In 1991 with the restoration of the freedom, after a hard and long persecution (1945-1991), and with the arrival of the Archbishop Anastas Yannoulatos, the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania directed and organized by him, has been revival again.
Facing all the miscellaneous problems, time to time, it remounted from the ruins. By the Grace of God and by the generous donations of to many people it developed and is progressing rapidly with a universal and uninterrupted growth. Living with the difficulties, the troubles and the pains of the people, it tries contributing in the social and spiritual revitalization of the country.
Re-establishing the Religious Life of the Church
About 460 Orthodox parishes have been reorganized and thus liturgical, preaching and catechism life has returned to most cities and villages, increasing the participation of both clergy and laity. Several groups have been organized to assist the church with its ministries: the Orthodox Women, and Orthodox Intellectuals. The moral and spiritual strength offered through the cultivation of a sound religious life is contributing decisively to the general progress of the Albanian society.
In 1998, the Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania was re-established, consisting of 5 members: Archbishop Anastasios, Metropolitan Ignat of Berat, Metropolitan Joan of Korça, Bishop Kosma of Apollonia (who passed away in 2000), and the secretary, Protopresbyter Jani Trebicka.
In 2006 three new bishops were also ordained and are now members of the Holy Synod with full voting rights. These are: Archimandrite Dhimitri Sinaiti, who was assigned to the Metropoli of Gjirokastra; Archimandrite Nikolla Hyka, who was given the title Bishop of Apollonia; and Archimandrite Andon Merdani, with the title Bishop of Kruja. (The latter two are assistant bishops to Archbishop Anastasios.)
On November 3rd and 4th, 2006 at the Monastery of St. Vlash in Durrës there was a Clergy-Laity Assembly of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, composed from 257 members. At this Assembly the new Constitution of the Church was analyzed article by article, and finally accepted by a unanimous vote. On November 6th the Holy Synod approved the Constitution of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania.
On November 24th, 2008, the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania and Council of Ministers signed an agreement according to the 1998 Albanian Constitution, for the arrangement of their reciprocal relationship. The agreement was approved by the Albanian Parliament and became law nr. 10057, 01.22.2009.
In 2012 two new bishops were also ordained and are members of the Holy Synod. These are: Bishop of Amantia, Archimandrite Nathanail Lavrioti and Bishop of Bylis, Archimandrite Asti Bakallbashi. Even those are auxiliary bishops of the Archbishop.
With these two elevations the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania is composed of eight members for the first time in its history.
The preparation of the new clergy and ecclesiastical education
Besides the old clergy that were alive was also prepared a new generation of clergy. The new generation of Albanian clergy has been and ordained through the personal care of the Archbishop. Today there are 150 clergy members of all ranks serve the Church, all of whom are have completed higher education (17 others have passed away).
From 1992 in the Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Theological Academy preparing the new generation of clergy and also the new members for catechism and for other services in different Church’s activities. Meanwhile students are continuing their theological educations in well-known theological universities abroad.
There are now more than 50 youth centers functioning in many cities and villages. Every year various activities are organized for the youth including winter and summer camps, conferences, athletic competitions, activities with young disabled people, youth festivals ect. Summer camps are also organized annually for children in Kosovo.
About 150 new churches (both large and small) have been erected, 60 churches, monasteries, designated as cultural monuments, have been renovated and restored, and 160 churches have been reconstructed.
More than 70 buildings have been built, bought and reconstructed to make preschools, schools, youth centers, health centers, metropolitan sees, hospitality homes, workshops, soup kitchens, etc.
All together there have been more than 450 building projects.
Through its construction projects and provision of jobs, the Orthodox Church is contributing to the economic development of Albania and is one of the most serious investors in the country, offering work for many local builders and dozens workers.
Since 1995 has functioned for some years an architecture course, where every year have taken different knowledge about ecclesiastical building and architecture more than 40 young people.
The Orthodox Church has its own modern printing press and publishes the monthly newspaper “Ngjallja” (Resurrection), a children’s magazine “Gëzohu” (Rejoice), the magazine of the Orthodox Youth “Kambanat” (Bells), as well as various liturgical, spiritual, and intellectual books.
In 2009 the periodical magazine “Kërkim” (Searching/Research) started its publication with articles on theology, science, culture and current events. Since 2000 in Korça is published the cultural periodic magazine “Tempulli” (Temple), meanwhile in Gjirokastra is published the bulletin “Enoria Jonë” (Our Parish) and in the Theological Academy in Durrës the student bulletin “Fjala” (Word).
In order to rebuild her physical and spiritual structures, the Church is also undertaking important work in other areas, such as health care opening of the first Orthodox clinic, named St. Luke's Clinic, in 1994. In 1999, the St. Luke's was closed and replaced by the Annunciation Orthodox Diagnostic Center. This impressive, six story structures are equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipments.
The "Annunciation" Orthodox Diagnostic Center in Tirana through its specialized staff, modern medical equipment and the contribution of wellknow doctors, offers contemporary health services in 23 different specialities, for the entire population regardless of religious affiliation. In 2011 an Eye Care and Otohinolarynology (ENT) Clinic opened with modern medical equipment.
Medical clinics also exist in Kavaja, Korça, Jergucat (Gjirokastra) and Lushnje. A mobile dental clinic provides dental care (especially for children) in cities and villages.
The office “Service of Love” (Diakonia Agapes) for along now is contributing in the increasing of midwives and nurse’s role offering those training projects and assistance. In addition, the book, "Where there is no Doctor,"which gives the helpful information on how to identify and treat many common illnesses and disorders, was translated into Albanian and is being distributed in rural areas.
