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The Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century

Edited By Christine Chaillot

It is common knowledge that the majority of the population of Eastern Europe belong to the Christian Orthodox tradition. But how many people have an adequate knowledge of the past or even of the present of these Orthodox churches? This book aims to present an introduction to this history written for a general audience, both Christian and non-Christian.
After the 1917 revolution in Russia, communism spread to most of the countries of Eastern Europe. By 1953, at the time of Stalin’s death, the division between Eastern and Western Europe seemed absolute. However, the advent of perestroika at the end of the 1980s brought about political changes that have enabled the Orthodox Church to develop once again in Eastern Europe.
The foundation of the European Union in 1993 has had a broader significance for Orthodox communities, who can now participate in the future development of Europe. Some Orthodox Churches already have their representatives at the European Union in Brussels. These include the patriarchates of Constantinople, Russia and Romania, along with the Church of Greece and the Church of Cyprus.
Today, Europe is becoming increasingly religiously diverse, even within Christianity itself. A growing number of Orthodox Christians have come to work and settle in Western Europe. An understanding of the history of the Orthodox communities in Eastern Europe in the twentieth century will contribute, in a spirit of informed dialogue, to the shaping of a new united Europe that is still in the process of expansion.
This book is translated from the French version (published 2009).

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Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania - 6 Some Notes on the History of the Orthodox Church of Albania in the Twentieth Century and its Resurrection from 1991 135

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Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania 6 Some Notes on the History of the Orthodox Church of Albania in the Twentieth Century and its Resurrection from 1991 During the final decades of the twentieth century, the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania found herself in a unique ecclesiasti- cal position, and, consequently, the centre of much attention worldwide. For almost half a century, the rigidly atheistic communist government of Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha (1944–85) did its best to remove all signs of religion by eliminating or persecuting the Orthodox clergy and terror- izing the faithful. Hundreds of churches and many monasteries either had been plundered or destroyed or converted into bars, restaurants, stables, barracks or for other more unseemly purposes. From 1967, all churches were closed and no of ficial liturgical life was permitted. From 1967 until 1990, people believed that the Orthodox Church of Albania had been totally eliminated by the implacable pressure of the most atheistic state and that she was a thing of the past. In December 1990 the first Orthodox liturgy in Albania had occured in the southern village of Derviçan, twenty- three years after the closing of all churches. From 1991 onwards, however, a remarkable revival and development began which has radiated into many spiritual and social sectors. 136 Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania An historical overview The region that comprises today’s Albania was blessed to receive the mes- sage of the Gospel in the first century AD and...

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