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Albanian Orthodox Church

Albanian Orthodox Church

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The Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania is one of the newest autocephalous
Autocephaly
Autocephaly , in hierarchical Christian churches and especially Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, is the status of a hierarchical church whose head bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop...

 Eastern Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 churches. It declared its autocephaly in 1922, and gained recognition from the Patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarch is the Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome – ranking as primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church....

 in 1937.

The church suffered during the Second World War, and in the communist period that followed, especially after 1967 when Albania was declared an atheist state, and no public or private expression of religion was allowed.

The church has, however, seen a revival since religious freedom was restored in 1991, with more than 250 churches rebuilt or restored, and more than 100 clergy being ordained.

Administration and Holy Synod


The Holy Synod
Synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

 of Bishops was established in 1998, and is currently consisted of:
  • Archbishop
    Archbishop
    An archbishop is a bishop of higher rank, but not of higher sacramental order above that of the three orders of deacon, priest , and bishop...

     of Tirana
    Tirana
    Tirana is the capital and the largest city of Albania. Modern Tirana was founded as an Ottoman town in 1614 by Sulejman Bargjini, a local ruler from Mullet, although the area has been continuously inhabited since antiquity. Tirana became Albania's capital city in 1920 and has a population of over...

    , Durrës
    Durrës
    Durrës is the second largest city of Albania located on the central Albanian coast, about west of the capital Tirana. It is one of the most ancient and economically important cities of Albania. Durres is situated at one of the narrower points of the Adriatic Sea, opposite the Italian ports of Bari...

     and All Albania
    Albania
    Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

    , head of the Synod : Anastasios (Anastasios Yannoulatos) (1992-)
  • Metropolis
    Metropolis (religious jurisdiction)
    A metropolis is a see or city whose bishop is the metropolitan of a province. Metropolises, historically, have been important cities in their provinces....

     of Berat
    Berat
    Berat is a town located in south-central Albania. As of 2009, the town has an estimated population of around 71,000 people. It is the capital of both the District of Berat and the larger County of Berat...

    , Vlorë
    Vlorë
    Vlorë is one of the biggest towns and the second largest port city of Albania, after Durrës, with a population of about 94,000 . It is the city where the Albanian Declaration of Independence was proclaimed on November 28, 1912...

    , Kanina
    Kanina
    Kanina may refer to the following places:*Kaninë, settlement near Vlorë in Albania*Kanina, Poland*Kanina, Sudan, between Gedaref and the Ethiopian border at Gallabat*Kanina , a village in the Czech Republic, Mělník District...

     and all Myzeqe : Ignatios (Giannakos) Triantis (1996-)
  • Metropolis
    Metropolis (religious jurisdiction)
    A metropolis is a see or city whose bishop is the metropolitan of a province. Metropolises, historically, have been important cities in their provinces....

     of Korçë
    Korçë
    Korçë is a city in southeastern Albania and the capital of the Korçë District. It has a population of around 105,000 people , making it the sixth largest city in Albania...

     : Joan (Fatmir) Pelushi (1998-)
  • Metropolis
    Metropolis (religious jurisdiction)
    A metropolis is a see or city whose bishop is the metropolitan of a province. Metropolises, historically, have been important cities in their provinces....

     of Gjirokastër
    Gjirokastër
    Gjirokastër is a city in southern Albania with a population of 43,000. Lying in the historical region of Epirus, it is the capital of both the Gjirokastër District and the larger Gjirokastër County...

     : Demetrios Dikbasanis (2006-)
  • Titular Diocese
    Diocese
    A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

     of Apolonia
    Apollonia, Illyria
    Apollonia was an ancient Greek city in Illyria, located on the right bank of the Aous river . Its ruins are situated in the Fier region, near the village of Pojani, in modern-day Albania...

