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The Holy See

Capital Vatican City

Time Zone CET (GMT+1)

Country Code 39

ccTLD .va

Currency Euro

Land Area 0.44 sq km

Population 836

Language Latin, Italian

Major Religion Roman Catholicism

Key Data

Notable Public Figures

Francis I - Jorge Mario Bergoglio,
Pope

Pietro Parolin,
Cardinal Secretary of State

Giovanni Angelo Becciu,
Substitute for General Affairs

Paul Richard Gallagher,
Secretary for the Relations with States

Antoine Camiller,
Undersecretary for the Relations with States

Luciano Suriani,
Delegate for Pontificial Representations

Peter Brian Wells,
Assessor for General Affairs

José Avelino Bettencourt,
Head of Protocol

Domenico Giani,
Chief of Vatican Gendarmerie

Albania and The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans

What role does Albania play in the Holy See’s contemporary strategy in the Balkans, and how is this strategy being executed?

The Vatican challenges in the Balkans Bolstering the Catholic Church in 2015 and beyondTo answer that question, one must keep in mind factors including regional demographic shifts, the rise of Islamic terrorism in the world, the emerging Tirana-Belgrade power axis and the status of Kosovo and, of course, the fact that Pope Francis chose to visit Albania in September 2014.

Summary

The Vatican’s relationship with Albania dates back many centuries, indeed, for far longer than an Albanian state (or any national consciousness thereof) ever existed. This Eastern Adriatic country, once the liminal zone between the Eastern and Western Roman Empires and later a subject of much competition between Ottoman, Italian, Serbian, Greek and Austrian suitors, is today still a main object of interest in European geopolitics.

The Vatican played a key role in developing Albanian national consciousness in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and even before then had seen the region as a buffer zone against the encroaching Islamic forces of the Ottoman Empire. Particularly in the north of the country, Jesuit educators were active in schooling important supporters of the national independence cause. Indeed, without the development work of the Catholic Church, there would probably not be an Albanian state as we know it today.

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The Vatican’s current orientation to Albania has been conditioned fundamentally as a reaction to its former communist atheist system, in which dictator Enver Hoxha cracked down on all religions in the country. In the pope’s 2014 visit, this feature of ‘communist martyrdom’ featured heavily in the stated rhetoric.

In addition, the Holy See is continuing to mold the Albanian identity with a focus on inter-religious harmony, as seen in the ‘one nation, three religions’ concept propagated by Albanian leaders. The Vatican’s activities in Albania range from charity work and evangelization to high politics, and the close historic relations between Albania and its Adriatic neighbor, Italy, also color the larger relationship.

We can expect that the Holy See will further intensify relations with Albania, especially in consideration of a future federation with predominantly Muslim Kosovo, where serious evangelizing efforts have been conducted since 1999. As the only ethnic population showing positive growth, the Albanians are the subject of intense interest to all foreign powers interested in the region, and the Vatican does not intend to be left behind in a country it sees as a historic religious possession.

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