The Grand Master’s meetings in Albania focus on strengthening cooperation
Received by Head of State Bujar Nishani, Fra’ Matthew Festing met the country’s leading authorities
It was 1994 when the Sovereign Order of Malta and Albania established bilateral diplomatic relations. The next year Malteser Albania, the Order’s volunteer corps, started working in the country. Fra’ Matthew Festing’s official visit to the Land of the Eagles was thus prompted by two twentieth anniversaries.
After the welcoming ceremony on the morning of 19 January, the President of the Republic of Albania Bujar Nishanied and Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing stayed for talks and later participated in a bilateral meeting extended to the respective delegations.
“Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1994, the Sovereign Order of Malta and the Grand Master have greatly helped Albania and the Albanians to overcome the difficulties caused by the transition from a totalitarian society, with a bankrupt socialist economy in which even religious faith was legally forbidden, to an open and democratic society which also embraces the religious and moral values of a free society,” said the Albanian president during a joint press conference. “In the official talks held today,” the President continued, “I had the opportunity to express directly to the Grand Master my gratitude and that of the Albanian people for the precious contribution the Sovereign Order of Malta has given through its embassy and its Malteser Albania service over these last 20 years in our country”.
President Nishani confirmed the mutual will to intensify cooperation: “We have decided to further promote bilateral cooperation, in particular in the health sector and in interventions in civil emergency situations, agreeing that it is important to amplify the bilateral legal framework”.
“Albania constitutes an important example of coexistence between religions. This should serve as a source of inspiration for all of us,” the Grand Master said. “Bearing in mind the present international tensions and fears caused by terrorism, the issue of coexistence and cooperation has become all- important”.
The Grand Master had a full agenda in the Albanian capital. The day began early with a visit to the Apostolic Nuncio in Albania, Mons. Ramiro Moliner Inglés, followed by a meeting with the Speaker of Parliament Ilir Meta and a working lunch with Prime Minister Edi Rama and Health Minister Ilir Beqai.
In the afternoon the Grand Master participated in the inauguration ceremony for the Sovereign Order of Malta’s new ambassador in Tirana. Mons. Rrok Mirdita, Archbishop of Tirana and Durazzo, blessed the embassy premises in the presence of the Order’s ambassador Stefano Palumbo and of the diplomatic staff.
In the evening, ahead of the official dinner in honour of the Grand Master in the Palace of Brigades in Tirana, President Bujar Nishani conferred on Fra’ Matthew Festing the decoration of the Albanian national flag “for the special contribution in strengthening relations between the Republic of Albania and the Sovereign Order of Malta, including a variety of social-health projects, in particular in northern Albania to provide disadvantaged persons with healthcare and education, as well as the assistance given to civilians during the war with Kosovo in 1999”.
The morning of 20 January Fra’ Matthew Festing went to Scutari to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Order of Malta’s volunteer corps, Malteser Albania.