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 SynodThe Holy Synod of Bishops was established in 1998, and is currently consisted of:
- Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania, head of the Synod : Anastasios (Anastasios Yannoulatos) (1992-)
- Metropolis of Berat, Vlorë, Kanina and all Myzeqe : Ignatios (Giannakos) Triantis (1996-)
- Metropolis of Korçë : Joan (Fatmir) Pelushi (1998-)
- Metropolis of Gjirokastër : Demetrios Dikbasanis (2006-)
- Titular Diocese of Apolonia : Nikolla Hyka (2006-) (Kozma Qirjo was Bishop of Apollonia from 1998 until 2000 when he died)
- Titular Diocese of Kruja : Andon Merdani (2006-)
- General Secretary Protopresbyter : Jani Trebicka
HistoryChristianity 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. However it was with Constantine the Great, who issued the Edict of Milan and legalized Christianity, that the Christian religion became official in the lands of modern Albania.
When Albania came under Ottoman influence in 15th century the Orthodox people of Albania were members of the Archbishopric of Ohrid which was officially recognized by the Ottoman Empire. Following the Ottoman conquest in the 15th century, a slow conversion of Albanians to Islam started. By mid-19th century because of the Tanzimat reforms that had started in 1839 the majority of Albanians had become Muslim. The Tanzimat 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. The territory north of the Drin was a part of the Serbian Church and had had Slavic liturgy.
Autocephaly and statutesOn November 26, 1950 the Parliament of Albania approved the Third Statute that abrogated the 1929 Statute. Such new statute required Albanian citizenship for the primate 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. In particular article #4 of the 1950 statute that required Albanian citizenship for primate of the church was no longer required.
Archbishop of TiranaThe Primate of the Church is also Archbishop of Tirana. The current Archbishop of Tirana is Archbishop Anastasios of Albania.
PersecutionThe church greatly suffered during the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha 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, 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 Churchcommunist rule, when religious freedom was restored, only 22 orthodox priests remained alive. To deal with this situation, the Ecumenical Patriarch appointed Anastasios to be the Patriarchal Exarch for the Albanian Church. Bishop of Androusa Anastasios before his appointment was dividing his time between his teaching duties at the University of Athens and the Archbishopric of Irinoupolis in Kenya, which was then going through a difficult patch.
He was named Archbishop of Tirana 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 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 educationAnastasios 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. 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 publishingThe 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 activitiesThe 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: