Fr Giovanni Fausti, an Italian Jesuit, is one of 38 Albanian martyrs persecuted by the communist regime between 1945 and 1973. On 5 November 2016 he was beatified by Pope Francis along with two other Jesuits, Fr Daniel Dajani and Br Gjon Pantalija, both Albanian.
Giovanni Fausti was born in Brozzo, province of Brescia, on 19 October 1899. He entered the diocesan seminary at an early age and was ordained to the priesthood in 1922. In 1924, he joined the Society of Jesus. After completing his formation, he spent the years between 1929 to 1932 in Albania, where he taught philosophy in Scutari. In 1933, health problems forced him to return to Italy where he stayed until 1942 when he was sent to Scutari as Rector of the seminary. In Albania, he is known as a pioneer of Muslim-Christian dialogue for demonstrating his ability to “step outside” of himself and his own world to see it through the eyes of the “other”. This method of evangelization would become an important part of the ministry of the Church, a way of seeing that would be promoted by the conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate and, 50 years later, by the interfaith meetings in Assisi.
Settled in Tirana, where he was committed to defending and helping Italians and Albanians, both Christian and Muslim, his community was caught in the crossfires and tragedies of the Second World War. In 1944, when the Germans withdrew, Communist partisans seized power in the region. Unchecked by a weary world, they would commit untold abuses and atrocities against Catholics. They held particular hatred for the bishops, the Franciscans and the Jesuits - the latter because they feared the education of young people would lead to a cultural formation of the country’s ruling classes that couldn’t be easily controlled. Confident in Fr Giovanni’s prudence, the superiors appointed him Vice-Provincial of the Jesuits in Albania in May 1945.
Less than 8 months later, on the evening of 31 December 1945, Fr. Giovanni was arrested. He was kept in solitary confinement for two months, during which time he was subjected to torture. For months his jailors tried to force him to confess to being the leader of a group of political traitors to the nation, subservient to Western powers, as well as spies for the Vatican.
On 22 February 1946, after months of torture were unable to coerce a confession, he was sentenced to death by firing squad. At dawn on the 4th of March, he was taken to the Catholic cemetery in Shkodra along with six others, where they were to be executed. At precisely 6 o’clock, the soldiers were ordered to fire. Father Giovanni spoke his last words: “I am happy to die doing my duty. Greet my fellow Jesuits, the deacons, the priests and the archbishop on my behalf.” The common cry of those condemned was: “Long live Christ the King, long live Albania!”
Sources: gesuiti.it; Vatican Insider
Read (in Italian): Roma. L’attualità di padre Fausti, martire d’Albania, sul dialogo Islamocristiano