The story of how an Albanian priest endured decades of imprisonment, torture and forced labour during his country’s communist crackdown against the Church brought Pope Francis to tears.
During the pope’s 2014 visit to Tirana, Cardinal-designate Ernest Simoni moved many listeners when he described the brutality a militant atheist regime wielded against people of every faith, and paid tribute to God’s infinite goodness, grace and love for allowing him to survive.
Dedicating his life to drawing people away from hatred and revenge, the octogenarian priest will be one of 17 prelates elevated to cardinal in a consistory at the Vatican on 19th November.
Of the group, 13 are eligible to elect Pope Francis’ successor in a conclave. Cardinal-designate Simoni is one of four who are older than 80 and, therefore, ineligible to vote.
Cardinal-designate Simoni, whose 88th birthday is on 18th October, told Vatican Radio he heard the news of his elevation while watching television as the pope prayed the Angelus on 9th October. When he heard the pope say his name at the end of the Angelus, he said, “it was a huge surprise for me. I never would have thought” such a thing would happen.
Picture: Pope Francis embraces Albanian Fr Ernest Simoni during a 2014 visit to Tirana, Albania. The octogenarian priest from the Archdiocese of Shkoder will be one of 17 prelates elevated to cardinal in a consistory at the Vatican on 19th November. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via EPA).