IBNA Special Report
Tirana, March 4, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Edison Kurani
Albania’s Autocephalous Orthodox Church (KOASH) protested today against the decision of the government to remove the fencing of the “Resurrection of Christ” Cathedral in the center of Tirana. The church says that this action puts in danger the security of this holly place, which is attended by people of every age, especially young people and children.
The complex of the Cathedral Church has three underground entrances, that of the Cultural Center, the youth and children hall and the book presentation hall.
Church officials say that the preservation of these premises is made almost impossible without the most basic external fencing, “especially during the night and at a time when safety is lacking in today’s reality”.
“We’re obliged to protest against these violations that hurt the feelings of Orthodox Christians and peaceful religious cohabitation”, said grace Nikolla, Bishop of Apolonia, Spokesman of the Holly Synod of Albania’s Autocephalous Orthodox Church, in a special appearance for the media in front of the cathedral.
“During these moments, the hearts of Orthodox believers are filled with sadness when they see that their glorious place of cult, inaugurated in the presence of all Orthodox Churches and all state authorities, is being damaged”, said the participants in this protest.
How did the clash commence
The decision of the government was taken in October 2014. The Orthodox Church says that this was done without informing it. “The Church was informed when the construction firm brought the urban planning on January 12, 2015, several months after the decision was taken”.
The Church entered in negotiations with the government by refusing its plan. On January 14, it was promised by the government that a new plan would be drafted, for which a final agreement would exist and for which both sides would agree.
The Church is disappointed from the expectation that it had: “The new plan which was sent at the end of February, was in two thirds of it similar to the previous one”. Under these circumstances, the representative of the Church said that the Church did not entirely agree with the new plan. The Church says that it was waiting the government’s reply, when two days ago, “workers of the construction firm, without any official notice, brought down the fence and pulled out the cypresses and other decorative plants in the northern part of the complex”.
In the photos and the videos that IBNA brings you, you will see images from the removal of the fencing of the Cathedral, the largest religious place of cult built in the recent years in Albania.
The Church expresses its concern about the courtyard of the Complex and the terraces of underground floors of the Complex which contain expensive machineries, complex installments and diesel deposits. Their security is considered as important and the removal of the fencing may jeopardize their safety. Therefore, it says that “these arbitrary interventions are a danger for the safety of both the area of the courtyard and underground floors”.
“Has the agreement between the state and KOASH lost its value?”
Officials of the Cathedral say that these actions are in open violation with the 2009 agreement between the Council of Ministers and Albania’s Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which guarantees the preservation of the holly places of the Orthodox Church.
But did this agreement lose its value? What about the law approved in parliament, which clearly forbids every intervention by the state in the properties of the religious community without a preliminary agreement?
These are the questions raised by Thoma Dhima, editor in chief of “Resurrection” magazine, official magazine of KOASH.
Dhima fears that “the laws are applied in a facultative manner when it comes to the Orthodox community”, mentioning cases in Permet and Elbasan, but also the Census, archives, objects that survived communism “ and also the holly relics, which continue to be desecrated and which are not given back to believers for veneration”.
Dhima expresses his concern about the fact that “workers continue to ruin the fencing and pulling off plants around the “Christ’s Resurrection” Orthodox Church Cathedral in Tirana.
He says that one of the first acts for the destruction of the fencing of the Cathedral was the pulling off of the cypresses around it, but he stresses the fact that “cypresses are always present around churches”.
“This is an arbitrary action, which is being done without the Consensus of the Albanian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. This is an act which threatens the holiness of the place of cult and which removes the security of a private property, which belongs to the Orthodox Church”, Dhima says.
Meanwhile, he adds: “When a permit is given for an important private object, such as the Cathedral, this also includes its security, which would be guaranteed by this beautiful decorative surrounding”.
Dhima explains that the territory of the cathedral is not state property and neither it is a “museum ensemble”, but it’s private land, registered in the property registration office and given in the form of compensation for the land of the old church which was destroyed by communism. Therefore, according to him, if it’s turned into public land, it threatens the security of the holly place and the property of the Church. /ibna/