Албанская Православная Церковь
Message to the Albanian Mass Media
Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and all Albania
RESISTENCE TO THE PANDEMIC
My beloved brothers and sisters,
We are all astounded, as if a new World War has been declared by an invisible enemy, the Corona Virus.
We are all standing uneasily before the unforeseen changes, brought about by this unprecedented pandemic, to the life of the rich and poor, to the educated and simple people, to health, to the economy, to transportation, to the various forms of leisure, and to celebrations.
It behooves us to avoid panic, depression, and despair. Composure, sobriety, and careful concern and discipline towards the instructions and health directives of the responsible governments are required of us. Likewise, we owe wholehearted thanks to those who are tasked with maintaining public cleanliness, order, and information, and especially to the healthcare professionals who are on the vanguard of the battle for the care of the infected.
Remaining inside our homes, let us not permit irritations and conflicts to fester, but let us cultivate creativity, a peaceful disposition, kindness, understanding, affection and love.
All who are faithful, let us intensify our prayer for the period of this trial to not be protracted, for the recovery of those who are seriously afflicted, and for the spread of the pandemic COVID-19 to be limited. Even more, let us pray that God enlightens the researchers to swiftly determine the proper preventive and therapeutic processes.
Primarily, it is imperative to strengthen our trust in God. Faith and love are the most powerful defensive weapons against the attack of this invisible virus that threatens humanity. Something good will ultimately come out of this crisis and we hope that human societies will reexamine their values and priorities.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters: No anxiety, no disquiet! Let us have more courage, an agreeable attitude, obedience to the instructions, and above all sincere solidarity. The peace and the hope of God strengthen our patience and resistance and let them guide us to make the required choices and changes in our lives after this grave crisis.
20 March, 2020
Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and all Albania
At Christmas, the great feast of the coming of the Son and Word of God to the oikoumene, we reflect upon the amazing initiative of God the Father for the reconciliation with the human race. In His infinite love He “has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9) that He might join the human race with Himself by becoming its member – as Theanthropos.
The new reality created by the coming of Christ is a new collective entity, the “Church”. Christians are not isolated religious individuals. We belong to a blessed community, we are the living cells of a spiritual body, the Church, which has Christ as her head. In opposition to disputes and polarizations, which naturally appear in a living organism, the God given gift “self-healing”, the inner power of healing of every body, is reconciliation. Generally, this is the therapeutic process in times of crisis, animosity, and discord, and is necessary for social cohesion and the peaceful coexistence of persons, of communities, and of peoples.
At a time when divisions, tensions, and conflicts afflict our world, we celebrate Christmas more essentially by participating, insofar as possible for us, in efforts for reconciliation in our immediate environment; in our professional, social, ecclesiastical, and political life. Reconciliation is constantly threatened by egocentrism in its various manifestations; stubbornness, rage, vindictiveness. The way in which the Son and Word of God, the meek and humble, entered human history determines the way in which egocentrism is overcome. A basic precondition for reconciliation remains forgiveness; the strongest expression of the power of love. The Incarnate Word, Christ, insisted that we repeat “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”. Forgiveness sustains and vivifies solidarity, the harmonious coexistence of every social entity.
In order to contribute to reconciliation, we must be reconciled with ourselves - with our conscience, with our potentialities, our limits - with the destination of our lives. It is imperative that we continually struggle, through Divine grace, to be at peace “among yourselves” (1 Thess. 5:13).
Before all else, our reconciliation with God is needed, with His will and His commandments, as defined in the Holy Scripture. Then, with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, we will discover that: “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). The Apostle Paul, based upon his own experience, declares: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). And elsewhere: “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18).
The Coming one in the world the Son and Word of God, especially during this festal period, asks us to participate in His own work, which began at the manger and is completed on the Cross. To move towards a true reconciliation with Him, with ourselves, and with our fellow human beings, so that we can cooperate towards a general reconciliation, which eschatologically aims at the recapitulation of “all things in Christ” (Eph. 1:10).
Contemplating with gratitude the goodwill of God that we celebrate at Christmas and participating in the “ministry of reconciliation” that began with His Birth in our world, we will become worthy to sing consciously together with the Angels “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
A Blessed Christmas, a peaceful New Year with vivifying hope and ceaseless solidarity in the unexpected tribulations of life.
With wholehearted love in Christ,
Who has “given us the ministry of reconciliation”,
Response to those who attempted to alter the meaning and purpose of our text: “In Anticipation of Christmas 2019, Appeal-Supplication for the overcoming of the ecclesiastical polarization”
Response to those who attempted
to alter the meaning and purpose of our text:
“In Anticipation of Christmas 2019, Appeal-Supplication for the overcoming of the ecclesiastical polarization”
sent November 20th, 2019.
(Published in “Dimokratia” Newspaper with the title “The position of Anastasios towards Ukraine”, December 4th, 2019)
On Tuesday, November 26, 2019 (the day of the great earthquake in Durres, Albania) a report by Mr. Antonis Triantafyllou was published in your newspaper with the title “Anastasios’ Intervention in Favor of Moscow.” This is a malicious distortion of my views, intentions, and proposals with regard to a sensitive and critical issue that concerns worldwide Orthodoxy. Its subtitle, “The Archbishop of Albania has again called for a Pan-Orthodox Council (the constant request of Kirill) for examining the Ukrainian issue,” as well as what is mentioned in the report, attempts to undermine my recent initiative. My intervention is not “in favor of Moscow” or in favor of any Autocephalous Church and it is certainly not against the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is a cry of agony in favor of reconciliation, in favor of the unity of Orthodoxy.
1. My text: “In anticipation of Christmas 2019 – Appeal-Supplication - for the overcoming of the ecclesiastical polarization,” which has been widely circulated, has no connection, as the “report” claims, to the initiative of the Patriarch of Jerusalem and the request of the Patriarch of Moscow, which were announced on November 22, 2019. I wrote it shortly before the Nativity Fast (which is why it is entitled “In anticipation of Christmas”) in a period of anxiety about the dangerous new reality taking shape, which has deeply troubled the Orthodox. I officially sent it to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches on November 20. It was published on November 24 (see the website of the Orthodox Church of Albania http://orthodoxalbania.net/index.php/en-us/lajme-3/blog/6978-2019-4).
The Appeal states, “The initiative for the healing treatment of the new reality undoubtedly is accorded to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. But all the Autocephalous Churches, all Orthodox without exception, bear the responsibility to contribute to reconciliation.” I have never questioned the established rights or privileges of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Having always participated responsibly in the life of Orthodoxy, I have strongly supported the creative efforts of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (for example, in the Synaxes of Primates and at the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church). In the same way now, with loving frankness, I am articulating anxiety, assessments, and related proposals, aiming exclusively at seeking a solution for the complicated present reality, which is obviously different from the situation in 2018. I consider this stance, at the end of 2019, to be a substantial contribution to the work of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to the entire trajectory of the Orthodox Church.
2. The article also refers to a “strict letter” from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It conceals, however, just as the “ecclesiastical circles” from which it is being fed are systematically silent, that there followed a detailed synodal response from our Church to the objections (3/21/2019), which demonstrated, inter alia, that the Meletian Schism, which the Ecumenical Patriarchate cited for its actions in Ukraine, stipulates different procedures for the treatment of schism and that the final solution was given by the First Ecumenical Council (see http://orthodoxalbania.net/index.php/en-us/lajme-3/blog/6884-on-the-ukrainian-ecclesiastical-question-2nd-reply-speaking-the-truth-in-love). The official correspondence on this issue was closed with this letter of reply.
