Exclusive interview of the Archbishop of Tirana and Durrës, Mons. George Frendo with Argumentum.al
By Marjana Doda
“I have always loved Albania, I have loved Albanians very much. Albanians have loved me very much, and of course with a lot of regret I will leave, with a lot of regret,” these are the heartfelt words expressed by Mons. Frendo in an exclusive interview for Argumentum.al after more than two decades as a priest in Albania. First as a Dominican Ordinary, then as a bishop and Archbishop of the Catholic Church.
It is the law of the Church that when a bishop reaches the age of 75 he must submit his resignation to the Pope. For this reason, but also for health reasons, Mons. Frendo has demanded the acceptance of this resignation as soon as possible.
“After the inauguration of the new Archbishop, I will return to Malta. So I will spend the rest of my life in my hometown and with the Dominican brothers, because I will live in a Dominican monastery,” says Mons. George Frendo.
Mons. George Frendo seems to have followed in the footsteps of his ancestors of the Dominican Order centuries ago. Therefore, the opening of this order in Albania on the outskirts of Durrës 25 years ago, has not been accidental.
“The Dominicans were here shortly after the death of our founder, St. Domenico. Saint Domenicus died in 1221. And in 1240 the first Dominicans came here to Albania. They started in Durres, then in the south of Albania and afterwards in the north in Shkodra. They even opened a college in Durres We have also had many Dominican bishops. They fled from the Turks after Skanderbeg’s death, as the Dominicans were very close to Skanderbeg. A Dominican priest was even a narrator of Skanderbeg,” Mons Frendo confesses.
After founding the mission in 1996, Mons. Frendo started his priestly mission in Albania in the year back to 1997. Many things have changed since then, says Mons. Frendo, for better or for worse.
“The road infrastructure has changed for the better, because I remember that road, which was only 3 km from the main road to our church, but it was terrible. Life was also very poor. But today the number of the poor has decreased. There are not as many poor as at that time. However, there is a significant part of the population that was poor and today they are even poorer, because life has become more expensive,” emphasizes Mons. Frendo.
In this interview, as in every one of his media appearances, Mons. George Frendo talks especially about young people. “The greatest poverty that Albania is experiencing at the moment is exactly this, the departure of young people,” he said. However he tries to encourage, and the first message Mons. Frendo addresses to the youth of this country in this interview:
“Appreciate more the beautiful things you have in your country. Because Albania is a very beautiful country from a natural point of view. It has a special beauty, but also a culture, so you need to preserve and appreciate some features more. For example, family reunification. The Albanian family is not just the nuclear family found in many European countries, but it is the most open “extended family”, which does not include only parents and children. Also it is characterized by the very hospitable spirit of the people and the way you treat the elderly.”
But while Mons. Frendo came to Albania shortly after the fall of communism, where religion was banned by the regime of that time, he shows that he was particularly impressed by the fact that the faith of the people was still alive.
But despite the fact that the Albanian people are a religious people, today they risk more from paganism in Albania, states Mons. Frendo.
“Perhaps the first thing the people have learned from the West was materialism, secularism and consumerism. This is the new gospel of the people. Now, unfortunately, faith has fallen in the face of materialism and consumerism. What do we gain from faith, what do we gain from the church, what do we gain from the practice of the sacraments – these are question rksks that faith loses importance in a consumerist mentality,
It is worth noting that Mons. Frendo on the proposal of his predecessor Mons. Rrok Mirdita has been the cornerstone of the creation of the interfaith committee in Albania.
“Mons. Mirdita asked me to be in the committee to establish this commission. In fact, I have also worked for the statute of the ICF, the Interreligious Council, and yes, I am glad that I was instrumental in the creation of this interreligious council,” says Monsinior.
But while all of us Albanians rejoice over religious harmony, Mons. George Frendo says we should not be content with that, so a message goes to all religious communities to cooperate more.
“In the name of social justice, of the protection of the poor, of those who are more excluded in society, and I hope that in the future new ways will be created for different faiths here in Albania to cooperate more” he said.
Mons. George Frendo has an appeal to Albanian politicians for putting the common good before the good of the party. It is a great obstacle the fact that they seek the good of the party more than the common good, he says.
In addition to this the special message of Mons. Frendo are regarding the poor:
“I want politicians to pay more attention to the poor. I myself have experienced poverty in my life because my father died when I was 10 years old and we were seven children. Therefore I understand very well what it means to experience poverty. There is still poverty in Albania. Although the number of poor people has decreased compared to a few decades ago, but there are still many poor people who have become even poorer, so they should think of them.”
We are at the Arrival Time, close to the Christmas holiday, so a message to each of us couldn’t miss:
“Jesus is the gift of God to man. When we see baby Jesus in a manger in extreme poverty we see human dignity in this baby.
My message to politicians is to engage, as I said before, for the common good, but also to create a more moral society.”
As for the people, “I have had many opportunities to talk about religious coexistence in Albania, but let us be more concrete, to ask for more brotherhood and justice. This should not be a request only to politicians but also to each of us.” These are some of the main messages and councels of Mons. George Frendo for the Albanian people, politicians and the Catholic Church. / Argumentum.al