By Merita McCormack*/
Soon we will experience the event of the year–if not the century–for Albanians all over the world. For more than twenty years, the Albanian nation seems to have been in the hearts and minds of the Popes. It is amazing that two of the last three popes have made it a priority to visit Albania. Now Pope Francis is about to meet and greet Albanians in their homeland and will reach tens of thousands more around the globe via live streaming. He will be received with true joy and love, as well as with tears and open hearts. The world will witness the spirit of this small, vibrant nation whose roots are in the Balkans and has many sons and daughters around the globe.
This upcoming papal visit is a signal of hope, faith, and love not just to Albanians but to the entire world. It is especially important in current times when we see so much despair, poverty, ideological and political war, marginalization, and the breaking up of families. The very thread of the fabric of society is endangered when abortion is a commodity and when marriage is considered an inconvenience.
Popes have appreciated the resilience of the Albanian nation. Although it has experienced difficult times it has survived. As small as it is, this nation that has suffered and lost so much, has also been blessed. Albanians keep their families together, they thrive in community, they are hospitable and friendly, joyful and hardworking, warriors and entertainers, and above all, many are very godly people. Albania has given the world Mother Teresa , George Kastrioti –Scanderbeg, and many other important people.
When the Ottomans occupied their lands, Albanians stood strong and kept them at bay for a while. Although the occupation seemed to last forever, Albanian kept their identity, spoke their language, sang their songs and ballads, and never forgot God, their creator.
Then communism came, a beast of immeasurable dimensions, and through the iron fist did the unthinkable. Growing up during that period, my generation of Albanians can testify to what happened to many. It is sad that some embraced that ideology. There is still no true reconciliation because of a lack of individual reconciliation between some people and God. Unless that individual reconciliation takes place, all of the fake smiles and fake words, all of the pompous behavior and shiny shows, which are not from God, will fall away.
That is a sorrow that my generation and that of my parents have to this day. Not only because it is a matter of justice (which is due) but also out of love for every Albanian whose eternal destiny might be at risk. This papal visit is an opportunity that should not be missed, either on a personal or a societal level.
In that light, I hope that the joy that the visit, generated by God almighty, and reflected in the loving and humble pontiff and many holy priests, sisters, religious and lay people, will soften the hearts of every one. I hope and pray that this visit stirs in the hearts of people the desire to repent and seek forgiveness, the desire to cleanse the deep wounds caused by vices and sin, and allows them to be blessed with the grace of the Almighty and have hope in divine providence.
May the conversion of hearts take place and the Albanian people seek and embrace the truth, which they can encounter in a practical and special way this Sunday.
As for the Albanian martyrs of the Church, we all should rejoice in them. May their blood, which is joined in the suffering of our Lord and Redeemer, be the offering through which the Albanian nation can hope to be redeemed
Welcome to Albania Pope Francis! You are loved!
*Merita McCormack serves as the President of “ VATRA-Washington DC Regional Chapter”