Pope Francis sent the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, to Tirana, Albania, as his personal representative at a major ecumenical gathering, which took place from Nov. 2-4 in the city. The Global Christian Forum is holding a meeting in Tirana under the theme “Discrimination, Persecution, Martyrdom: Following Christ Together.”

Cardinal Koch told Vatican Radio the “ecumenism of blood” – the shared witness, even unto death, of Christ’s Lordship – knows no denominational lines. “The persecutor of Christians doesn’t make any [distinction] between Christians,” said Cardinal Koch in an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio’s Klaudia Bumci, who is attending the forum in Tirana.

“The discrimination, persecution, and martyrdom of Christians is very close to the heart of the Holy Father,” Cardinal Koch said. “He [gives] his closeness, his solidarity with all Churches that are in need, in suffering,” he continued.

Cardinal Koch’s comments echoed the sentiments expressed by Pope Francis in a Message to participants, in which the Holy Father says, “In various parts of the world, the witness to Christ, even to the shedding of blood, has become a shared experience of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants, Evangelicals and Pentecostals, which is deeper and stronger than the differences which still separate our Churches and Ecclesial Communities. Thecommunio martyrum is the greatest sign of our journeying together.”

Source: Vatican Radio