"Moreover, you scorned our people, and compared the Albanese to sheep, and according to your custom think of us with insults. Nor have you shown yourself to have any knowledge of my race. Our elders were Epirotes, where this Pirro came from, whose force could scarcely support the Romans. This Pirro, who Taranto and many other places of Italy held back with armies. I do not have to speak for the Epiroti. They are very much stronger men than your Tarantini, a species of wet men who are born only to fish. If you want to say that Albania is part of Macedonia I would concede that a lot more of our ancestors were nobles who went as far as India under Alexander the Great and defeated all those peoples with incredible difficulty. From those men come these who you called sheep. But the nature of things is not changed. Why do your men run away in the faces of sheep?"
Letter from Skanderbeg to the Prince of Taranto ▬ Skanderbeg, October 31 1460

A free church in a free country

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Aulona
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A free church in a free country

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Post by Aulona » Tue Jul 28, 2009 1:02 am

"A free church in a free country, a church divided from the state", the Article 16 of the Statute was formulated to read: "Archbishop, bishops, local deputies, the Great Deacon Mitrofor, Synod's Secretary General, as well as ecclesiastic assistants and deputies of the archbishop and bishops must be of Albanian blood and language and have Albanian citizenship."

With the raising of national awareness in the struggle against foreign rule, several known figures from domestic clergy emerged such as Pjetër Budi, Frang Bardhi, Pjetër Bogdani etc., who played an important role in Albanian culture. During the National Renaissance, there were clerics from among the two branches of Christianity who laboured in the interest of the country and national culture such as Papa Kristo Negovani, Ndoc Nikaj, Nikollë Kaçorri, etc

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the Albanians of the Diaspora, mainly Orthodox, understood soon enough that to oppose Greece's Hellenizing policy and practice an Albanian Autocephalous Church was needed. The first endeavors to achieve this aim were made by Nikollë Naço of Bucharest descent, but without success. The legitimate right for being autocephalous arouse in Albanian Orthodox Church as early as November 28, 1912. With the proclamation of Albania's independence from Turkey, the Orthodox Church of Albania could not be lawfully protected by the Patriarchate, which was under the jurisdiction of the Turkish government. This was the case with other Balkan populations as well, which had been occupied by Turkey.

So, the Greek, Bulgarian, Rumanian and Serbian Orthodox Church had already proclaimed their autocephalousness, a right they had won since the 13th century. In the United Stated, such efforts had begun in May 1907. The cause that gave momentum to this issue was a specific event. In August 1907, a young man died in Hudson. When his body was carried to the Orthodox Church where Orthodox Albanians usually performed their rites, the Greek priest refused to perform the funeral service as the young man was known to be an Albanian nationalist and was automatically "excommunicated".

This event gave rise to Albanians' incentive to create a religious association in September 1907 named "Albanian Honor" and elect a commission in charge of associating Wooster's association with immigrants in Natick, Marlborough, Boston, etc. It was the first step towards an independent Orthodox Church with America's emigrants.

Since Albanians hadn't got a legal priest ordained by a bishop, they decided to call a priest from Albania. Among the candidates it was F. Noli to win, who after a series of tribulations hatched up by the Patriarchate, was ordained a legal priest in March 1908. Three bishops, a Russian, a Ukrainian and a Rumanian ordained him. This event was cheered by all Albanians wherever they were and was followed by repercussions across the press of the time. The newspaper "Drita" of Sofia, published by Shahin Kolonja, the "Shpresa e Shqypnisë" and other Albanian newspapers of Egypt and America wrote of this event. F. Noli gave the first mass in Albanian language on March 22, 1908.

Thereafter, a wave of rapid constructions of Albanian Orthodox churches began in America such as St. Nicholas’s Church in South Bridge, which ended in 1912, and both St. Paul's Church and St. Peter's Church in Philadelphia. This initiative was undertaken by Stavri Seminaku from Berati and Father Naum Cerja, a priest from Rehova e Kolonjës. In 1919 the Church of St. Mary was built in Natick. For the needs of the new and independent Albanian Church, F. Noli translated in succession all the necessary ecclesiastic books beginning from 1908: "The Services of Holy Week", "The Book of Holy Services", "The Book of Great Holy Days", "Triodhi i Vogël", "The Prayer Book" and "Pesëdhjetëvjetorja e Vogël".

F. Noli made all these efforts for an Albanian Autocephalous Orthodox Church with the intention of creating an Albanian Orthodox bishopric in America, whose throne was to be carried to Albania in the future. One of the most remarkable events dealing with Albanian Orthodox Church was the Convention of March 16, 1919, wherein the Albanian Diaspora of America and Canada was convened. The Convention requested the Russian bishop to create opportunities for them to establish the Albanian Bishopric of America and to ordain for them their first bishop. To this end, many such petitions were sent to other archbishoprics. The Russian bishop promised three times to ordain F. Noli as a bishop and the three times he recanted. Under these circumstances, on July 26, 1919, F. Noli addressed those who were present at St. George's church in Boston: "Who made the very first bishop? And people replied, 'It was people who made the very first bishop.' The same is with me, the people will ordain me because I am just the very first for the Albanians", F. Noli said.

