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Vatican City, Jul 31, 2014 / 07:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will make a one-day trip to Albania in September, during which he is slated to meet with local authorities, priests and religious as well as children from charitable institutions.

Taking place Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, the Pope’s visit was announced earlier this summer, and marks the second time a Roman Pontiff will visit the country, the first being Pope Saint John Paul II in 1993.

Upon his arrival to the Albanian capital of Tirana’s international “Mother Teresa” airport, Pope Francis will be greeted by the country’s Prime Minister Edi Rama.

After the initial welcome ceremony and greeting, the pontiff will travel to the presidential palace where he will pay a courtesy visit to Albania’s president, Bujar Nishani. He will then met with and give an address to representatives of the local civil authorities.

The Bishop of Rome will then offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Mother Teresa Square, which will be followed by the recitation of the traditional Angelus prayer. Pope Francis will then meet the bishops of Albania for lunch at the Apostolic Nunciature.

Following the morning’s events, Pope Francis will meet with leaders of other religions and other Christian denominations in the afternoon at the Catholic university “Our Lady of Good Council.”

He will then celebrate vespers that evening in the Cathedral of St. Paul with priests, religious brothers and sisters, seminarians and members of different lay movements from the diocese.

Afterward the Roman Pontiff will meet with children from the “Centro Betania,” or “Bethany Center,” and representatives from other charitable institutions as a final event to his busy day.

The Pope will then participate in a farewell ceremony before departing Tirana’s international “Mother Teresa” airport and returning to Rome.


Please see below for the Pope’s full schedule:

Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014

7:30a.m. Depart by plane from Rome's Fiumicino airport for Tirana

9:00a.m. Arrive at the International "Mother Theresa" airport of Tirana; official welcome by Prime Minister Edi Rama

9:30a.m. Welcome ceremony in the square of the presidential palace and courtesy visit to the president of the republic in the Green Room of the presidential palace

10:00a.m. Encounter with civil authorities in the reception room of the presidential palace

11:00a.m. Holy Mass in Mother Theresa Square, where the Pope will give a homily and pray the traditional Angelus prayer

1:30p.m. Encounter and lunch with Albanian bishops and with the papal entourage at the Apostolic Nunciature

4:00p.m. Encounter with leaders of other faiths and Christian denominations in the Catholic University "Our Lady of Good Council"

5:00p.m. Celebration of Vespers with priests, religious, seminarians and lay movements in the Tirana cathedral

6:30p.m. Encounter with children from the Bethany Center and representatives from other charitable institutions of Albania

7:45p.m. Farewell ceremony at Tirana's International "Mother Theresa" airport

8:00p.m. Departure from Tirana by plane to Rome's Ciampino airport

9:30p.m. Arrive to Rome's Ciampino airport

 

Vatican City, Jul 31, 2014 / 05:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See has lamented the ongoing persecution of Christians by ISIS forces in Iraq, stating that they are an important and historic part of the country’s origins.

“Right now with the entrance of these jihadists, ISIS, they have imposed the sword and want to kill the Christians,” Habbib M.H. Al-Sadr told CNA July 24, 2014.

“This is outside of our culture, of our history, because the Christians are a fundamental, historic component of Iraq…they have origins here,” he continued, noting that “When the ISIS jihadists entered Mosul they forced the Christians to convert to Islam, pay the jizya tax, or to leave or escape, because they told them that ‘this is not your country.’”

Al-Sadr, a Shiite Muslim, has been Iraq’s ambassador to the Holy See since 2010, and spoke in wake of the July 17 departure of the last Christian families in Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul.

The exodus of Christians from the city follows a June 10 initiative launched by members of ISIS, a militant group that operates in Iraq and Syria with the aim of establishing a caliphate in northern Syria and Iraq, who overtook Mosul and the city of Tikrit, 95 miles north of Baghdad, the same day.

Since then the group had seized portions of Ramadi and Falluja earlier; Tal Afar was seized by ISIS June 16, and the group briefly held parts of Baquba, 37 miles outside of Baghdad, the following day.

July 17 the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate declared to the remaining Christian community of Mosul that they either needed openly convert to Islam, pay an unspecified jizya tax in exchange for their safety while observing certain conditions, leave their homes with only their clothes and nothing more or face death.

