Simoni, Ernest
Order in College: Cardinal Deacon
With Title: Santa Maria della Scala
Native Country: Albania
Appointed by: Francis on 19 November 2016
Ecclesiastical Office:  Presbyter of the Archdiocese of ShkodrŽ-Pult, Albania 
Papal Elector: Not Eligible to Vote Due to Age

Card. Simoni was born, 18 October 1928, in Troshani, Albania. At the age of 10, he entered the College of the Franciscans in Troshani, beginning formation studies for the priesthood. In 1948, at the height of persecution under the communist regime of Enver Hoxha, the Franciscan college was turned into a place of torture for prisoners. The religious brothers were all executed and the novices expelled. He was 20 years old. The regime sent him to teach in a remote village in the mountains, and here he began his missionary work and evangelization. After two years of hard military service (1953-55), he finished his theology studies in secret, and on 7 April 1956 he was ordained a priest in Scutari. At the Bishop's request he was incardinated into the diocese, despite being Franciscan at heart. On 24 December 2963, after Christmas Mass, he was arrested and imprisoned in Scutari, placed in solitary confinement and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to 25 years of hard labor. In prison he became the spiritual father of the prisoners. On 22 May 1973 he was again sentenced to death as the alleged instigator of a revolt, but the the sentence was not carried out due to the favorable testimony of his prison guards. He remained in prison for 18 years, 12 of which were spent in the mines. He was freed in 1981, but, as a Catholic priest, still considered an enemy of the people and forced to work in the the Scutari sewers. He exercised his priesthood in secret until the fall the the regime in 1990. Since then he has continued to serve as a humble priest, in many villages, sparing no effort to reconcile many people in dispute and to share his testimony.