3. As for the report’s hint about a “scholarly source” that “Anastasios forgets the basic provisions of canon law, particularly how Autocephalies are granted, such as the Autocephaly of his own Church,” we specify that: In all the previous cases of granting Autocephaly – and naturally to the Church of Albania – Autocephaly was granted to the canonical Metropolises of each country and not to small sections of them composed of imperfectly restored schismatics. This is why there followed peace and concord. The process of granting Autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine, on the contrary, caused turmoil and divisions, not only in that particular country, but in the entire Orthodox world. The result is prolonged confusion and divisions. Moreover, we do not forget that the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church is primarily based on the decisions of the Ecumenical and other important Orthodox Councils and that Synodality is the basic principle of the cohesion of Orthodoxy. Calling for making use of it, then, has nothing to do with dark plots. It has been reiterated responsibly and publicly by most Orthodox Primates since the beginning of the past year. In our Appeal, we have particularly stressed the need for convening it, “and with the sole aim of finding a peaceful arrangement, we have the possibility of reaching a solution acceptable to the whole Orthodox Church.”
4. Another characteristic distortion: In the Appeal, I note: “It is widely accepted and often repeated on the international stage that tensions can be faced only by means of serious dialogue. Every attempt should be made to re-establish communication between the primary parties in the crisis as soon as possible, so that they may exchange creative proposals. Persons who can contribute to the immediate initiation of the deliberations exist in the Orthodox Church.” This sentence is depicted in the report as follows: “Anastasios essentially nominated himself as mediator between Constantinople and Moscow.” The misrepresentation of my views and the arbitrary conclusion is obvious.
5. It is regrettable that, on such a crucial issue, irresponsible persons have been mobilized to deride those who expressed different views while at the same time flattering those whom they support. A specific plan of operation is revealed. Certain people use social networks. Their main mouthpiece is a clergyman of the Metropolis of Crete (guided and protected from above) who, with a certain “strike group,” has taken on the role of maliciously mocking, intimidating, and in their imagination, punishing with insults, threats, petty sophisms, and even wretched profanity those who have different proposals for overcoming the crisis. Others make use of the seriousness of publications in which ecclesiastical and academic sources are cited, such as this “report”, where the real facts are distorted and the responsible views of even Primates and Synods are vilified. Those involved in this plan, whether explicitly or implicitly, are unscrupulously attempting to affix labels of ethnophyletistic inspiration such as “slavophiles”, “russophiles” and the like. It is a degeneration of the ecclesiastical confrontation that debases inter-Orthodox dialogue at a critical time for Orthodoxy.
6. As Christmas approaches, the great feast of the incarnation of the Son of God, of the Father’s amazing initiative for reconciliation with the human race, as we mention in the conclusion of our appeal, we are committed to “a hastening of the steps towards reconciliation… Reconciliation will bring peace to millions of faithful people. At the same time, Orthodoxy will confirm its spiritual ability to heal wounds, in the light of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.”
With particular respect and heartfelt prayers,
Tirana December 2nd, 2019
Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania
December 1, Archbishop Anastasios travelled to Durrës, and celebrated Liturgy together with Bishop Asti. After, His Beatitude visited and witnessed the devastation created by the earthquake while consoling citizens. The day was concluded with a visit to Monastery of Shën Vlash, where 167 victims of the earthquake are being sheltered and fed at the Theological Seminary and the Women’s Skete.
In anticipation of Christmas 2019 - Appeal-Supplication- for the overcoming of the ecclesiastical polarisation
This appeal-supplication was sent to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to all other Orthodox Autocephalos Churches on November 20th, 2019. It was given to the media on the 24th of November, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------Translated from Greek
Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania
In anticipation of Christmas 2019
for the overcoming of the ecclesiastical polarisation
1. For months, much has been said and written about the Ukrainian ecclesiastical problem. What is most crucial and most necessary, however, is to emphasise Orthodoxy’s imperative of unity. St. John Chrysostom proclaimed, in an expression of Patristic spiritual experience and ecclesiastical tradition, that: “The name of the Church is not one of separation, but of union and concord. The Church came into being, not that we might be divided, but that we might be joined together”. And elsewhere: “Nothing exasperates God so much as a Church divided”. Any action must therefore take most seriously into account this truth: The unity of the Church is before and above all.
2. The ecclesiastical events of the past year have created a new reality, with the obvious involvement of geopolitical interests and expediencies. This new situation cannot be ignored, directly or indirectly. The granting of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has not brought the desired Orthodox unity and peace, as happened with all previous cases of granting Autocephaly. The central figure in the Ukrainian problem, the self-proclaimed “Patriarch” Filaret, ultimately refused the Tomos, criticising both its content and its purpose. The divisions have spread to other regions and to the Orthodox world in general. At the same time, the supreme sacrament of unity and forgiveness – the Holy Eucharist – has been used by the Patriarchate of Moscow during the confrontation as a means of applying pressure. Many millions of Orthodox around the world have broken eucharistic communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, and the Church of Greece. Moreover, the question of the validity of the ordinations performed by the self-proclaimed “Patriarch” Filaret when he was excommunicated and anathematized continues to divide. The painful consequences of this surgical intervention are all too well known, not only among the Orthodoxcircles but throughout the Christian world.
3. For the moment, a worrying silence prevails in most of the Orthodox Churches. The apparent political pressures on both sides are wounding the spiritual authority of the Orthodox Church, while the mobilisation of irresponsible persons to deride those who express different opinions, while at the same time flattering thosewhom they support, debases inter-Orthodox dialogue at a critical moment for Orthodoxy. Some ecclesiastical circles have expressed the expectation that all the Orthodox Churches will gradually recognise the recipient of the Tomos. Moreover, even if some autocephalous Churches do recognise him, several others have declared in their public pronouncements that they will continue to refuse to do so. The resulting ethno-racial fragmentation (into Greeks, Slavs, and those who desire harmonious relations with all) deals a grave blow to the multinational,multi-cultural, and ecumenical character of Orthodoxy. Time does not necessarily correct and heal ecclesiastical schisms; rather, it deepens and perpetuates them.
4. Finding ways to transcend this ecclesiastical polarisation is now a matter of urgency. In order to face various conflicts in today’s world the first step is de-escalation. It is widely accepted and often repeated on the international stage that tensions can be faced only by means of serious dialogue. Every attempt should be made to re-establish communication between the primary parties in the crisis as soon as possible, so that they may exchange creative proposals. Persons who can contribute to the immediate initiation of the deliberations exist in the Orthodox Church.
5. It is time to lay the foundations for new efforts on the truths of Orthodox tradition, which are rooted in Holy Scripture, for example: “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46, cf. Mt.7:21); "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you…” (Mt. 5:44); “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…” (Mt. 6:12); “…endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3; see also Gal. 5:15). Following the commands of the Lord faithfully we will discern new pathways to overcoming the violence.
