The Albanian Orthodox Church – August 2016
On Tuesday, August 2, on the day of the 24th anniversary of the enthronement of His Beatitude Anastasios as Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania, a festive Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the Church of the Analipsi (Ascension) in Librazhdi. It was a very special celebration, because it coincided with the inauguration of the hydropower station of our Church, a major work of Archbishop Anastasios. His election twenty-four years ago, on June 24, and his enthronement on August 2 marked the starting point of the canonical restoration of the Orthodox Church of Albania after the fall of communism. Whereas, this year, on August 2, 2016, a decisive step was taken by the Church to strengthen its economic autocephaly.
The celebration of the Divine Liturgy presided over by Archbishop Anastasios was attended by all the members of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania as well as by His Grace Maximus, Metropolitan of Ioannina who was also a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, His All-Holiness Bartholomew. In the ceremony, clergy and believers from the Metropolises and the Holy Archiepiscopate were present as well. In his welcoming greeting speech on the occasion, Archbishop Anastasios spoke of the Church journey from its beginnings till the present day which marked an important event for the economic independence of our church that was the inauguration of the hydropower station. Then Metropolitan Maxim greeted the participants in the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Therefore, August 2 will be remembered for more events rather than the enthronement of the first Archbishop after a wild yearlong persecution. His election and enthronement marked, as we said, the canonical restoration of our Church giving thus an end to the voices of those who considered the Orthodox Church as “dead” and to the manipulations against the Orthodox community. This was a twenty-four year journey with lots of difficulties but also with full of exceptional successes, which undoubtedly can be referred to as miracles of God on this place of martyrs.
All the steps in this journey were clearly marked by the extraordinary personality of Archbishop Anastasios, who lifted with full commitment and faith the cross of restoration of the Church from its ruins. Since the time of its creation, our Church has never known such an organization and growth and it has never had or played such a prominent a role in the Albanian society but also in the interfaith relations and in the entire Christian world.
We would like to recall that historic day with a quote by the late Theodore Papapavli, in his article in Rilindja Demokratike Newspaper (Democratic Revival) (September 16, 1992) that describes the ceremony of Enthronement as following: “The Enthronement ceremony was attended by hundreds of faithful. It was an event full of shouts of joy, cheers and sustained applause for Archbishop Anastasios. Only a small group of people, which included some Muslims, as well as a deputy of the same religious group, tried to spoil the atmosphere. However, the protest of such a small group of people, which I think was not spontaneous at all judging from its composition, proved to have no prevalence over the will of the majority who unanimously approved the Enthronement of the Archbishop. ”
Below there is an excerpt from Archbishop’s word on his Enthronement occasion:
The Orthodox Church: A Blessing for the Country
(Excerpt from the speech of Archbishop Anastasios in the ceremony of his Enthronement, August 2, 1992)
The Orthodox Church of Albania is first of all a blessing for this developing country. The flourishing and general growth of the Church in all the spectrum of its activity, will decisively affect the development of the whole country.
Firstly: By enthusiastically relying on the Trinitarian God, upon His grace, mercy and boundless love, the Church introduces to people, in a continuous way, new thoughts, new ideals, everlasting hope and power in order to continue their fight in such a difficult time period, when discouragement and hopelessness are a threat to them. The most important contribution of the Church in the social field is that it raises up people to be mature, responsible, honest and to consciously struggle even when no one and nothing external, forces them to live through love and creativity, upbringing thus quietly the whole society.
Secondly: The Orthodox Church has always and will still be a factor of unity, peace and reconciliation in Albania by continuously proclaiming forgiveness and understanding, and providing domestic incentives as well as the necessary power to deal with them. Following the old tradition of religious tolerance in Albania, the Church sincerely supports the peaceful coexistence and mutual respect for different religious communities. Simultaneously, it cultivates a sense of respect and love for those who still remain indifferent or even negative towards religion. The respect for every person’s freedom, no matter whether he believes or not, characterizes the Orthodox morality “every human is sacred because every human is made in the image of God.”
Thirdly: Through the respective activities mentioned above, we hope that our Church will contribute to the common efforts made for the development of Albania, in order for it to take its rightful place in Europe in a much shorter time. And, as always, the Church members will consistently defend the rights of the country….