The Albanian Orthodox Church
Translated by Ana Meni
Edited by Anastasia Pamela Barksdale
On February 7, 1992 the teaching of the first courses for clergy began in Albania.
During the past two decades there have not been any events that have impacted so much the miracle of the rebuilding of our Church after the atheistic winter, and at the same time demonstrated the visionary foresight of Archbishop Anastasios, as the opening of this school.
When the churches were closed, with all the limitations and restrictions, our Church still had about 400 priests serving throughout the country. In 1991 only 20 priests remained alive, some aged, some unable to serve and others sick and at the end of their earthly journey (today only two of these remain alive).
At the time of the arrival in Albania of the Patriarchal Exarch, Anastasios, he found not only the ruins of the destroyed churches, but spiritual ruins that were even greater. Thus, besides the rebuilding of the temples there had to be reestablished also the Church in the soul of believers, but it could not be done without pastors, without clergy who would perform the services and lead people to faith. Some enthusiastic people went outside country to receive religious instruction, but the Archbishop was convinced that there could be no progress without creating conditions for those who wanted to enter this difficult, but blessed, road to have opportunities for education here, instead. Hence he set as a priority the opening of an Orthodox Seminary.
On February 7, 1992, 45 of the first disciples, of different ages, gathered in rented premises at the camp of the workers in Durrës, who despite very difficult conditions, were ready to serve with enthusiasm the Church that had been reborn. The first teachers were Archbishop Anastasios himself, Father Ilia Katre (now a Bishop), from the U.S., who was the first director, the theologian Dhimitri Beduli, who had led the Theological Academy that was closed in 1945, the theologian Theodore Papapavli etc., but also monks and theologians who came to Albania with the desire to contribute to this titanic work.
The facilities were inadequate for the realization of the educational goals and in the absence of land that failed to be given, Archbishop Anastasios provided funds to repurchase the land of the Monastery in St. Vlash, Durrës, where the construction of the modern Theological Academy was begun, and which hosted the first students in 1996. From its soil have emerged almost all the clergy who serve throughout the country and dozens of young catechists and workers of our Church. Supporting the Academy are also two ecclesiastical high schools “Holy Cross”, in Gjirokastra and in Sukth, Durrës.
On the occasion of this anniversary, at the new Monastery of St. Vlash and on the grounds of the “The Resurrection of Christ Theological Academy” some activities were staged. They began with the Divine Liturgy in the Monastery church, and continued with the activities entitled “All things are Possible for God.” Present were Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania Anastasios, Metropolitan of Korca, John, Bishop of Kruja Anthony, Bishop of Apollonia Nicholas and two younger members of the Holy Synod, the Bishop of Amantia Nathanaili and the Bishop of Bylisi Asti. Also present were clergymen, and former students from the first class of the school in 1992, and current students of the Academy.
Bishop of Apollonia, His Grace Nicholas, acting director of the Theological Academy, spoke about the anniversary of the school and then a photographic montage about the school’s past two decades were displayed. Later speeches were offered by two professors: Ms. Violeta Plepi, spoke on, “Students of the Academy in Service to the Church of Christ” and by Mr. Nathan Hoppe, on “The Apostolic Foundation for an Apostolic Calling.” Then they read greetings from the first director, His Grace Ilia and former professor, Fr. Luke Veronis. Then Protopresbyter Jani Trebicka spoke, as one of the top students, and today’s Registrar of the Holy Synod. In closing, the participants were greeted by His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios who spoke for the progress that been achieved until now, but also for the tasks needed for future goals. Then His Beatitude delivered a speech about the need to understand theology today.
The whole ceremony was accompanied with songs and hymns prepared by the choir of the Academy.