6. Solutions exist. God will enlighten us that we may determine them. They will not, of course, be achieved through exchanges of insulting and threatening texts, neither by extra- ecclesiastical interventions nor can they be imposed unilaterally or come automatically with the passing of time. Everydelaydeterioratesthe already painful situation. And even if “ultimately” “in the future” a solution will be found, many sorrowful pages will have already been accumulated in the history of Orthodoxy. The fundamental principle of Conciliarity, which has always underlain the advancement of the Orthodox Church, is the only key to finding a way out of the existing crisis. Gathering together in the Holy Spirit, in mutual respect and with the sole aim of finding a peaceful arrangement, we have the possibility of reaching a solution acceptable to the whole Orthodox Church. The longer the implementation of pan-Orthodox Conciliarity is delayed, the more dangerous the multiple fissures in the Orthodox Oikoumene become. Modern technology intensifies the clamour, the confusion, and the turmoil among the Orthodox and by this the creditability of Orthodoxy in today’s world is decreasing.
7. With the approach of Christmas, the great feast of the coming of the Son and Word of God to humankind, the amazing initiative of the Father for the reconciliation with the human race, we humbly raise our supplication, our appeal, for a hastening of the steps towards reconciliation, so that we may be entitled to join all our voices in singing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men.” (Luke 2:14) “All things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation”(2 Cor. 5:18).
The initiative for the healing treatment of the new reality undoubtedly is accorded to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. But all the Autocephalous Churches, all Orthodox without exception, bear the responsibility to contribute to reconciliation (katallagi).
Reconciliation will bring peace to millions of faithful people. At the same time, Orthodoxy will confirm its spiritual ability to heal wounds, in the light of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Confirming the truth that she is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, whose Head is Christ the incarnate Son of God, “for whom and by whom all things exist” (Heb. 2:10), who “…has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18).
Tirana November 20th, 2019
Each year we celebrate two significant events which mark the official canonical revival of the OrthodoxAutocephalous Church of Albania: The Election of Archbishop Anastasios at the head of our Church (June 24) and the day of His enthronement (August 2).
Today, on August 2, 2019, on the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the enthronement of His BeatitudeAnastasiosas Head of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, apanegyric Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Resurrection of ChristCathedral in Tirana. It was presided over by the Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania, his Beatitude Anastasios who concelebrated together with the Metropolitan of Korça, His Grace Joan; the Metropolitan of Gjirokastra, His Grace Dimitri; the Metropolitan of Fier, His Grace Nikolla; the Metropolitan of Elbasan, His Grace Andoni; the Metropolitan of Amantia, His Grace Nathanail and Bishop Asti of Bylis.
On behalf of the Holy Synod and all the Orthodox faithful, Archbishop Anastasios received wishes by the Metropolitan of Korça, His Grace Joan. The Archbishop thanked everyone for the wishes and recalled the first moments of his coming to Albania and of the re-establishment of the Church.
Celebration on the Occasion of the 27th Anniversary of the Canonical Revival of our Church
Due to the highly charged political climate in Albania, in view of the upcoming municipal elections, the Clergy Laity Conference of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania scheduled to take place on 24 June, 2019, was postponed until the upcoming Autumn.
Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania
Carefully attending the conflictual political situation in the country, we hoped that the political parties would find an acceptable solution through mutual effort and understanding.
But, regretfully, we see that the path of reconciliation and understanding is becoming narrower and narrower, leadingthus to the toughening of the conflict, which might have very serious consequences for the present and future of our country.
Therefore, with great concern and humbleness, we pray in all the churches that the God of peace and wisdom encourages all those who carry the responsibility of leading the country to become aware of the importance of the task they are charged with, to find a path for reconciliation and understanding and to provide concrete solutions to the problems for the benefit of our country and our people.
Note: This statement was read in all churches on Sunday, 02.06.2019 after the Divine Liturgy.
ORTHODOX AUTOCEPHALOUS CHURCH OF ALBANIA
Archbishop of Tirana, Dürres and all Albania
Hope without limits
“In Hope Rejoicing” we exclaim Christ is Risen!
My brethren, the Resurrection offers immeasurable hope. Hope based on the joyful news that the inexorable enemy of man, death, is vanquished. Christ has trampled down death. “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you are overthrown. Christ is risen and life rules;” St. John Chrysostom together with the entire Orthodox Church cries out “… For Christ, having risen from the dead, has become the first fruits of those that slept. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever. Amen”.
The event of the Resurrection of Christ encompasses all human life with a life-giving light. In arduous conditions, the experience of the resurrection sustains us, that we may “rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). The human mind cannot conceive of the miracle. The heart however, intuitively feels this truth and leaps within us singing “Christ is Risen”. Concurrently the Resurrection strengthens the hope that every mortifying energy which oppresses our lives will be neutralized. It reinforces the hope that ultimately injustice, jealousy, corruption, dark interests that usually go together with devious lies and unscrupulous arrogance, will be defeated; all of which exterminate peace and lead society to wretchedness and decline. As a redeeming cascade of light, hope is radiated in all directions; especially on the resplendent feast of Easter. It envelopes the faithful in light, it also silently touches the good-intentioned souls who move around the fringes of faith.
Christian hope does not proceed from an ill-defined optimism, it is not related to a utopian illusion. It is undergirded by the certainty that there is a God Almighty, Creator and Provider of the universe. A Personal God of love who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The resurrectional hope does not refer to some indefinite idea, but is connected to one Person, the Theoanthropos Jesus Christ, who voluntarily suffered terrible tortures, was crucified, and who finally defeated death. The exclamation “Christ is risen” does not denote that God is risen – Divinity does not die – but that the God-man Christ is risen and that together with Him, He co-resurrected human nature, which He received “of the Holy Spirit and Virgin Mary”.
The Apostle Paul clarifies: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:20-22).
With this boundless hope, the Church proceeds onward singing the resurrectional paean: “Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs He has granted life”. She repeats in doxological jubilation: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). This hope strengthens Her members – all of us – in our daily struggle to bear the manifold sorrows, slanders, illnesses, failures, poverty, the deep pain caused by the passing away of dear persons. Paschal hope also strengthens and comforts us that, through enlightenment by the crucified and risen Christ, redeeming outlets will be found for the various political, ecclesiastical, personal, and social impasses that afflict us. We continue therefore, “in hope rejoicing, in tribulation being patient, in prayer being constant” (Rom 12:12).
However, there are concrete prerequisites for the activation of this hope. First is confidence in what Christ has revealed, that which the Church firmly announces, which has eternal and ecumenical authority. The conviction that the risen Christ was given “all authority in heaven and upon earth” and that consequently history is not shaped by the plans and actions of those in power at the time, but rather the eternal God of justice and love has the final say. The Risen Christ promised us His continuous presence in our lives: “and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matt 28:20).
The resurrectional hope is accompanied by peace and joy. “The peace of God, which passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7), as Christ defined it before His Passion (“My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27)). He offered His peace after His Resurrection as an intrinsic feature of His disciples and Apostles: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (John 20:21).
Christ is Risen, my brethren! Let us sum up this resurrectional greeting in the words of the Apostle to the nations: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:13). In other words: the God of hope came to fill the souls of all of us with an immense joy and peace that emanates from faith. So that we may have abundant hope with the power of the Holy Spirit. Not just a little hope, but an overabundance of hope which overflows so that we may offer it to others. And all this is not accomplished by means of our own skill, but through the presence and grace of the Holy Spirit.