According to BBC News, the Christians had until midday to comply with the conditions of ISIS, who stated that “We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.”

Following the declaration, the houses of Mosul Christians were marked with the letter “N,” signifying “Nazarenes.” As a result the few remaining Christians left the city, marking the first time in history it has been without Christians.

“These Christians have left Mosul with just their clothes on. They did not have anything else with them,” Al-Sadr observed.

“The houses of Christians in Mosul have been given to the terrorists that have come from diverse parts of the world really. They have taken the houses of the Christians.”

Speaking of the general help that citizens are receiving from the Iraqi Ministry of Migrants and Itinerants and the Ministry of Health, Al-Sadr explained that those who have fled are being provided with basic food necessities as well as one-million Iraqi ‘dinari,’ which is equivalent to 750 U.S. dollars.

Noting how there have been 1 million Iraqi citizens internally displaced by the recent uptick in conflict, the ambassador also drew attention to the 3 million who have left the country “to search for security, freedom and work” following the reign of their previous dictator, Saddam Hussein.

“Immigrants right now prefer not to come back until there is tranquility in the country again,” he said, stating that the government is searching for ways to convince them to eventually return, because they are considered “an integral part of the country and of its social fabric.”

Vatican City, Jul 30, 2014 / 02:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At a Vatican conference held Tuesday to mark the World Day against Trafficking, a U.S. diplomat emphasized that the scourge will not be ended until the economic attitudes that lead to human trafficking are changed.

“One cannot simply protect the victims, and bring the victims into a place of safety, if one doesn’t do anything to change the underlying cultural assumptions that help create and foster this slavery, this exploitation, if one does not change the underlying economic assumptions that treat people as commodities,” Luis CdeBaca, the U.S. ambassador at large for trafficking in persons, said July 29 via videolink.

CdeBaca lamented that “governments will always try to reclassify things so they are not defined as human trafficking to protect their fishing industry, to protect their palm oil industry, to protect their charcoal industry, to protect their ability to bring in nannies or people to come and build their stadiums for upcoming sporting events.”

He was speaking to a conference hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the U.S. embassy to the Holy See, and the Global Freedom Network, about the U.S. state department's 2014 trafficking in persons report.

The event, which has an interrreligious basis – the Global Freedom Network being an alliance of Catholic, Anglican, and Muslim leaders – marked the first World Day against Trafficking, observed July 30.

Joining CdeBaca in the discussion were Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, and Ken Hackett, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.

The academy has become in the last year a key player in the fight against human trafficking, at the direction of Pope Francis.

“After a meeting we had with the members of the academy, I sent a letter to Pope Francis in which I asked him if he had suggestions for issues to be developed,” Bishop Sanchez told CNA.

“He responded with a personal letter, saying that he deemed it important that the pontifical academy should focus on human trafficking.”

The U.S. state department issued the human trafficking report June 20; it details the state of this blight in 188 nations. It is focused on “3Ps”, CdeBaca said: prevention, protection, and prosecution.

He emphasized that “one can’t prevent trafficking or protect its victims without holding traffickers responsible for the acts they have committed,” and added that while progress has been made in anti-trafficking laws, the political will to eradicate the trafficking of persons is often still lacking.

“My biggest concern is that as a global community we tend to chase the last tragedy … so last year we were suddenly all concerned about fire safety in Bangladeshi garment factories,” he noted.

“Instead of dealing with the labour recruiters that are feeding people into these factories, or the retailers, asking why they let this slavery happen … we’re concerned about getting fire extinguishers in the factories … so a little bit of change happens, but not enough systemic change to bring us closer to our goal.”

Bishop Sanchez noted that while 44,000 survivors of human trafficking were identified in the past year, “more than 20 million victims of trafficking were not.”

He added that organized crime's annual profits are estimated at $150 billion, and that 80 percent of this sum is from prostitution.

“Some observers speculate that, within ten years, human trafficking will surpass drugs and weapons trafficking to become the most profitable activity in the world,” Bishop Sanchez maintained.

Hackett lamented that human trafficking is “an issue that transcends cultures, nationalities, societies, and economical or political structures … touching virtually every part of our global community.”

“It leaves no corner of our world unaffected.”

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