In the course of such events, the 30 July 1919 Convention proclaimed the Albanian Orthodox Church of America autocephalous and F. Noli its first bishop By the time these things were occurring in America, in Albania, which was turned into a battlefield, Greek metropolitans were prevailing, such as Jakovi of Durrës and the one of Korçë.

There were reports that terrorist gangs of "holy companies" were running riot in Albania; they killed Papa Kristo Negovani in 1904, terrorized the population of southern Albania in 1914, and killed Father Stath Melani in 1917. After all these obstacles, on April 28, 1921, Father Vasil Marku gave eventually the first mass in Albanian language at St. George's Church in Korçë. The greatest event by far for the Orthodox Church of Albania was the holding of a pan-Albanian Congress in Berat on September 10, 1922, which approved the city Korçë as the headquarters of the Orthodox Church of Albania.

The Congress decided that the liturgical language at the Albanian Orthodox Church should be the Albanian language. The Congress of Berat closed on September 19, 1922. On November 21, 1923, the 1st Synod, founded in Berat, proclaimed F. Noli an archbishop. The ceremony was performed at St. George's Church in Korçë. So, as F. Noli has written, the 1st Synod of the Albanian Orthodox Church was created after 500 years since 1478, when the whole Albania (Arbëria) fell under the Ottoman yoke. This Holy Synod was composed of Hireotheu, Korçë's and Gjirokastër's metropolitan, Kristofor Kisi, Berat's and Vlorë's metropolitan, and F. Noli, Durrës' and Tirana's metropolitan. According to what Noli has written, this Synod continued until December 24, 1924, when Fan Noli was forced to leave Albania. With the support of government, Father Visarion Xhuvani came at the head of the Albanian Orthodox Church, who was thus proclaimed an archbishop. In 1929, the Synod and its metropolitan sent him to Anastas of Koshavac.

From there he was summoned to Tirana and together with the Serbian bishop of Shkodër and two other bishops, Evthim Ikonomi and V. Çamçe (Agathangjeli), created the 2d Synod of the Albanian Orthodox Church with Visarion Xhuvani as its archbishop. The Ecumenical Patriarchate opposed this synod. It must be stressed, however, that V. Xhuvani demonstrated great vigour. During the time he was in charge of the Church, he called the Second pan-Orthodox Congress in Korçë on June 16, 1929.

Under the formula: "A free church in a free country, a church divided from the state", the Article 16 of the Statute was formulated to read: "Archbishop, bishops, local deputies, the Great Deacon Mitrofor, Synod's Secretary General, as well as ecclesiastic assistants and deputies of the archbishop and bishops must be of Albanian blood and language and have Albanian citizenship." The 2d Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania, as yet unrecognized by Ecumenical Patriarchate, was made up of: Archbishop and bishop of Tiranë and Durrës V. Xhuvani, his Eminence Çamçe, his Eminence Ambrozi, his Eminence Eugjeni. Afterwards, this synod was complemented with the Great Deacon Mitrofor and Father Vasil Marku.

During his efforts to create political stability in Albania, King Zogu pursued a neutral policy in connection with different religious creeds in Albania by separating political power from religion, supporting the independence of the Orthodox Church and preferring Albanian religious leaders to foreign ones. For three years in succession (1933-1936) he was involved in a conflict with Catholic schools, which he closed and opened again. This was made within the framework of educational reform. There are interpretations, however, that this movement of Zogu was also intended to keep a religious balance and put a limit to the overall Italian expansion in Albania.
The autocephalousness issue was made one of the chief themes for the King Zogu as well, who sent his Orthodox minister Kotta twice to Istanbul to hold negotiations and also to put forth threats. In 1933, King Zogu's government put pressure on Xhuvani as well to lead him to resign, which he did, and then Kristofor Kisi was charged to create the 3d Synod of the Albanian Orthodox Church. On February 20, 1937, it became possible for the Albanian government to send K. Kisi and the layman Josif Kodhi as delegates to Athens. So, on April 12, 1937, the Albanian Orthodox Church was proclaimed autocephalous. The high ecclesiastic decree, Tomi, was conferred on K. Kisi. On this occasion, the Patriarchate sent a message to the Minister of Justice Thoma Orollogaj, the King Zogu and the Prime Minister Koço Kotta.

Thereafter, this Church would make its own decisions both legally and canonically, would decide on its own for its organization, the appointment of bishops and bishoprics, the translation of liturgy and service books in the Albanian language, etc. On its part, the Patriarchate maintained the powers to explain and interpret the Orthodox dogma and requested that among eligible bishops enthroned by the Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Church of Albania, two of them ought to have an Orthodox theological background received in Greek schools and, in addition, to have lived abroad, i.e. in Greece and the Holy Mountain, for a long time. This was the only condition the Patriarchate laid down. The 3d Synod of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania was made up of Kristofor Kisi, archbishop and metropolitan of Durrës and Tiranë, Agathangjel Çamçe, metropolitan of Berat, Evllogji Kumila, metropolitan of Korçë, and Pandeli Kotoko, metropolitan of Gjirakastër.
Growing up I was taught to "Treat people as I wanted to be treated", but as time passed and I met more people, I made my own version which is fair: "Treat people, like they treat you".

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