Let us wish one another that the Crucified and Resurrected Lord, the Head of the Church, grant us this boundless Paschal hope.
Christ is Risen!
Translated from Greek
On the Ukrainian Ecclesiastical Question. 2nd Reply.
Speaking the Truth in Love
After the information (of 26.3.2019) that the Italian translation of the Patriarchal Letter of 9.3.2019 was inserted within the “category of texts of Dogmatic and Symbolic Theology” it was decided to make the related answer of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania (21.3.2019) public.
The first pages of the lengthy discourse (didachi) of the above-mentioned Patriarchal Letter did not refer in the least to the query raised in the first responding Letter of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania (14.1.2019). For this reason, in the second reply there was not any reference to these pages. This particular text gives the impression of an Encyclical directed towards many recipients; and already has created related discussions.
Your Holiness Most Divine Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch, Most Beloved and Dearest Brother in Christ God and Co-celebrant of our Humbleness in Christ our God, B a r t h o l o m e w, kissing Your Most Divine All-Holiness we address You in a most amiable manner.
Having awaited with great anticipation the reply of Your Venerable Prominence, on the question of overcoming the concerns of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, regarding the Primate of the new Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Ukraine, we received the Letter of Your Prominence dated 20th of February 2019 and in the session of our Holy Synod of the 7th of March of this year we studied carefully its content. Due to the critical importance of the subject we are obliged to offer, always in sincere respect, certain explanations and assertations.
1. Our Letter of the 14th January of the present year did not express any doubt as to the right and responsibility of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant Autocephaly, whenever this is called for by the circumstances. Our questions mainly refer to procedure and especially to an ecclesiological question of utmost importance for Orthodoxy. The contents of the first pages of Your Letter of reply obviously do not refer toour query. For this reason, we shall not refer to them here. We restrict ourselves simply - far removedfrom any influence of arguments of other Autocephalous Churches – to focus on just three questions directly related to the holy spiritual tradition and conscience of the Orthodox Church: a) The Holy Eucharist b) Apostolic Succession c) Conciliarity.
Our worry was focused particularly on the crucial subject of the ordination of bishops, of Apostolic Succession. It was on account of this, that the cunning role of the self-proclaimed “Supreme Honorary Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus-Ukraine” Filaretwas underscored and theological reservations were articulatedas to the holy spiritual validity of the ordinations that he has performed, considering that divine Grace does not act when the celebrant of the Sacrament is defrocked, has been aphorised or anathematised; and that a Bishop celebrating canonically is not acting by his own power, but in the name of the Church, the only agent of the Grace of God. We wonder, whether the restoration of Mr. Filaret to canonicalorder renders the ordinations which he performed automatically valid.
2. The correlation and analogy of the Ukrainian question to the Melitian Schism of the 4th century, which is extensively referred to in Your Letter, has not answered our queries. On the contrary, its careful study leads to different conclusions: According to the Treaty of Metropolitan of Anchialos and later of Smyrni Vassilios of blessed memory, which was sent to us, in the Annex “On the Schism of the Melitians, more extensively” the following are recorded: “The case was correctedthrough the acceptance of Melitios, on one hand, back only to the bishop’s honor, without the right to celebrate the sacraments and, on the other hand of those ordained by him, while defrocked, as bishops, priests, and deacons, under the same condition and in the sameway as it was ordered by the eighth canonon the acceptance of the Katharoi or the Novatians, that is through a simple laying on of hands, with a prayer confirming each to their respective hierarchical ranks”. The last explanatory phrase was omitted in Your Letter.
Indeed, in relation to the process of the correction of the Schism, Athanasios the Great clarified: “it was decided… that those who were appointed by him to be restored to communion after being confirmed through a μυστικωτέρᾳ χειροτονίᾳ βεβαιωθέντας mistikotera hierotonia veveothendas (mystical, inaudible ordination),it should additionally be stated that they could have the honor and even participate in the sacraments, on the condition that they were strictly of second rank in relation to everyone else in each community” (1).
Consequently, the correction of the Melitians’ Schism and the reception, by economy, of those invalidly ordained by Melitios went though the following phases: a) repentance, b) laying onof hands by a canonical Bishop – a minimum requirement for the seal of Apostolic Succession, c) prayer and d) finally the achievement of peace. This is a principle applied to all cases of re-induction of schismatics into the Orthodox Church, which defines an interesting outlet to the existing problem.
In as much as the case of Mr. Filaret is surprisingly similar to that of Melitios, who returned only “with ψιλῇ (bare) episcopal honor”(3) without any ecclesiastical power or authority, the tolerance displayed to him remains inexplicable. Mr. Filaret was re-inducted into the canonical Church (it is unknown whether he even asked for forgiveness) and his previous in-substantial ecclesiastical acts were validated in their totality only through a Synodical Act. He publicly boasts, repeatedly, that “He was, is, and will remain the Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus Ukraine” and continues to wear the particular Russian Patriarchal Koukoulion, behaving as if he were a Patriarch. He remained the chief orchestrator of the “Uniting Synod” that was convened to elect the invalidly “ordained” by him Mr. Epiphanius, he is today a permanent member of the Synod and he proclaims that he is the Prelate of all the parishes of Kiev. These facts are evidently not unknown nor without ecclesiastical importance.
In conclusion, it is beyond doubt that the Melitian Schism was not healed by a decision of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, in the jurisdiction of which Melitios belonged, but by a decision of the 1st Ecumenical Council.
3. On the other hand,the case of the Ukrainian question has no analogy to the case of ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia). The latterrefers to the severance of the Russians in Diaspora from the Church of Russia, which was then under Soviet supervision. No aphorisms or anathemas existed and apostolic succession was not in doubt. When the atheist regime collapsed, reunification occurred. It is worth noting that the correction of the fracturewas achievedthrough a special church service and prayer of reintegrationin the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
As for the Bulgarian Schism, no relation or analogy to the Ukrainian question is identified. The latter is an internal rift of a local Church, while the Bulgarian Schism referred to the long-term withdrawal of an entire nation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all Orthodoxy. Its correction started in the context of the Panorthodox Committee, which was convened for the preparation of the Panorthodox pre-Council in the Monastery of Vatopedion (June 1930). A basic condition, which was laid down and finally observed, was the application for forgiveness by the Church of Bulgaria. Finally, after lengthy and complicated negotiations, the Schism was resolvedin 1945, with the result of the subsequent attainment of peace in the Panorthodox oikoumene.
4. We undoubtedly sympathize with the care of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to grant a possibility for the faithful in Ukraine, who are victims of a long internal division, to return to the bosom of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. However, it is obvious that the sought-after peace has not been attained in as much as ninety Bishops and over twelve thousand parishes are not in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. At the same time, the risk of a dissolution of the Orthodox Church throughout the oikoumene is visible.
Regarding the particularly reproachful tone of this specificLetter and the allegations that we were influenced by other Churches, we are obliged to recall that for decades now, we have proven our brotherly devotion through acts, particularly during the Synaxes of the Primates and in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in Crete, acting always in coordination with the current initiatives of Your Most Divine All-Holiness. At times, we articulated boldly our views, even clashing with dear brethren of other Churches. This was always in service of the cohesion and the proper witness ofOrthodoxy. A recent evidence of this un-influenced opinion and independent position is the letters we sent directed to His Beatitude Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill (10 October and 7 November, 2018).
