On Saturday, Pope Francis received in Audience members of the Eparchy of Lungro, on the occasion of the centenary of the Eparchy’s foundation by Pope Benedict XV.
Pope Francis recalled the “courageous spiritual journey” and the “fidelity to tradition, despite the difficulties and sufferings” of the Italo-Albanian community. The exodus of Albanians to Italy took place between the 15th and 18th centuries, after the Council of Florence in 1439, the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and the death of Albanian leader George Castriot Skanderbeg in 1468. The continued presence of the community in Italy for more than 450 years led Benedict XV to erect the Eparchy of Lungro in 1919 in the wake of the First World War.
“This important anniversary”, Pope Francis said, “is an opportunity to thank the Lord” for what He has done for the community over the course of centuries.
The Holy Father encouraged Italo-Albanians to preserve “their own proper traditions,” as well as their sense of “belonging to Christ and His Church”, as a form of bearing witness that “love is more beautiful than hatred, that friendship is more beautiful than enmity, that fraternity among us is more beautiful than conflict”.
The remembrance of the past led Pope Francis to recall the memory of “all those who have transmitted the faith to you through their lives”, even before they taught it in words. In particular, he said, “I am thinking of the Bishops, priests, religious, parents and grandparents who have gone before you and who have faithfully guarded and handed down to you the riches of your beautiful Tradition”. He called on the current generation to “imitate their example and to pass on to the new generations that spiritual patrimony” that gives them their identity.
Finally, Pope Francis invoked “the maternal protection of the Holy Mother of God, the Hodegetria”. The Greek word “Hodegetria” means “She who shows the way”: it is the Byzantine representation of Mary who points with her right hand to the Child Jesus. He prayed, “May she, the obedient servant who has accepted the word of the Lord, make you ever more docile to the will of the Father, and make you generous instruments of His plan of salvation”.
Lungro one of two Italo-Albanian Catholic communities in Italy; the Eparchy Piana degli Albanesi, in Sicily numbers approximately 23,000 baptized members.