     : Nikolla Hyka (2006-) (Kozma Qirjo was Bishop of Apollonia from 1998 until 2000 when he died)
  • Titular Diocese
    Diocese
    A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

     of Kruja : Andon Merdani (2006-)
  • General Secretary Protopresbyter : Jani Trebicka

History


Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 first arrived in Albania with Saint Paul during the 1st century. Saint Paul wrote that he preached in the Roman province of Illyricum, and legend holds that he visited Durrës
Durrës
Durrës is the second largest city of Albania located on the central Albanian coast, about west of the capital Tirana. It is one of the most ancient and economically important cities of Albania. Durres is situated at one of the narrower points of the Adriatic Sea, opposite the Italian ports of Bari...

. However it was with Constantine the Great
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

, who issued the Edict of Milan
Edict of Milan
The Edict of Milan was a letter signed by emperors Constantine I and Licinius that proclaimed religious toleration in the Roman Empire...

 and legalized Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, that the Christian religion became official in the lands of modern Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

.

Before the Ottoman conquest in 1478, the Ghegs in the north of the country were mostly Catholics following the Latin liturgy
Latin liturgy
A Latin liturgy is a ceremony or ritual conducted in the Latin language. Generally, the term 'Latin liturgy' is used in conjunction with the Christian religion, and especially in association with a Catholic Mass, which may conducted in Latin or another language...

 , while the Byzantine tradition was predominant among the Tosk people in the south. Following the Turkish conquest in the 15th century, a slow conversion of Albanians to Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 started. By mid-19th century because of the Tanzimat
Tanzimat
The Tanzimât , meaning reorganization of the Ottoman Empire, was a period of reformation that began in 1839 and ended with the First Constitutional Era in 1876. The Tanzimât reform era was characterized by various attempts to modernize the Ottoman Empire, to secure its territorial integrity against...

 reforms that had started in 1839 the majority of Albanians
Albanians
Albanians are a nation and ethnic group native to Albania and neighbouring countries. They speak the Albanian language. More than half of all Albanians live in Albania and Kosovo...

 had become Muslim. The Tanzimat
Tanzimat
The Tanzimât , meaning reorganization of the Ottoman Empire, was a period of reformation that began in 1839 and ended with the First Constitutional Era in 1876. The Tanzimât reform era was characterized by various attempts to modernize the Ottoman Empire, to secure its territorial integrity against...

 reform that mostly decreased the number of Christians in Albania was the obligatory draft for non-Muslim soldiers.

Under Ottoman rule, the remaining Eastern Orthodox population of Albania south of the Drin river was integrated into the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and all local Eastern Orthodox religious services, instruction and cultural activities were conducted in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

. The territory north of the Drin was a part of the Serbian Church
Serbian Orthodox Church
The Serbian Orthodox Church is one of the autocephalous Orthodox Christian churches, ranking sixth in order of seniority after Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Russia...

 and had had Slavic liturgy.

Autocephaly and statutes


On March 18, 1908, as a result of the Hudson Incident
Hudson incident
The Hudson Incident was an incident that gave rise to the foundation of the Albanian Orthodox Mission in America under the leadership of Fan Noli, who later would become the leader of the Orthodox Church of Albania. Eastern Orthodoxes in the United States would usually carry with them their...

, when a young Albanian, Kristaq Dishnica, was excommunicated for his patriotic activities, Fan Noli was ordained as a priest by a Russian
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

 bishop in the United States. In March 1908 Noli thus led the first time in Albanian
Albanian language
Albanian is an Indo-European language spoken by approximately 7.6 million people, primarily in Albania and Kosovo but also in other areas of the Balkans in which there is an Albanian population, including western Macedonia, southern Montenegro, southern Serbia and northwestern Greece...

 the Orthodox lithurgy for the Albanian-American community.

Noli had prepared his own translation of the liturgy into Albanian, and used it also during a tour several major cities of Europe in 1911. Soon after Albanian independence in 1912, Noli (who in 1924 would also be a political figure and prime minister of Albania), traveled to Albania where he would be ordained a bishop and become the head of the church.