For the last three decades, we have continuously expressed and acted with the deepest reverence and an upwelling of thankfulness to the Ecumenical Throne, for the actions in favor of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania. However, we are convinced that genuine gratitude does not imply the abolishment of critical theological thought and ecclesiastical experience, or a rejection of the freedom of conscience. On the contrary, it means an increased obligation to articulate assessments, always with lucidity and loving boldness.
The reciprocation of honor was given through deeds. We accepted a mission of innumerable difficulties in Albania, leaving behind two particularly beloved fields of diakonia: Africa and research in the Science of Religions. The exceptionally demanding and uncertain mission, which was entrusted to us by the Mother - the Great Church of Christ, for the reconstruction from the ruins of the fully disintegrated Autocephalous Church of Albania, was accomplished, by the grace of God, in a sacrificial phronema, in deprivations, in illnesses, in dangers and persecutions.
As to the Ukrainian question, the choice of false wisdom would be safer, so as to avoid the sharp comments, the insulting personal, unsubstantiable accusations by irresponsible persons. However, we believe that the Primus of Orthodoxy loves and needs the encompassing truth, especially at times of most crucial Panorthodox problems. Because of this, we brought this up marking the historic correctness of events.
5. Our agony, Your All-Holiness, remains for the safeguarding of Orthodox unity, which constitutes an irreplaceable pre-requisite for the Orthodox witness throughout the world. Tremors are already apparent in the Synods of Canonical Bishops of the Diaspora and in the inter-Christian multi-party or bilateral dialogues.
It is the firm conviction of the Church of Albania, as well as of many others, that at this historical moment, the healing of the painful wounds and particularly of the looming Schism call for a Panorthodox Consultation of some kind, aiming primarily at the spiritual support of all the Orthodox faithful in the Ukraine and above all at the safeguarding of Orthodox cohesion. And clearly we are ready to contribute in a constructive way in this arduous crucial effort.
The different existing perceptionscannot be confronted through extended monologues, statements, correspondence, the intervention of irresponsible persons, deceptivecomments, or incoherent posts on social media. Crises are overcome, according to the Orthodox Tradition, through “Conciliarity”, which means the gathering together for mutual consultation in prayer of the responsible representatives of the localOrthodox Churches. Then, through the energy of the Grace of the Holy Spirit, this Synod can, abiding in philanthropy, research original solutions of clemency, forgiveness, and reconciliation and can make bold decisions, commonly acceptable, aiming at the attainment of peace, unity, and spiritual edification of the Orthodox faithful throughout the Oikoumene. And the privilege of convening a Panorthodox Consultation undoubtedly belongs to the Ecumenical Patriarch. Through this entreaty our reference to the Ukrainian question concludes.
However, in order to avoid any possible misinterpretation, we clarify that in the case of a tragic outcome to Schism (May God not allow it!), the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania will remain with the Ecumenical Patriarchate firmly speaking the truth in love.
Going through the moving period of Holy and Great Lent, we pray wholeheartedly, that the Triune Godgrant unshakable health and holy-spiritual strength to Your Most Divine All-Holiness, repeating the beloved, to You and us, apostolic, doxological certitude: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).
In ending, kissing You in a holy kiss, we remain in all honor and brotherly love in Christ “for whom are all things and by whom are all things” (Heb. 2:10).
In Tirana, 21st March, 2019
To Your Divine All-Holiness,
Least in the Lord Brother,
† Anastasios of Tirana, Chairman
It has already become a tradition for the youth groups of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania to organize an active week in cooperation with the youth group from the OCMC (Christian Orthodox Missionary Center) led by deacon Stephan Ritsithis year in cooperation with the Office of the Orthodox Church Youth in Tirana.
Six young people and students from the US and Canada, learned about and closely experienced the restoration of the Orthodox Church in Albania after the persecution it underwent. They were introduced to every aspect of restoration, such as the construction of churches, monasteries, the Nazareth complex, the Soup Kitchen, the Annunciation Clinic, the schools, the kindergartens, the Logos University College and the House of the Elderly. All this miracle, which is incredible to the human eyes, is made possible by God under the care and guidance of our beloved Archbishop, His Beatitude Anastasios.
Another important part of the program of the week was the connection with other young people of our church and the organization of various activities together through which the youth experienced the universality of the Orthodox Church.
On Sunday, after the Divine Liturgy at the "Resurrection of Christ" Cathedral in Tirana, the youth groups attended a discussion led by Fr. HarallambGjoka on "There is no Justification to Justifying", whoconveyed to the young people the messages of the Third Week of the Triode: to prepare for the start of the Great Lent with humility and repentance. After the meeting, the youth from Albania had the opportunity to get introduced and meet with the group from the OCMC.
The whole week was programmed to contain social, entertaining, spiritual and cultural activities. On Tuesday, the young people dined together and shared their journey experiences of their faith, as well as the challenges they face. On Thursday the young people gathered at the Artificial Lake Hills in Tirana for socializing with each other and sailing in the lake.
On Friday, March 8, 2019, the youth groups from Tirana and Gjinari met with friends from USA and Canada, (40 young people altogether) to conduct another special program in Gjinar, Elbasan. The day began with prayers for the blessing of this activity, then a visit followed to the Ascension Church, in Gjinar and after that the youth met with another local youth group fromGjinari area.
Deacon Stephan Ritsi gave a short speech on "Everything that belongs to Godmust be given back to Him," in which he emphasized that “all this world has been given to us ... but it is given as a responsibility in fact. And that God created the world, not as a gift to be destroyed, but as a means of communion with our Creator…Here's the world ... I see what I did and that's good. Take care of it. Give it back to Me and live in communion with Me.”
“Yes, the world is given to us, deacon Stephanos stated. We have the freedom to do what we want, but not the selfish freedom to destroy it, we must use our freedom to create, care, and administer our planet with the reason and wisdom that God gave us.
In the Book of Genesis we see what happens when a man denies God. Adam declined his responsibility and proclaimed: ‘Earth is Mine and all that is in it ... It was given to ME for my pleasure ... to master it ... and to fulfill the wishes of Mine.’
But there is a problem here. Who are we? We are made of dust into which we will return. When we remove God from this bond, when we decide to become ‘a god of the creation’, we condemn ourselves and the world.
Nowadays, when we violate and destroy this world for our comfort and luxury ... we follow Adam's path and repeat the same phrase: ‘The earth is Mine and all that is in it.’ We do not accept our responsibility to accept God’s gifts to us and to use them with the reason God gave us, and create a beautiful and orderly world, which is always proclaimed to God.
When we put ourselves in place of God, there are unpleasant consequences, and we see in our modern world how nature revenges. Let us look at the consequences of our works. Nature reminds us once again that we are not God”, Deacon Stephanos ended.
Afterwards, in the second part of the program, the youth groups set off toward the burnt forest area, where they planted 200 pine trees.
This initiative of the Orthodox youth was also supported by the EcovolisGroup and the Municipality representatives who joined the youth as well.
