Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Albania denounces the “attacks” against it and the archbishop

Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Albania denounces the “attacks” against it and the archbishop

IBNA Special Report/ Strong debates over the displacement of the statue of Theofan Noli, one most prominent names of the church and state politics in Albania during the last century

Tirana, July 1, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency

Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania (AOCA) denounces what it considers to be constant attacks against it and against the Archbishop of Tirana and Albania, Anastasios Janullatos.

“We’re obliged to protest against this pretentious campaign based on lies, which is threatening religious harmony in the country”, reads the press statement released by AOCA. The statement says that several media in Albania are backing the attacks against the church by using them in different debates.

AOCA’s reaction came after a heated debate sparked in the past few days over the statue of Theofan Noli, one of the most prominent names of the church and Albanian state politics during last century.

Clashes between AOCA and ANN

Noli’s nest was planned to be placed in Durres, upon the incentive of the Albanian National Nest, but it declared on the media that it hadn’t obtained the approval of the Apostle Pavli & Saint Asti Orthodox church in Durres, to place the bronze cast statue in their premises.

Last night also came the reaction of the church of Durres. This church says that “we have agreed for the statue of Theofan Noli to be placed in Durres”.

The church adds: “It was Albanian National Nest (ANN) organization who suspended talks with the Apostle Pavli & Saint Asti Orthodox church in Durres for reasons that they’re aware of and not as a result of us”.

The church suggests that these issues cannot be solved through ultimatums, but dialogue is needed with all sides.

Reacting about the displacement of the statue from Durres to Tirana, the church says: “The way it was acted yesterday, doesn’t honor Noli’s extraordinary work and the country, but it insults him. We would like for the statue of Theofan Noli to be in Durres, because it belongs there. To achieve this, we will also demand the collaboration of local authorities”.

On the other hand, ANN says that the request was sent on June 18, but no reply was received until June 30. This is why the statue was sent to Elbasan.

“We demanded for the statue to be placed at the Orthodox Church of Durres, where his Grace Theofan Noli was a metropolitan and not “somewhere in Durres”. ANN assures that the statue sent to Elbasan will no longer be moved and challenges AOCA: “If they want to issue a positive reply for the statue to be placed in the Church’s courtyard, we engage to fund and build an even bigger statue for metropolitan Theofan. The Orthodox Church in Durres can tell us that it accepts the statue of the metropolitan and we will fund it, we will build it and we will take it to the Church of Durres at once”.

The accusation: Albanian state uses two standards

Meanwhile, the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania has launched accusations against priest Nikolla Marku, head of the Orthodox church situated in the old quarter of the city of Elbasan. Following the clashes about the placement of the statue of Fan Noli in Elbasan, AOCA accused Nikola Marku of illegally usurping the church of St. Mary.

The spokesman of the Orthodox Church, Thoma Dhima says that two properties of AOCA in Elbasan, the Church of St. Mary and the administrative building near it, “are invaded by the deceiver who wears the priest’s clothes, Nikolla Marku, with the aid of dark circles”.

Dhima also recalls the fact that there are court rulings which give these properties back to AOCA, but Marku defies these rulings. At this point, Dhima addresses a question: “Is this not pure religious discrimination”. Dhima says that the state is breaking the law by not applying court rulings.

The debate on the church which has lasted several years

In Albania there’s another church organization that claims that it’s a legitimate Albanian representative of the Orthodox church. This church is led by Nikolla Marku.

A reaction has come on this by the League of Orthodox Intellectuals. It says that “Our church is the only legitimate representative of the Orthodox Community of Albania”.

“Our religious community is one of the oldest and most well respected ones in the country, which has offered an extraordinary contribution in the formation of the Albanian state and its EU perspective”, says the League of Orthodox Intellectuals.

With this “Protest-Declaration”, the League of Orthodox Intellectuals offers “its strong support for further strengthening and development of the Orthodox Community of Albania and the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania”. /ibna/