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Albanian Church awaits beatification of 38 communist-era martyrs

A priest who was shot for baptising a child and a religious novice who died after she was tortured in a sack are among 38 Albanians to be beatified as martyrs on 5th November, doubling the number of Catholics declared blessed from communist rule in Eastern Europe.

“Martyr beatifications send many messages, and the most important at this historical moment is of unshakeable trust in God,” said the president of the Albanian bishops’ conference, Archbishop of Shkoder, Angelo Massafra.

“We still hear their prophetic cry – ‘Viva Christ the King! Viva Albania!’ – and know Christ is glorified by the power of their witness, even when Albanians have regained freedom and can breathe the air of true democracy.”

In an interview with Catholic News Service, the archbishop said the planned ceremony had garnered “great interest” among Catholics who, until 1991, were officially barred from practicing the faith, but it was also viewed as a “national event for all Albania. The world will be made more aware of the fierce persecution suffered by believers during the communist dictatorship,” Archbishop Massafra said.

Picture: Four of the 38 Albanians to be beatified as martyrs on 5th November.
Top left: Fr Shtjefen Kurti was sentenced and shot for ‘reactionary anti-state activities’ in 1971 after secretly baptising another convict’s child at a labour camp. (CNS photo/courtesy Shkoder Archdiocese).
Top right: Fr Lazer Shantoja, a nationally admired poet, was shot in the head after being forced to crawl in excruciating pain when his arms and legs were broken under torture. (CNS photo/courtesy Shkoder Archdiocese).
Bottom left: Fr Anton Zogaj was shot on a beach near Durres after refusing to divulge confessional secrets and reburied by local villagers after his body was pulled from the sand by dogs. (CNS photo/courtesy Shkoder Archdiocese).
Bottom right: Fr Giovanni Fausti, Italian vice provincial of Albania’s Jesuit order, was beaten and spit at by communist onlookers during his trial and execution. (CNS photo/courtesy Shkoder Archdiocese).