A theological-spiritual reflection on Islam today and the exchange of good practices to foster relations with Muslims in Europe will be at the core of the fifth meeting of the national delegates of the Bishops' conferences in Europe for relations with Muslims.
The meeting, taking place this afternoon until next Friday, takes place in Scutari, Albania, at the invitation of local Archbishop, Mgr Angelo Massafra OFM. It will address the theme Faith and Spirituality in Relations between Christians and Muslims.
This afternoon the work includes an exchange between the participants on the state of relations with the Muslim communities in their respective countries. Subsequently Mgr Khaled Akasheh, Head of the Office for Islam at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious will bring the greetings from Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, Prefect of the aforementioned Vatican Dicastery. He will also inform participants about the activities of the Pontifical Council and on the Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to Egypt, which culminated in the meeting with the Great Imam of Al-Azhar.
The meeting will be opened by the greetings of Mgr Angelo Massafra OFM, Archbishop of Scutari-Pult, Mgr Duarte da Cunha, Secretary General of CCEE, and Fr Andrea Pacini, lecturer at the Northern Italy Theological Faculty (Turin Section) and coordinator of the meeting.
The decision to hold the fifth edition of the meeting of national delegates of the Episcopal conferences for relations with Muslims, on the 25th anniversary of the historic visit of St John Paul II to Albania, is not accidental.
Mgr Angelo Massafra, Archbishop of Scutari-Pult, explains the contribution that Albania can give to Europe:, saying: "In his Message to the Albanian Nation (April 25, 1993) St John Paul II invited us to 'learn the art of dialogue and listening, even when this means fatigue.'
"He reminded us that dialogue and listening are 'the price of freedom, the secret of authentic moral and civil progress.'
"On the 25th anniversary of this historic speech in the Skanderbeg Square in Tirana, I would like to say that it is precisely this art of dialogue and listening that the religious communities of Albania can offer to the other religious communities present in Europe. The realization of this meeting in this land mangled for a long time by atheistic totalitarianism is an opportunity to reaffirm that to avoid prejudices the knowledge of the other is fundamental. Today in Albania there is a climate of dialogue and acceptance - and in some cases also of collaboration. It is possible to live together only if one respects the other and the laws of the State. St. John Paul II recalled that 'Sincere faith, in fact, does not divide men, but unites them, even in their differentiations. Nothing like faith reminds us that if we have a single Creator, we are also all brothers!" concludes Archbishop Massafra.
Tomorrow, Thursday 8 February in two public sessions, the Sunni Imam Lauren Luli, Vice-President of the Muslim Community in Albania and His Grace (Haxhi) Baba Edmond Brahimaj Kryegjyshi, Leader of the Bektashi community, will help the participants to draw up the fundamental profiles of the Muslim believer and the ways in which they live their relationship with God.
These sessions will be animated by Br Ignazio De Francesco, monk of the Little Family of the Annunciation, Montesole (Italy).
The work will continue with the discussion on pastoral matters. The meeting will end on the morning of Friday 9 February with a visit to the Bektashi Shrine of Croia (Krujë), the spiritual centre of the same confraternity.