The following schools offer religious education: "The Resurection of Christ" Theological Academy, in the new Monastery of Saint Vlash and two Ecclesiastical High Schools both named “Holy Cross”, in Gjirokastra (started in 1998) and Sukth, near Durrës (started in 2007). All three schools offer full accomoddations to the students (in contemporary conditions and dormitory's).
Seventeen day-care/kindergartens centers have been established in Tirana, Durrës, Kavaja, Korça, Lushnja, Elbasan, Gjirokastra (2), Saranda, Dervician, Pogradec, Shkodra, Vlora, Përmet, Berat, Tepelena, Cërrik. Priority is given to children from disadvantaged families.
Three elementary/middle schools (1st – 9th) have been opened: the Albanian-American School, “Protagonists”, in Tirana (started in 2001); the Albanian-Greek School “The Spirit of Love”, in Durrës (started in 2005); the Albanian-Greek School “The Spirit of Love”, in Gjirokastra (started in 2008).
Two high schools: a technical high school “Apostle Paul” was opened in Mesopotam, in Delvina near Saranda (started in 2005), with some fields: computer science, electrical wire, hydraulic installations and refrigerator installations – conditioners; and High School of Albanian-American School, “Protagonists”, in Tirana (started in 2012).
In Bularat, Gjirokastra, a high school dormitory for the girls is now functioning.
On the grounds of the Monastery of Saint Vlash in Durrës, there is a home for children Orphanage “The Orthodox Home of Hope”.
Many public schools have been given material and technical support. Our church has also given technical and material support to many public schools. This includes the restoration of the buildings at universities in Tirana and Gjirokastra, of 10 schools and 7 nursery schools (kindergartens) and the athletic corner in the orphanage “Zyber Hallulli” in Tirana.
Since 2000, the Professional Institute “Spirit of Love” has been open in Tirana with an affiliate in Gjirokastra (started in 2002) in the new modern Emmaus Center.
Logos University has been open since 2010 in Tirana.
Social and Relief Efforts
The Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania made extensive humanitarian contributions during the political and social crises (1992, 94, 97), collecting and distributing thousands of tons of food, clothing and medicine. In 1997 the Church distributed thousands tons of food, clothing and medicine.
Our Church has supported a wide range of social programs including: development projects in the mountain regions, especially in the areas of agriculture and farming; road construction water – supply, educative programs on health for children, the building of rural health centers and contributions for schools, orphanages, hospitals, institutes for the disabled, elderly homes, prisons (i.e. the greenhouse financed and build by the Church where the prisoners work and the income serve for them and construction of sports ground), soup kitchen for the poorest etc.
After the crises in 1997 the Church contributed for the restoration of the destroyed buildings at universities in Tirana and Gjirokastra. During 1999 when Albania accepted waves of refugees from Kosovo, the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania in cooperation with other European Churches and WCC (especially ACT) lead an extensive humanitarian program of more than 12 million dollars, hosting 33,000 kosovars in its 2 camps and giving them food, clothes, medical care etc. The last camp administrated from the Church closed in June 2001.
The Orthodox Church gave its contribution helping the damaged inhabitants of Lezha, Berati and Gjirokastra from the serious flooding in 2002 and also in Shkodra in 2010. During 2008, after the tragedy of Gërdec (near Tirana) (when a massive explosion killed 27 people at a factory where communist-era munitions were cleaned), the Orthodox Church Autocephalous Church of Albania, contributed both material and human assistance immediately, and collected different kinds of assistance from the Orthodox believers inside and outside Albania, which were distributed among the families who suffered damages. The Church also completely reconstructed the kindergarten of the Muçaj village (near Gërdec) as it had been damaged by the explosion.
An Office of Cultural Heritage was established to look after the Orthodox structures which are also national cultural monuments. The Church, under the care of Archbishop Anastasios, has spent several million Euros for the restoration of these monuments.
A number of choirs have been organized in the churches. A Byzantine choir has also been formed and has produced six cassettes and CD’s. A workshop for the restoration and painting of icons was established with order to train a new generation of artists who will revive our rich tradition of iconography and many old icons have been restored.
In 1998 the Orthodox radio station “Ngjallja” (Resurrection) began airing programs at FM 88.5 MHz. This radio station offers various cultural and religious programs.
The Church has also sponsored important academic publications, documentary films, academic symposiums and various exhibits of iconography, codex, children’s projects and other culturally related themes.
Care for the Environment
In March, 2001, a program began for the protection of the environment and preparing new staff to carry out the program. This program has been held and includes the training of 25 post-graduate Albania students (all of whom had completed degrees in either biology or forest and environmental engineering), were trained by a group of biology professors from the Universities of Tirana, Ahens and Thesaloniki.
Special case studies followed concerning the eco-systems in Zvernec, the Narta Lagoon, and River Vjosa Valley, Llogara Park, among others.
Our Church participates in all meetings and activities of the Orthodox Church worldwide.
It is a member of the Conference of the European Churches (of which the Archbishop Anastasios has served as vice-president since December 2003), the World Council of the Churches (of which Archbishop Anastasios was chosen as one of eight presidents in 2006), and largest inter-faith organization in the world, "Religions for Peace" (of which His Beatitude Anastasios was chosen as Honorary President in 2006), is also active in various ecumenical conferences and programs.
The Church also contributes to the efforts for peace-full collaboration, and solidarity in our region and beyond.
* * *
Witch its extensive efforts in construction, education and in the field of health the Church employs thousands of people in need, significantly strengthening the country's economy. By its presence and many efforts the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania has made an essential contribution to the general rebuilding, and especially towards the social and spiritual development of Albania.