NEWS

Years of ecclesiastical and social work

Could you sum up your work over the past 13 years that you have been in Albania? By God’s grace, an Orthodox Autocepalous Church has been rebuilt from the ruins of 23 years. In many cases, even the traces of those ruins had disappeared. Everything had to be begun from scratch, in particularly difficult conditions. To sum up in a few words: Ecclesiastical structures were reorganized, parishes set up in most towns and villages. After much resistance, in 1998 the Holy Synod was formed once again. Orthodox faith and consciousness was cultivated, with an emphasis on the liturgy, preaching, religious instruction and love. In 1992 a Religious Seminary was opened and later (1997) it was moved to a privately owned complex and renamed the Orthodox Theological Academy – Resurrection. About 130 new priests with secondary or tertiary qualifications have been ordained, after a three-year course. In 1998 the Holy Cross Ecclesiastical High School with a boarding school was opened in Gjirokaster. Emphasis has been placed on economic projects to cover immediate operations and administrative needs; 85 new churches have been built and over 140 have been renovated. More than 20 large buildings have been built or refurbished to house accommodation, schools, hostels, workshops, clinics. This long-term construction program has made our Church one of the most important investors, giving work and dignity to thousands of people. At the same time there has been a systematic effort in publishing and translation; the monthly Albanian newspaper Ngjallja (Resurrection), four magazines, and about 70 books. We have done our best to help young people. Any reference to religion is banned in state schools, but in many towns we have founded youth centers and groups, with spiritual and cultural activities. Our four summer and winter camps have been a great success, with the participation of 1,500 children and youths from all over the country. Recently we also opened a model orphanage, the «House of Hope.» The Orthodox Church of Albania has also engaged in social work, with pioneering programs in social welfare, health, education, culture, the environment – particularly in periods of sociopolitical crisis (1992, 1994, 1997, 1999) – and has distributed thousands of tons of food, clothing and medicines for the relief of poor families and refugees, and has also given hospital supplies to towns, villages and Albanian social welfare institutions. In the Helagh sector it has contributed in particular to the Evangelismos Diagnostic Medical Center in Tirana (where there are 24 specializations and which serves 5,000-6,000 patients a month), polyclinics in four towns, and a mobile medical unit. When waves of refugees entered Albania from Kosovo, the Orthodox Church, in cooperation with international religious organizations, undertook broad programs of aid valued at $12 million and was able to support more than 33,000 refugees, providing food, clothing, shelter, household and medical help, and setting up camps. In the field of education, apart from the schools I mentioned above, we founded 14 kindergartens in various towns, a model primary school and two vocational institutes, the first ever in Albania – one in Tirana with six specializations, and one in Dervitsani, Gjirokaster, with three specializations. We have also held scientific symposia, exhibitions, published scientific texts and produced documentaries.