Albania is a country with a very old Catholic tradition, and yet the Christian population (both Orthodox and Catholic) has suffered much persecution over the centuries. Beginning with then under rule by the Ottoman Turks for over 400 years, when Islam became the predominant religion in the country.
After the Communists took power in 1944, all religions (Muslim as well as Christian) came under attack as the government waged war on all religion. Catholic lands and buildings were confiscated, priests and laymen tortured and killed, and it became illegal to practice any religion. Children were encouraged to spy on their parents to find any traces of religion and turn them in to the authorities.
In 1991, the communist regime fell. Although unknown to the communist authorities, a few priests had survived and had even maintained a secret seminary. And the people had kept the faith alive. Finally the Mass could be said publicly throughout the country and the story could be told of the martyrs of the past centruy.
Today, the country has become a popular tourist destination and modernized to an extent. Islam is the predominent religion, and Catholics make up a signifcant minority.
The main capital city of Tirana has received Mother Teresa (herself an Albanian), Pope John Paul II (1993) and Pope Francis (2014).
In fact, the airport is known as Tirana Mother Teresa Airport. Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Tirana bears stained glass windows of each as you enter.
Among the main Catholic sites in Albania are the following:
Shkoder: Saint Stephen’s Cathedral
Tirana: capital city and several churches.