Sarah Cahalan '14 | October 23, 2018
On a sunny Sunday morning at the edge of the Adriatic, Archbishop Charles Brown ’81 and I are at an impasse. The dirt road we’ve followed for miles has narrowed into nonexistence, and our driver decides we’ll have to try a different route if we’re ever going to make it to Mass. So he jerks the car back in the opposite direction, and now we are faced with the rear end of a bus.
Its double doors swing open, and out pour 10, 20, 30 children dressed head-to-toe in the traditional garb of the Western Balkans, clutching tiny string instruments and felt hats and completely blocking our path.
The bishop laughs.
“I love Albania.”
“I love Albania” is a declaration you’ll hear a lot if you make a habit of hanging out with Archbishop Brown. So is shumë mirë, Albanian for “very good” and one of few easy phrases in the language Brown has been learning since Pope Francis appointed him apostolic nuncio to Albania in March 2017.
So, too, is the story of Francis’s trip to Albania back in September 2014.
“Pope Francis has a great love for Albania,” Brown told me more than once during my visit to the country in May. In fact, aside from Italy, Albania was the first European nation Francis visited as pope. It was one of the first nations he visited anywhere.
Why Albania? It’s close — barely 50 miles across the Adriatic from Italy’s bootheel — but Brown insists that’s not the reason his boss chose the country for an early visit. Nor did he select Albania for its robust Catholicity — the country is majority Muslim and for much of the 20th century was an officially atheist state. But as the pontiff said during his 11-hour stop in the capital, Tirana, “There is a rather beautiful characteristic of Albania, one which gives me great joy: I am referring to the peaceful coexistence and collaboration that exists among followers of different religions.”
Read more here.