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.