The Church declared its autocephaly in Berat
Berat
Berat is a town located in south-central Albania. As of 2009, the town has an estimated population of around 71,000 people. It is the capital of both the District of Berat and the larger County of Berat...

 on September 17, 1922 at its first congress. At the end of the congress the First Statute of the Church was approved.

The Church had a Second Statute that amended the First Statute in a second congress gathered in Korçë
Korçë
Korçë is a city in southeastern Albania and the capital of the Korçë District. It has a population of around 105,000 people , making it the sixth largest city in Albania...

 on June 29, 1929. Also on September 6, 1929 the first Regulation of General Administration of the Church was approved.

On November 26, 1950 the Parliament of Albania approved the Third Statute that abrogated the 1929 Statute. Such new statute required Albanian citizenship
Citizenship
Citizenship is the state of being a citizen of a particular social, political, national, or human resource community. Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities...

 for the primate
Primate (religion)
Primate is a title or rank bestowed on some bishops in certain Christian churches. Depending on the particular tradition, it can denote either jurisdictional authority or ceremonial precedence ....

 of the church in its article #4. With the exception of the amendments made in 1993, this statute is still in force for the Church.

On January 21, 1993 the 1950 statute was amended and 1996 it was approved by the President of the Republic Sali Berisha
Sali Berisha
Sali Ram Berisha is an Albanian politician and cardiologist, currently the Prime Minister of Albania and the leader of Democratic Party of Albania ....

. In particular article #4 of the 1950 statute that required Albanian citizenship for primate
Primate (religion)
Primate is a title or rank bestowed on some bishops in certain Christian churches. Depending on the particular tradition, it can denote either jurisdictional authority or ceremonial precedence ....

 of the church was no longer required.

Archbishop of Tirana



The Primate of the Church is also Archbishop of Tirana. The current Archbishop of Tirana is Archbishop Anastasios of Albania
Archbishop Anastasios of Albania
Archbishop Dr Anastasios of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania is the Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania and as such the primate and Head of the Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania. He was elected on June 1992...

.

Persecution


The church greatly suffered during the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha
Enver Hoxha
Enver Halil Hoxha was a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary andthe leader of Albania from the end of World War II until his death in 1985, as the First Secretary of the Party of Labour of Albania...

 as all churches were placed under government control, and land originally held by religious institutions were taken by the state. Religion in schools was banned. In 1952 Archbishop Kristofor was discovered dead; most believed he had been killed.

In 1967, inspired by China's Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, Hoxha closed down all churches and mosques in the country, and declared Albania the world's first (and only) atheist country. All expression of religion, public or private, was outlawed. Hundreds of priests and imams were killed or imprisoned.

Revival of the Church



At the end of the communist rule, when religious freedom was restored, only 22 orthodox priests remained alive. To deal with this situation, the Ecumenical Patriarch appointed Anastasios
Archbishop Anastasios of Albania
Archbishop Dr Anastasios of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania is the Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania and as such the primate and Head of the Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania. He was elected on June 1992...

 to be the Patriarchal Exarch
Exarch
In the Byzantine Empire, an exarch was governor with extended authority of a province at some remove from the capital Constantinople. The prevailing situation frequently involved him in military operations....

 for the Albanian Church. Bishop of Androusa
Androusa
Androusa is a village and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Messene, of which it is a municipal unit. Predominantly a farming region, the principal exports include kalamata olives, and livestock...

 Anastasios before his appointment was dividing his time between his teaching duties at the University of Athens and the Archbishopric of Irinoupolis in Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

, which was then going through a difficult patch.

He was named Archbishop of Tirana
Tirana
Tirana is the capital and the largest city of Albania. Modern Tirana was founded as an Ottoman town in 1614 by Sulejman Bargjini, a local ruler from Mullet, although the area has been continuously inhabited since antiquity. Tirana became Albania's capital city in 1920 and has a population of over...

 on 24 June 1992 and enthroned on 2 August 1992. Albanian nationalists groups were opposed to the appointment of a Greek primate, calling Anastasios "the Trojan horse of Hellenism in Albania". The Albanian government accepted him only on a provisional basis, until a suitable Albanian ethnic replacement could be found. Over time Anastasios has gained respect for his charity work and now is recognized as a spiritual leader of the Albanian Orthodox Church.

