Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Pope Francis begins with Albania
Pope Francis began on the 15th of June, to invest the European question. By an unexpected entry: Albania, where he announced his visit on September 21st . The choice sounds like a provocation. This nation is located on the edge of the continent. It has less than 3 million inhabitants. It is plagued by organized crime. It is predominantly Muslim after having been under the Communist dictatorship, more openly atheist. For a pope it is certainly not the place where the future of Catholicism is at stake that prepare on the contrary his next two trips to Asia.
And the future of Europe? Albania, which aspires to join the European Union, is seen more as a problem than a solution. France and other states do not want to bother with this Balkan nation that will improve their competitiveness in no way and whose reforms will instead have to be monitored in exchange for EU funds. Europeans did not wait for the Pope to say that Europe appeared ‘tired’ to him to already use the same term about the enlargement of the Union, in particular, and of the integration project in general. This “fatigue” has recently been felt in abstention, recurrent in the European elections, but also in the polls, where it left the place, especially in France, to anger.
In contrast, Pope Francis shows himself full of enthusiasm and fervor, working tirelessly despite his 77 years. He carries with him the characteristic energy of countries which are still new, of the emerging markets. He takes the leadership, which collectively lack European leaders today.
Europe “has disowned its roots and we must help it to recover them,” he has told the community of Sant’Egidio in Rome on June 15th. A word pronounced the same day of the announcement of his journey to Albania and after listening to the testimony of a young unemployed man, of an elderly person, of a ROM and of an Afghan refugee. Helping these people to recover, like Albania, is the surest antidote for Europe against fatigue, according to the Pope. Recognizing the migrants as “new Europeans”, according to his expression, serves as an antidepressant, in contrast to the national fall against globalization. “Europe, be yourself”, had launched John Paul II in 1982 from Saint-Jacques de Compostela. From a completely different periphery, Tirana, Pope Francis will probably try, in his own way, to redirect Europe.
All the more, as the calendar goes, the 21st of September chosen for this short journey is, in Jorge Bergoglio’s personal story, the anniversary of his priestly vocation, to go to the roots of his life for the Church. During the Easter Vigil, he had invited all Christians to “rediscover their Galilee”, “the place of the first call,” to “draw new energy to the root of our faith and our Christian experience.” His return to Albania can be used, as with refugees in Lampedusa, to question, not without a radical challenge, the Europeans on the original meaning of which their efforts unit reflects the face of the world.