Our common active work transformed the lifeless forest into a nice green area where the young samplings glowed out. Even the sun and the sky were brighteron that day.
After planting 200 pines, the young people had a meal together and celebrated for this blessed day and the special opportunity they were given to care for nature.
A final visit to the historic church of Shelcan closed the program of the day.
On Saturday, March 9, 2019, ninety young people from the youth groups of the Diocese of Tirana, Elbasan and the University College "Logos" gathered at the holy monastery of St. John the Vladimir where the youth have offered various services for its maintenance and decoration for more than five years.
The program of this day began with the Divine Liturgy for the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, who are a motivational example to all young people, as the Metropolitan of Elbasan, His Grace Andon pointed out in his sermon for the participants: “Let’s support and encourage each other on our journey to God, in order to be strong to the end," he said.
After the breakfast and the qualitative time the young people spent with each other, Dr. JorgoKeselopoulos, a lecturer at Logos University College talked about our Common Journey towards Resurrection during which we should be all one.
In his speech he emphasized that, “The way in which we Christians become followers of Christ's disciples is by sharing the love we have among us, as well as towards the others. Let's look again at the words of our Lord, and how the love for God is put into action, he said: "In love, keep my commandments." (John 14:15)
Thus keeping the commandments of God and, above all, preserving the commandment of love is an indication of our true love for God. We cannot love Him if we do not keep His commandments, otherwise it would be a false act, a hypocrite and pharisaic one. So no word is needed, but lots of work.
The words of our Lord end in this way, he stressed:“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world,and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power ofyour name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one…My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one,Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am,and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world…
Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made youknown to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:11, 20-26)
“The sentence of our Lord ‘... to be one’, which is the theme of this meeting, was also the beloved prayer of St. Porphyrios. I will conclude with the words of the saint concerning this verse: ‘This is required in our lives: love, worship of Christ, and love for our neighbors, and to be all one in Christ, in heaven and in the eternal life.The love for our brother cultivates our love for God. We are happy if we love all people in a mystic way. So we will feel that they all love us. No one can reach God unless their love passes from people first. Because ‘If you do not loveyour brother whom you can see, how can you love God whom you cannot see?’
And to love means to sacrifice for all with selflessness and without requiring anything in reward. Here comes the pleasure of man. Love that seekssome reward is selfish, not pure, untrue, and corrupted.
Saint Porphyrios in his writingscites that: "Have love and compassion for all…If one member suffers, all the members must suffer with it, or if one member is honored, all the members must rejoice with it, and you are the body of Christ and even His special limbs "(1 Corinthians 12: 26-27) This is the Church: Me, you, the one, the other, and we should feel that we are members of Christ, and we are all one: If you are united, we will be blessed, happy, and we will live in Paradise. Every relative of us, everyone who is close to us is ‘the flesh of our flesh.’How can I remain indifferent to him, or I disappoint him, or hate him?This is the greatest mystery of our Church: to be all united in God. If we manage to do this, we belong to Him, and there is nothing else more beautiful than this unity and this union. This is our Church. This is Orthodoxy. This is Paradise", Mr. Keselopoulos ended.
After this inspiring speech, the young people, having learnt more about their responsibility as Christians, continued with joy to plant more trees (45 olive trees), in the new olive grove, whichterrain had been prepared beforehand. The first who blessed the work and gave his example was His GraceAndoni, the Metropolitan of Elbasan, Shpati and Librazhd, and then other clergy and participants joined the activity. In addition to maintaining and beautifying the monastery, these olive trees will contribute to the monastery's financial income.
Finally a meeting in small groups took place, which was led by students from USA and Canada and a student from Albania. The group discussions helped the young people to reflect more on concrete ways to approach our Lord. Then some fun activities followed until the time came for the Vespers of Forgiveness which was attended by all the participants closing thus the day in a mystic, beautiful and inspiring way.
Let us be thankful to God for His numerous blessings and show our gratitude to all those who contributed for the organization of this special active week which turned out to be very productive indeed.
The Concern Regarding the Ukrainian Ecclesiastical Issue by the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania
Translated from Greek
The Concern Regarding the Ukrainian Ecclesiastical Issue
by the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania
The Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania convened on the 4th of January, 2019, and studied in depth the letter of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, dated 24th of December, 2018, regarding the Ukrainian Ecclesiastical issue. Following that, on the 14th of January, 2019, the following letter was sent.
Since then, the positions of the various local Orthodox Churches have been widely circulated, while recently we were informed that parts of our letter were leaked, accompanied by arbitrary insinuations and correlations. Due to this, it was estimated by the Holy Synod (7 March 2019) that it is necessary to publish the letter in full.
The letters of the Church of Albania, addressed to His Beatitude the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill, dated 10th October and 7th November 2018, have already been made public on the 23rd of November, 2018.
Below is the official English language translation of our letter addressed to His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, published to avoid potential misunderstandings and subjective interpretations.
Your Holiness Most Divine Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch, Most Beloved and Dearest Brother in Christ God and Co-celebrant of our Humbleness in Christ our God, B a r t h o l o m e w, kissing Your Most Divine All-Holiness we address You in a most amiable manner.
May “the revealed Christ our God, Who illumined the world”, shine brightly on the thoughts, decisions, and energies of all Orthodox during the New Year, guiding the Church, “which He has succoured through His own blood”, in ways of peace.
Having convened the Holy Synod on the 4th of January, 2019, we read thoroughly the letter of the 24th of December, 2018, that Your Most Divine All-Holiness sent to us, and we discussed the subject of the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. With sincere respect and loving candour, as always, we summarise the assessment of the Church of Albania, regarding primarily the energies of the Holy Spirit.
Our critique that we expressed to the Church of Russia is already known, vis à vis the refusal of the Church of Russia to participate in the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church in Crete. Furthermore, we have recently expressed our criticism to the Church of Russia for Her hasty breaking of Eucharistic communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Specifically, in our letter (of the 7th of November, 2018) to His Beatitude Kirill the Patriarch of Moscow, we note among others “…Is it possible that the decision and order of the Hierarchy of the Church of Russia may cancel the energy of the Holy Spirit in the holy Orthodox churches that operate under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate? … We proclaim that it is impossible for us to agree to such decisions. It is imperative that the Holy Eucharist, this mystery of unfathomable sacredness and unique importance, remains far removed from all ecclesiastical disagreements”.
This same pain and agony for the preservation of the unity of the Orthodox Church forces us to express a fundamental doubt, about the potentiality of the ex post facto confirmation of ordinations, performed by an ex-communicated, defrocked, and anathematised person. The behaviour of said person, who has committed the above acts, Mr. Filaret Denisenko (the protagonist of the ecclesiastical crisis in the Ukraine) is revealing. He was ordained Bishop of the Patriarchate of Moscow in 1962, was, among other functions, President of the Section of External Affairs of the same Patriarchate, and Metropolitan of Kiev. In 1991 he requested the status of Autocephalous Church, not from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but from his then “Mother Church”, the Patriarchate of Moscow. In 1992 he was defrocked and in 1997 he was aphorised and anathematised by the Church of Russia, an organic member of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church; actions which were recognised by all of the other Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.
