The New Evangelisation of Europe: it’s the theme of the next synod of bishops set for October 2012. It’s also the theme of the Plenary Assembly of the CCEE, the Council of European Bishops Conferences which is taking place from Thursday to Sunday in the Albanian capital, Tirana.
For the first time in the history of the former communist nation, the heads of the bishops conferences of 33 European countries will be meeting there to discuss ways of making the Church more relevant and more able to reach out to people of all backgrounds and all walks of life.
Ecumenism, education, problems of religious intolerance, the impact of the media, as well as solidarity with Africa and the Middle East – all these areas of concern will come under the spotlight at the meeting, which will also elect a new president and two vice presidents to serve for the coming five years.
But what exactly are the aims and the goals of this encounter and how significant is its location in a nation where the Church was all but annihilated under one of the most oppressive former communist regimes? Philippa Hitchen (Vatican Radio) put those questions to Archbishop Rrok Mirdita of Tirana who heads the Albanian bishops conference....
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"Knowing the history of the Catholic Church, not only in the past half century, but for centuries.....almost 500 years under Ottoman domination, then the most rigid communist dictatorship...the Catholics in Albania were deprived of so many rights and isolated completely, so barely they managed to preserve the faith...
Having the representatives of the hierarchy of the Church in all Europe (in Tirana) gives a very strong message that we are not just in suburbia of Europe or completely ignored or neglected.
Especially now when wer are looking to be part of and get integrated into European institutions, I think this is (important) not only for Catholics but in general for Albanians and is viewed in this way by the highest authorities and by the people."