The Albanian Orthodox Church – July 2017
Panegyric Divine Liturgy Celebrated at the Resurrection of Christ Cathedral in Tirana.
Today, on June 24, 2017, a Panegyric Divine Liturgy was celebrated on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the election of His Beatitude Anastasios, as Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The members of the Holy Synod concelebrated the liturgy: His Eminence Ignat, the Metropolitan of Berat, His Eminence Dhimitri, Metropolitan of Gjirokastra, His Eminence Nikolla, Metropolitan of Apollonia and Fier, His Eminence Andoni, Metropolitan of Elbasan and Shpati, His Eminence Nathanail, Metropolitan of Amantia as well as other clergy ordained by Archbishop Anastasios during this time period.
At the end of the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Anastasios addressed the faithful by first thanking God for the abundant gifts granted throughout these years, as well as his associates and members of the Holy Synod. Further, the Archbishop once again summed up the most significant moments and difficulties encountered since his election, thus making them known to the young people who did not live at those historic days for our Church. He mentioned his arrival in Albania as Patriarchal Exarch, his election as Archbishop by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on 24 June 1992, his reluctance to accept this duty at first and the conditions for his election to become successful, the acceptance of this duty and the obstacles that followed from groups of people that did not want the canonical revival of our Church. Then, His Beatitude focused on the many gifts that God has granted to the Church and the faithful throughout these years, taking as an example the ordination of forty-five clergy who were also present at the Divine Liturgy and expressed the assurance that such blessings would continue even in the future. Then the youth and the faithful gave flowers to Archbishop Anastasios expressing their thanks and deep gratitude to him for all that he has done for our Church and our country during these years of serving as Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania. The conveyance of congratulations and thanks continued even after the Liturgy, at the premises of the Cathedral Complex.
Although formal freedom was already restored to the country, the beginning of the 1990s was a dramatic time period for the Community of the Orthodox faithful in Albania. There was no surviving bishop, and no potential candidate who could be ordained to such a rank; only 15 retired and ailing clergy remained. There were no churches (they were either destroyed or repurposed as secular buildings) and no financial means to rebuild, due to the profound poverty and because the state would not take any responsibility in supporting religious communities. Overall, a desperate situation existed. Under these conditions, the only authority that had the responsibility and the ability to undertake initiatives for the reestablishment of the Orthodox Church in Albania was the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is recognized by all the Orthodox Churches as the first among equals and maintains the responsibility for the support of the Orthodox Churches. In order to observe the situation and the needs of the Church of Albania, the Patriarchate sent to Albania one of the most qualified persons who was well known both throughout the Orthodox world and beyond, Prof. Dr. Anastasios, who was at that time the Metropolitan of Androussa, the Moderator of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism of the World Council of Churches and the Acting Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Upon arriving in our country, the Archbishop encountered the fearful spiritual and material void that formal atheism had left behind, but he was not intimidated. He was committed to changing the situation. He began with the opening of a seminary for the preparation of young clergy and began restoring the existing Church properties while simultaneously undertaking projects to build new churches. It was this self-sacrificing work that convinced the Albanian Orthodox Christians to officially ask the Ecumenical Patriarchate to have then Metropolitan Anastasios as their Father and Chief Priest.