Albania and… St John Paul II

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No one has any doubt about the great impact of Pope John Paul II in recent history. Albania is a witness to his evangelizing outreach. John Paul II not only visited this small country in the Balkans, but also authorized the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy – an extraordinary event for both a country and a Pope.

The first parish with the name of the Holy Father John Paul II in the world, was announced just after his canonization; and it is the Redemptorist Church of Bathore. Its first parish priest is our confrere Fr. Andrzej Michon. For him, it is not only the parish church of St. John Paul II; he also hopes that Bathore will become a sanctuary for all devotees of Pope Wojtyla.

April 3, Sunday “in Albis” or of the Octave of Easter, or Divine Mercy Sunday, was a great feast day in Bathore. The Eucharist at 9 am was presided over by the Apostolic Nuncio in Albania, Archbishop Mons. Ramiro Moliner Inglés. The church was absolutely packed. In the sanctuary, besides the parish priest and the Rector of the Redemptorist community, were Fr. Marek Rackiewicz CSSR (sent by Radio Vaticano and Radio Maria Poland) and Mons. Romanus Mbena, secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature. In the church, under the relic of Pope Wojtyla, who is the titular of the parish (this relic is a gift from Cardinal Dziwisz for the consecration of the church in May 2014), a statue rested. After the celebration it was blessed and placed outside. Also participating in the celebration were the Dominican Sisters of Blessed Imelda who live near the church, with their Mother Provincial coming from Italy, and the Missionaries of Charity who collaborate in the pastoral ministry in the Instituti area.

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Mons. Moliner celebrated the Eucharist in Albanian, although the homily was in Italian, with the help of a young person from parish who did simultaneous translation. After the celebration, also in the church, there was a small audiovisual program. Father Andrzej Michon had prepared some short videos about the visit of St. John Paul II to the city Shkodra in Albania in 1993. Then, he offered a few words about the figure of Pope Wojtyla in the presence of the Nuncio, the Ambassador of Poland in Albania and also the Ambassadress of Spain. Then, outside in the garden of the church, the statue of St. John Paul II was blessed by the Nuncio. The faithful broke into a great applause. Finally, a fraternal meal was shared in the halls of the Social Centre. This was organized by the Br. Leszek Pys with the young people who are involved in the cooking courses of our Social Centre.

Fr. Laureano del Otero, C.Ss.R.

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