During the time that Mr. Filaret was deposed and anathematized, he uncanonically performed services, which did not constitute valid sacraments. Therefore, the ordinations performed at the time that he was deposed and anathematized, are invalid, void, devoid of any divine grace and the energy of the Holy Spirit. Among these are included the ordinations to deacon, presbyter, and finally bishop of his then secretary Sergei Dumenko, currently Metropolitan Epiphanius. In Your letter of the 24th of December, 2018, it is noted: “... having restored those to the relevant hierarchal and presbyterial ranks...” We wonder, however, to what extent the ordinations by Mr. Filaret, while he was aphorised and anathematized, acquired ex post facto, without a canonical ordination, holy-spiritual validity and a genuine stamp of apostolic succession.
Throughout the Orthodox Church, it is recognized as a fundamental ecclesiological principle that the ordinations by schismatics and heretics, as “sacraments” performed outside the Church, are invalid; all the more so, ordinations performed by a person who has been deposed and aphorized. We are convinced that this foundational principle, inextricably bound to the Orthodox teaching regarding the Holy Spirit, and which constitutes the unshakable foundation of the apostolic succession of Orthodox Bishops, cannot be overlooked.
We find great difficulty comprehending that things invalid and non-existent become “in economy” Holy Spirit-bearing; that actions constituting repeated blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (as the invocation by the aphorized Mr. Filaret “the Holy Grace . . . proclaims. . . let us pray for him, so that Holy Grace may come upon him, the Grace of the Holy Spirit”) are recognised ex post facto “in economy”. It is finally well-known that during the recent Uniting Council the choice and election of the new Primate of the Church of Ukraine was the result of the insistence of Mr. Filaret, who is officially today called “Supreme Honorary Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus-Ukraine”. Following all of the above, we wonder about the addition of the name of Metropolitan Epiphanius in the Divine Diptychs.
The sought-after pacification among Orthodox Ukrainians, who have suffered various persecutions by atheist regimes in the past, has not been achieved till now. In view of the fact that millions of Orthodox faithful, under Metropolitan Onufry (according to the statistics of January 2018, organised in 12.069 parishes under 90 Hierarchs with 12.283 clergy, 251 Monasteries, and 4.412 monks) refused to participate in the administrative procedure towards Autocephaly, moreover, they broke the Eucharistic communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In contrast, the ecclesiastical congregations of the Orthodox countries to whom the status of autocephaly was previously granted (Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Poland, Albania, and the Czech Lands and Slovakia) were united.
We regret that the misgivings, which we expressed to the tripartite representation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (July 2018) as well as during our personal meetings in Crete (October 2018), were substantiated: Instead of a pacification and unification of the faithful of Ukraine, we are confronted with the risk of breaking the worldwide unity of Orthodoxy.
The forecasts, that the present upheaval and the visible division will not last long and that all of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches will finally accept what has happened, can only be considered as a baseless assessment for those that have even an elementary knowledge of the history of ecclesiastical schisms and the perseverance of religious fanaticism. But also the ‘reassuring’ assumption of some, that such acceptance may take place... perhaps next century, are rather cynical. Serious wounds, left unattended are not healed by the passing of time. Rather, they deepen and develop into incurable wounds.
The situation that has taken shape calls for a new approach and inspired initiatives for the promotion of peace in Ukraine and above all for the safeguarding of the dangerously wounded unity of the Orthodox Church. We firmly believe that towards this direction a solution should be sought after by taking refuge Conciliarity (Synodicality) inspired by the Holy Spirit, as emphasized in Crete: “The Orthodox Church expresses her unity and catholicity "in Council". Conciliarity pervades her organization, the way decisions are taken and determines her path”. (Message of the Holy and Great Synod par. 1).
We shall never cease to believe that the achievements of singular value of Orthodoxy in the last decades have been the Pan-Orthodox Synaxes of Primates and the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church, achieved through the tireless effort of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and personally of Your Most Divine All-Holiness. Adhering to the synodical spirit of the Holy and Great Synod, the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania extends a warm entreaty: That the Ecumenical Patriarchate, utilising Her exceptional privilege of coordinating the local Orthodox Churches, may call together post-haste a Pan-Orthodox Gathering or Synod to avert the obvious danger of a painful Schism, endangering the credibility of Orthodoxy and its persuasive witness to the modern world.
We wish de profundis and pray humbly, that the Triune God may guide our steps to secure all our moves to ensure the unity of the Orthodox Church. “May the God of hope fill you [and us] with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you [and we] may abound in hope” (Rom 15:13).
Kissing You with a holy kiss, we remain with every esteem and a most profound love in Christ, the Revealed God, Illuminating the World.
In Tirana, 14th January, 2019
To Your Divine All-Holiness,
On March 2, 2019, in the city of Salzburg, Austria, the ceremony of acceptance of the Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania, Prof. dr. Anastasios, as the Honorary Senator of the European Academy of Science and Artwas held.
In this special ceremony held at the University of Salzburg, the European Academy of Science and Art welcomed His Beatitude Anastasios, noting hisscientific and pastoral workas well as the tremendous achievements made in these areas which focus on the peaceful coexistence between people.
After expressing his thanks for this title, His Beatitude Anastasios, stressed in his greeting speech that "truth, love and beauty always stay together in the Orthodox tradition. So let's try to keep up following with this vision."
The title of the Honorary Senator was given bythe European Academy of Science and Art, which is one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world that includes 39 Nobel Prize winners as well as 2000 scientists and intellectuals who lead their fields as actual or honorary members.
The Honorary members include Helmut Kol, Jean Claude Junker, King Philip of Belgium, Prince Jean of Luxembourg, Mr. Doris Leutard, the President of Switzerland, Mr. Heinz Fiche, the President of Austria, Mr. BorutPahor, the President ofSlovenia, Romano Prodi and others.
The European Academy of Science and Art is a non-governmental organization recognized by the European Union, which promotes science and social progress. It was established in 1990 with the aim of innovative research, interdisciplinary and interstate cooperation as well as exchange and spread of knowledge.
- A Symposium for the Teachers of the 9-year Schools and the High Schools of Spirit of Love Foundation -
On February 23, 2019, at the Amphitheater of the Cultural Center of the Resurrection of Christ Cathedral Complex, a Symposium was held on "Collaborating with the Spirit of Love Foundation for the Benefit of our School Programs". The symposiumwas organized by the Spirit of Love Foundation of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania and it was attended by 170 teachers who had come from three 9-year schools and five high schools (5) of our Church, which function under the care and support of Archbishop of Tirana and all Albania, His Beatitude Anastasios.
The event was greeted by the head of the Spirit of Love Foundation, Ms. Pamela Barksdale, who presented the Foundation and its future goals. She emphasized that, we should all acknowledge the purpose of this Foundation’s work, which is to recognize Archbishop Anastasios’s efforts for imparting love to all people. The spirit of love is in fact the hope for the future that we want to pass on to the younger generations. She further stated that the purpose of this event is that the staff of these schools, which are already found in all the country, and who are dedicated to the sacred task of education, get to know each other and share their experiences.
