Pope Francis visits the minority Catholic community of Albania on 21 Sep 2014.
The majority-Muslim Balkan country is a potential candidate for European Union membership and it has worked to mop up the crime that made it a synonym for lawlessness in the 1990s. The visit, nonetheless, creates another security headache for the Vatican because papal public appearances are always high-risk events and the 77-year-old pontiff refuses the protection of the Popemobile. He visited Brazil in Jul 2013 and Jordan, Jerusalem and Bethlehem in 2014 without the vehicle, which he has likened to a "sardine can." The bullet-proof glass-domed vehicle was brought into use for popes after the assassination attempt on then-Pope John Paul II on 13 May 1981 in St. Peter's Square. The attack by the Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca seriously injured John Paul, who was canonized on 27 Apr 2014. Albanians were not allowed to practice any religion under communist rule from 1967 to 1990. The pontiff's September visit will be the second papal visit to post-communist Albania after one by John Paul in 1993.
Date written/update: 2014-07-10