Speech by Prime Minister Edi Rama at conference ceremony of awarding the Grand Cordon with “BENEMERENTI” Star to his Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of His Holiness:
Most Reverend Eminence,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen ambassadors and members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Reverend Fathers and Reverend Mothers,
Dear Priests, Religious and Consecrated,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am happy to find myself in these venues, in the Eternal City, “Mater et Magistra”, where Pope Francis will receive me tomorrow for the second time together with my spouse Linda and my son Zaho, who was still in his mother’s womb when the Holy Father welcomed us for the first time.
The grace of that meeting will remain eternally indelible in my memory, followed by the visit of His Holiness to Albania – his first trip abroad as the new Pontiff of the Catholic Church.
I remember that he was received with immense affection by thousands and thousands of Albanians, Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim believers gathered at Mother Teresa square to welcome Him to the land of religious brotherhood, as he himself defined it impeccably on that occasion.
In a song of degrees, Psalm 133, King David says:
“Behold, how good and how pleasant
it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious ointment upon the head,
that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard:
that went down to the skirts of his garments.”
I would like to remind you today on this good occasion that the Catholic Church has been doing brotherhood deeds in our country over the centuries.
This is always a reason to be grateful for the good will that faith and the commitment to serve others, especially the poorest, give birth and grow.
I find it difficult to express the deserved gratitude to the Church and Catholics, be them either Albanians or foreigners, men and women, priests or ordinary faithful who do so much to improve the lives of the most needy or to educate young people.
But today more than ever so, in the presence of His Eminence in particular, I would like to say thank you for the brotherhood that for 30 years now has united the Holy See and the Republic of Albania on the international arena.
In fact, diplomatic relations between our two states were established 30 years ago today and on this auspicious day of celebration of an authentic jubilee, I think it is a duty to pay tribute with deep gratitude to the diplomats who honoured Albania’s diplomatic representation to the Holy See and sadly enough they are no longer with us.
I am obviously referring to Willy Kamsi, Pjeter Pepa and Rrok Logu.
It is with gratitude and affection that we always keep in our hearts the memory of the late Cardinal Ivan Diaz, the first Apostolic Nuncio in Albania, daring evangelizer of nations, without forgetting his successors, Archbishops Bulaitis, Moliner Ingles, Charles John Brown and Monsignor Luigi Bonazzi who currently serves as head of the Apostolic Nunciature in our country.
Although diplomats, they were and still are, together with their associate, “humble workers in the vineyard of the Lord”, as a great figure of religious thought, Benedict XVI, would have said.
Humble, but also visionary workers; this is the idea I have created about people who for three decades long have contributed to strengthen, indeed to merge the special relations between the Holy See and Albania into a kind of symbiosis.
Among these humble and visionary, I would feel free to add Your Eminence. You have not wasted a single opportunity to show respect, closeness and affection to Albania in any circumstances.
You have always done so with the dignity and humanity of your own purpose to instruct, to serve and to support as Saint Paul would say.
I would avail myself of this opportunity to publicly reiterate here what the Albanian authorities have repeatedly told you at business meetings: the quality of our relations owes much to the wisdom of your choices and the spirit of collaboration that His Eminence knows how to inspire and share.
We still see its fruits: a common commitment on a future agreement with the Bambin Gesù hospital to ensure free treatment of Albanian children suffering from serious diseases and the construction of the first church dedicated to Saint Mother Teresa in Albania, through a gift of a land plot by the government of Albania land in Tirana.
The sanctuary will be an important meeting point for hundreds of thousands of faithful from all over the world and a constant appeal not to forget the poor.
We are well aware that the poor and the marginalized are on focus of the Pope’s thoughts and of this pontificate. The last two years we have focused on them.
The divine Providence called us back to duty first through a disastrous earthquake two years ago, and then with the pandemic emergency.
Furthermore, the Afghan refugee crisis has offered us an opportunity to demonstrate how the virtues of charity and closeness to others must be observed.
Albania was one of the first countries, if not the first, to open up its doors wide to thousands of Afghans in need.
We did not ignore the plea for help but we tried to share with them everything we could as we have always done throughout our history: with the Jews during the Second World War, with the Kosovo Albanians during the war with Serbia and with the persecuted Iranians fleeing the war in their own country.
It is important for us not only to welcome those at the crossroads between life and death, but, above all, to treat them as our own family members so that they feel human beings, fully possessing their dignity, and not as remnants of a civilization like ours that is struggling to acknowledge it duties when it feels its comfort is being disturbed.
We are shaking hands and working together with the Catholic Church in Albania, with Caritas, with Malteser, and assistance of the universal Church to help the poor through various common projects.
These projects are also aimed at our new generations, to invite them to reflect on Christian values such as solidarity, charity and respect for others not only as abstract universal values but also as imperatives to carry out concrete deeds.
We won’t stop working on these common projects, a daily manifestation of our harmony, although my speech is coming to an end.
But before I conclude, I would still like to thank His Eminence and through You, all pontifical diplomacy for the magnificent work done over 30 years to create and consolidate the relationship between the Holy See and Albania in such a lively way.
We know this relation was brutally halted for so many years by a regime that above all, and more than anyone else, did the most extreme harm to Catholics and faithful of this religion.
On this auspicious day, almost on the eve of our national holiday, on the triple anniversary of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Albania, the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great Albanian Franciscan, Father Gjergj Fishta, of the third centenary of the birth of Clement XI Albani, the so-called Albanian Pope, and in the presence of so many distinguished and prominent guests, I feel honoured to confer you the highest award granted by the Prime Minister of Albania, that is the insignia of the Grand Cordon with “Benemerenti” Star, modelled on our national colours and Skanderbeg’s weapons, “Athleta Christi”.