The event began with the greeting of the Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania, Prof. dr. Anastasios. Referring back to the past, in the first years of his coming to Albania, noone could imagine the tremendous results of the process of revival of the Orthodox Church of Albania and the success that the development of such an educational system would have. These are gifts, for which we should first thank God, as he claimed, and then all those people who have contributed to this work. He also addressed the teachers in the hall, thanking them for their continued contribution to the Churchschools, where their hearts have been laid. Further on, Archbishop Anastasios emphasized that the church has always tried to offer the youth and children the best education, soappropriatedschool buildingsare built and equipped with the necessaryfacilities (with a cost of about 22million euros). Whereas for the function of the whole education system, 10 more millions have been spent. Further, His Beatitude emphasized that the general aim for the children in these schools must be not only to learn, but also to becomevirtuous people who willcontribute to the progress of their country.
The event continued with the presentationof the ProtagonistsAlbanian-American 9-year- and high school which is the largest in the church school system, with over 1 thousand students by Ms.IriniPapamihali, a teacher of the school. After that, two high school students from the "Platon” high school in Korça made a presentation of their own school.
In this event, two well-known Greek professors were invited, who emphasized in their papers the importance of spirituality in the educational process, and the impartation of love and dedication to the students. First, it was Prof. Emmanuel Severus (from the Kapodistrian University of Athens), who referred to the theme "The Ethical and Spiritual Dimension of Education and the Orthodox Christian Perspective". Among other things, he stressed that "In the age where we live, the era of profound and rapid social, political, economic and technological changes, the clarification of the concepts of education and virtue should be one of the main priorities of scientific researchers in this field. This clarification is indispensable because it helps the community of teachers at all levels of education to plan and implement fruitful study programs and actions tailored to the social and educational conditions and requirements of the time ...”
Then the presentation of a video of the Spirit of Love 9-year-old and high school of Gjirokastrafollowed, which drew attention to the multi-faceted process of education, both inside and outside the classroom.
Next, it wasProf. KristosVasilopoulos, fromAristotle University of Thessaloniki, whose topic was on "Sharing universal values in a multicultural environment", in which he emphasized that "The multicultural synthesis of today's society imposes, in parallel and in combination with ethnics, the cultivation of our European identity as well as a universal, ecumenical conscience. Thisin turn contributes to essential communication with every one, respecting at the same time his individuality. This goes is in line with the "ecumenical character" of "human values" as well as the importance that man has as a free and responsible person. "
After some break, the presentation by one of the teachers of the Spirit of Love 9-year school and high school in Durres followed where he stressed the improvement of the school performance each year.
It was also impressive the video that featured the hard work of the Mesopotamia high school and other schools in Saranda.
The attention of the participants was particularly drawn by the presentation of the Logos University College held by the University Rector, Prof. dr. NikoletaMita, who invited the graduates of the present schools to enroll in this University with a multi-year success story and new departments and opportunities added lately to young people. She also stressed that the education system they offered served not only the students, but it functions in fact as a two-way relationship, where Logos would contribute to raising the teaching level in these school, through seminars, studies, counseling, etc.
A special place was also given to the presentation of the Social Theology and Religious Sciences branch, which is offered on one of the university campuses located at the Monastery of Saint Vlash.
Afterwards, a common lunch followed the range of presentations during which there was discussion among the participants who got to know each other better.
The event ended with group discussions on the symposium topics. Finally, there was an evaluation of what was achieved during the symposium as well as the goals were also setfor the future. All participants made a picture together with Archbishop Anastasios which would be a nice memory from this event.
Thousands of faithful throughout the country celebrated Theophany in their local churches and by singing the hymn "When you, O Lord,were baptizedin Jordan..." headed towards the rivers where the cross would be thrown. The very low temperatures did not prevent many young people from diving into the icy waters to capture the cross and receive its blessing.
In the "Resurrection of Christ" Cathedral in Tirana, the Divine Liturgy was led by the Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania, his Beatitude Anastasios, who celebrated together with the Metropolitan of Amantias, His Eminence Nathanail, Bishop Asti, and the clergy of the Archepiscopate. At the end of the Liturgy, the Archbishop performed the Great Blessingof Water. Then the water was poured to the water tanks positioned outside the church, from where hundreds of faithful received it. In the city of Durres, after the Liturgy at the "Apostle Paul and Saint Asti" church, the believers headed towards the harbor, where the cross was thrown into the Adriatic sea. It was captured by theyoung man, Esi Papajorgji.
In Berat, after the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the Cathedral of St. Demetrius, the litany was performed along the streets of the city and the cross was thrown by Metropolitan Ignatius, into the waters of Osumi river from Gorica bridge. It was captured by 16-year-old Kostandin Musha. The service of Theophany and the casting of the cross into the sea took place also in the city of Vlora, where the young immigrant Altin Qirjo had the blessing to get it. The cross was also thrown into the waters of Vjosa in Selenica, into Seman in Mazhaj etc.
In Korça, the Divine Liturgy and the services were performed at the "Resurrection Christ" Cathedral, while the cross was thrown by Metropolitan Joan at the city's fountain. The cross was captured by 20-year-old Ronaldo Kovaçi. The Cross was later thrown by His Grace Joan in the icy waters of Pogradec Lake, where a group of young believers wentinto the water to capture it in spite of the freezing temperatures.
In Gjirokastra, the Liturgy and the services were performed in the "Resurrection of Christ" cathedral, and then the cross was thrown from the bridge in the Drino River where it was captured by the young boy Haxhi Rexha. The same services were carried out also in the villages and other cities of the Metropolis of Gjirokastra, including even Saranda and Himara.
In Elbasan, following the Divine Liturgy, hundreds of believers joined the litany and headed towards the swimming pool complex, where Metropolitan Andon threw the cross into the water. It was captured by the young man Aleksandro Llozi.
In Fieri, after the Liturgy at St. George's Church, the believers headed towards the great fountain of the city, where Metropolitan Nikollaperformed the blessing of water and threw the cross into the water where it was captured by the young man Athanas Davidhi.
In this era that pervasive uncertainty and insecurity torments our hearts, the feast of Christmas comes to reinvigorate, making something clear and simple: “God is with us”. This exactly is the name of the coming Redeemer: Emmanuel. The Word of God took on flesh. He came and dwelt amidst us. Light, solace, power, and life.
That which is requested of us, therefore, remains to strengthen our faith, our trust, and our devotion towards Him, conforming to His truth and to His will. This forms the most effective antidote to the virus of insecurity.
Wishing you a blessed Christmas and a New Year full of a perpetual certainty of the presence of Emmanuel in our daily lives.
Views of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania regarding the Ukrainian ecclesiastical question
Views of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania
regarding the Ukrainian ecclesiastical question
On the 22nd of November, 2018, Russian sources released selected excerpts [and even some websites published articles with manipulative titles, dates, and arbitrary assessments] from the letter by His Beatitude Anastasios, the Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania to His Beatitude Kirill, the Patriarch of Moscow and Αll Russia.
For the purpose of providing fuller and objective information to anyone who takes interest, we publish the unabridged text of the aforementioned reply of His Beatitude Anastasios (of the 10th of October, 2018), together with that of His second letter (of the 7th of November, 2018), in both the original and the respective English translation.
It must be underlined that the first letter was written on the 10th of October (before the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the 11th of October, 2018) and the second was written after the decision of the Church of Russia (of the 15th of October, 2018), regarding the interruption of eucharistic communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Tirana, the 23rd of November, 2018
Following are the replies of the Archbishop
Ἀκολουθοῦν οἱ ἐπιστολές