Europe

Albania celebrates the beatification of 38 Catholic martyrs

  • Catholic cardinals enter the cathedral in the northern city of Shkoder, Albania, which celebrated the beatification of 38 Catholic martyrs executed or tortured to death during the former communist regime Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. Albanians celebrated their beatification after Pope Francis had officially recognized as martyrs Archbishop Vincens Prenushi and 37 other priests who died in prison or were murdered in 1945-1974 by the late communist dictator Enver Hoxha's regime. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    Catholic cardinals enter the cathedral in the northern city of Shkoder, Albania, which celebrated the beatification of 38 Catholic martyrs executed or tortured to death during the former communist regime Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. Albanians celebrated their beatification after Pope Francis had officially recognized as martyrs Archbishop Vincens Prenushi and 37 other priests who died in prison or were murdered in 1945-1974 by the late communist dictator Enver Hoxha's regime. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)  (The Associated Press)

  • A cross in a street in the northern city of Shkoder, Albania, holds the pictures of 38 Catholic martyrs executed or tortured to death during the former communist regime Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. Albanians celebrated their beatification after Pope Francis had officially recognized as martyrs Archbishop Vincens Prenushi and 37 other priests who died in prison or were murdered in 1945-1974 by the late communist dictator Enver Hoxha's regime. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    A cross in a street in the northern city of Shkoder, Albania, holds the pictures of 38 Catholic martyrs executed or tortured to death during the former communist regime Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. Albanians celebrated their beatification after Pope Francis had officially recognized as martyrs Archbishop Vincens Prenushi and 37 other priests who died in prison or were murdered in 1945-1974 by the late communist dictator Enver Hoxha's regime. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)  (The Associated Press)

  • Catholic cardinals enter the cathedral in the northern city of Shkoder, Albania, which celebrated the beatification of 38 Catholic martyrs executed or tortured to death during the former communist regime Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. Albanians celebrated their beatification after Pope Francis had officially recognized as martyrs Archbishop Vincens Prenushi and 37 other priests who died in prison or were murdered in 1945-1974 by the late communist dictator Enver Hoxha's regime. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    Catholic cardinals enter the cathedral in the northern city of Shkoder, Albania, which celebrated the beatification of 38 Catholic martyrs executed or tortured to death during the former communist regime Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. Albanians celebrated their beatification after Pope Francis had officially recognized as martyrs Archbishop Vincens Prenushi and 37 other priests who died in prison or were murdered in 1945-1974 by the late communist dictator Enver Hoxha's regime. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)  (The Associated Press)

Thousands have gathered in Albania to celebrate the beatification of 38 Albanian Catholic martyrs executed or tortured to death during the former communist regime.

In April, Pope Francis officially recognized as martyrs Archbishop Vincens Prenushi and 37 other priests who died in prison or were murdered from 1945 to 1974 by the late communist dictator Enver Hoxha's regime, which banned religion in 1967 and persecuted its leaders and believers.

The Rev. Ernest Simoni, 88, named recently as a cardinal by Francis to honor his suffering in prison, held a box Saturday with the bones of ten martyrs at the Shen Shtjefni cathedral in the city of Shkoder.

Now Albania is a model for interfaith harmony, with a Muslim majority and Orthodox and Catholic communities among its 3.2 million people.