While most parishes use Albanian language, Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 is also used in the ethnically mixed areas, where Greek is also spoken. The Albanian Orthodox liturgy is the only one in the world to use Modern Greek rather than Koine of the New Testament.

Clergy


As of February 2008, there are 135 clergy members, all of them Albanian citizens who graduated from the Resurrection of Christ Theological Academy, while 9 other students are continuing their education in theological universities abroad.

So far, 150 new churches have been built, 60 monasteries and more than 160 churches have been repaired.

Theological education


Anastasios started a seminary in 1992 initially in a disused hotel, which was in 1996 relocated to its own buildings at Shën Vlash, 15 kilometres from the port of Durrës
Durrës
Durrës is the second largest city of Albania located on the central Albanian coast, about west of the capital Tirana. It is one of the most ancient and economically important cities of Albania. Durres is situated at one of the narrower points of the Adriatic Sea, opposite the Italian ports of Bari...

. The primary purpose of the seminary was training of the new clergy. Women, who will serve the Church as lay leaders, also receive theological training there.

Two Ecclesiastical High Schools for boys were opened - the "Holy Cross" in Gjirokastër in 1998, and the "Holy Cross" in Sukth of Durrës in 2007.

Media and publishing


The Orthodox Church of Albania has its own radio station, named "Ngjallja" (Resurrection) which 24 hours a day broadcasts spiritual, musical, informative and educational programmes and lectures, and has a special children's programme.

A monthly newspaper with the same name "Ngjallja" is published, as well as a children's magazine "Gëzohu" (Rejoice), the magazine of the Orthodox Youth "Kambanat" (Bells), the student bulletin "Fjala" (Word), the news bulletin "News from Orthodoxy in Albania" (published in English) and "Tempulli" (Temple) magazine, that contains cultural, social and spiritual materials.

As of February 2008, more than 90 books with liturgical, spiritual, intellectual, academic topics have been published.

Social activities


The Orthodox Church in Albania has taken various social initiatives. It started with health care, by organizing medical clinics, diagnostic centres, mobile dental clinic. Then programmes for people with disabilities, development in the mountain regions, orphanages, working with prisoners and homeless people, as well as free kitchens and help.

Apart from the theological schools, it has established elementary schools, day-care centres and an institute for professional training (named "Spirit of Love", established in Tiranë in 2000) which is said to be the first of its kind in Albania and provides education in the fields of Team Management, IT Accounting, Computer Science, Medical Laboratory, Restoration and Conservation of Artwork and Byzantine Iconography.

An environmental programme was started in 2001.

Demographics


Although Islam is the dominant religion in Albania, in the southern regions, Orthodox Christianity was traditionally the prevailing religion before the declaration of Albanian independence (1913). However, their number decreased over the following years:
Year Orthodox Christians Muslims
1908 128,000 95,000
1923 114,000 109,000
1927 112,000 114,000


Moreover there is a widespread belief that the Orthodox faith is linked with conspiracy theories in which the identification with Greek expansionist plans would classify them as potential enemies of the state. Today, in parts of Albania, the term Greek is used as a pejorative for Orthodox Albanian speaking communities.

See also

  • Archbishop Anastasios of Albania
    Archbishop Anastasios of Albania
    Archbishop Dr Anastasios of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania is the Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania and as such the primate and Head of the Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania. He was elected on June 1992...

  • Religion in Albania
    Religion in Albania
    The most common religions practiced in Albania include Islam and Christianity. There is a strong unifying cultural identity which has been solidified historically by the common experience of struggling to protect their culture in the face of various outside conquerors...

  • Albanian Byzantine Catholic Church
    Albanian Byzantine Catholic Church
    The Albanian Byzantine Catholic Church is an autonomous Byzantine Rite particular Church in communion with Rome, whose members live in Albania...


External links