, he will celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew in Istanbul with Orthodox Christian Patriarch Bartholomew.
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