In an official communique dated 21 July 1998 received at the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America here it was announced that, after several years of negotiations between representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Church of Albania and the Albanian civil authorities, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania has been formed.
“With great joy and deep gratitude the hierarchs, clergy, monastics and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America receive the wonderful news of the formation, by the grace of God, of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania,” His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS wrote to His Beatitude, Archbishop ANASTASIOS, Primate of the Albanian Church in response to the news. “We have prayed fervently that the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania would achieve this important milestone in its present rebirth after many years of severe persecution.”
Formation of the Synod came as the result of the election of three new Albanian hierarchs. On Saturday, 18 July 1998 His Eminence, Metropolitan IGNATIOS of Berat, Vlora and Kanina, 64, was enthroned by Archbishop ANASTASIOS and two representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, His Eminence, Metropolitan EVANGELOS of Perga and His Eminence, Metropolitan MELITON of Philadelphia.
After the enthronement Archbishop ANASTASIOS and Metropolitan IGNATIOS, the nucleus of the Holy Synod, together with the two representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate conducted an extraordinary Holy Synod in Tirana and elected two additional Albanian hierarchs.
Elected Metropolitan of Korca was Archimandrite John (Pelushi), 43, a graduate of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, MA and a former teacher and assistant director of the Theological Academy of the Albanian Church. Also elected to the episcopacy was the Rev. Kosma Qirjo, who was consecrated Bishop of Apollonia at Tirana’s Annunciation Cathedral on Thursday, July 23. At the age of 77, Bishop KOSMA represents the earlier generation of clergy who heroically served the faithful during the years of persecution under the former atheistic regime.
The elections brought to an end an ongoing controversy between the Church and the civil authorities in which the latter requires that all hierarchs be Albanian nationals. Since 1992 this has been a crucial issue facing the Albanian Church, especially after two hierarchs named by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to serve in Albania were forbidden by the state to carry out their duties because they were not of Albanian origin.
“We are deeply thankful to God and touched by all that has occurred to make these recent events possible,” stated Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, who also serves as Administrator of the Orthodox Church in America’s Boston-based Albanian Archdiocese. “We know that many have prayed, struggled, and sacrificed to bring the Church of Albania to this important moment in the Church’s renascent history. We ask you, Your Beatitude ANASTASIOS, and the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, together with the clergy, monastics and faithful of your holy Church, to remember us here in America.”
A separate congratulatory message was sent to Archbishop ANASTASIOS by the Very Rev. Arthur Liolin, Chancellor of the OCA’s Albanian Archdiocese.
“The formation of the Holy Synod is a notable achievement, blessed by God, and we participate in the joy of this auspicious time for all the faithful flock of the Church of Albania,” Father Liolin wrote. “May the Lord continue to endow your endeavors with His manifold blessings.”