International Orthodox Christian News

Albanian government made a historical agreement with the traditional religious communities in the country: the Muslim Community, the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, and the Muslim Bektashi Community. Previously, we will remember that the agreement between the Albanian government and the Roman Catholic Church was signed in 2002. According to this agreement, the State respects the independence of the religious communities as far as their organization and operation are concerned, as well as the administrative functions of their wealth on the basis of their own principles, rules,traditions and statutes. The government will exclude them from the payment of taxes and takes over the responsibility to accelerate its work regarding the restoration and the compensation of wealth to these communities.

On October 24th, a special ceremony took place in the Tirana Hotel where the respective agreement was signed. The Ministry of Culture organized the event and present were the Prime Minister of Albania, Mr. Sali Berisha, the Archbishop of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, His Beatitude Anastasios, the leader of the Muslim Community, Mr. Haxhi Selim Muça, the world leader of the Bektashian Community, Mr. Haxhi Dede Reshat Bardhi and the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic community in Tirana and Durres, Rrok Mirdita. Other guests who took part in the ceremony were leading figures from the political, cultural, and religious communities; the local diplomatic corps, and national media representatives. Apart from Archbishop Anastasios, there were also other delegates from the Christian Orthodox Community like the Metropolitan of Berati, His Grace Ignatios, the Metropolitan of Gjirokastёr, His Grace Dimitrios, the Episcope of Apollonia, His Grace Nikolla, the Episcope of Kruja, His Grace Anthony, and other clergy and faithful.
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In his speech, His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios said: “The Constitution of the Republic of Albania of the year 1998 is one of the best in the Balkans, especially in relation to religious freedom. The 10th article of the constitution is about an official agreement between the government and the traditional religious communities, which are the cultural and the spiritual wealth of the country. In spite of the laic character, the state recognizes the fact that the religious communities play a very significant role in society and give their contribution not only towards a peaceful religious coexistence in the country, but they also create an atmosphere of tolerance, understanding, fairness and peace. Therefore, we joyfully welcome today the historical signing of this agreement on ‘the arrangement of reciprocal relationships’ between the Albanian government and the traditional religious communities. In the name of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, we would like to express our gratitude towards all those who contributed in this remarkable event. First of all, to the Prime Minister, Professor Sali Berisha, the leader of the Public Committee of Religions, Mr. Rasim Hasanaj, and to all those who made

possible the finalization of the Agreement. From now on, the religious communities will operate in harmony with each other and thus will have more opportunities for their activities and initiatives which will aim towards the spiritual upbringing of the people, in particular of the youth, in order that they conduct a way of living with honesty, creativity and solidarity. Speaking in the language of religion - a life of faith in Christ, love for our neighbour, and hope for the future; giving in this way a significant contribution to the development of Albania, and to the spiritual and the cultural progress of the Albanian society.”

The leader of the Muslim Community of Albania, Mr. Haxhi Selim Muça stated: “It is an important event which we were expecting in the sphere of religious development in our country. Such an agreement is made on the basis of the constitutional principles that guarantee the freedom of performing and exercising religion and the religious beliefs. The agreement will resolve the issues of recognition, as well as the cooperation between the State and the religious communities for the benefit of the entire Albanian society.”
On the other side, the world leader of the Bektashian community, Mr. Haxhi Dede Reshat Bardhi emphasized that: “I feel excited about this historical event we are experiencing today. It was 41 years ago when the dictatorial regime used all kinds of tools like pickaxes, shovels, etc. to destroy the mosques and the churches. A sudden excitement fills the heart when one sees the understanding, the care, and the continuous assistance of the State towards the faithful. This agreement is indeed a historical act and intends to keep faith pure according to the principle, ‘There is no religion without a State.’

The Archbishop of the Catholic community in Tirana and Durres, Rrok Mirdita, said the following in his speech: “I hope that this agreement is not simply a symbolic act, but a lively expression of the common will of both the religious communities and the Albanian State with regard, not only to issues of an economic nature, but to everything else that is necessary for the normal development of their activities. I wish that this example of good will provides a point of common understanding between the religious communities, and that the Albanian government will expand on it and that it is practiced even in the other social domains in our country.”
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This agreement brings to light the passing of a specific law regarding the financing of the religious groups by the State, following the European example for the support of the activities of different religious groups.

The head of the Cults Committee, Mr. Rasim Hasanaj emphasized that an important place in the compilation of the legal project regarding religion will be given to the problems, which the communities and other religious groups face. “Such an agreement returns to the religious communities the status which was lost in 1967. A very specific law is predicted to be compiled about the financial aid of the State for the religious communities, based upon European standards. The monuments of cults of different religions will become visitable as the result of a strategy for the development of religious tourism. I would like to thank all the clergy who maintain the religious traditions of the country and the harmony among them which has already become very famous in the world”, - said Mr. Hasanaj.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, Mr. Sali Berisha considered the agreement to be a historical document and promised to compile a law for the financial support. “The agreement which we signed today, together with the other personalities of religion in our country, marks a new chapter in the field of relationships between the Albanian State and the religious beliefs in Albania. For this reason, the agreement is a historical one and I would like to guarantee you, who are the leaders of the main religious beliefs in the country, that I will make every effort in order to put it into practice and make it alive for the best interest of our country and nation”, - said the prime minister, Mr. Berisha.
In addition, he publicly asked for forgiveness from the representatives of the religious communities in the country for the deprivation of religious rights for several decades. “I emphasize that such an agreement is in itself an enormous obligation for the State for their deep contrition to the Albanian clergy and the faithful who sacrificed and were martyred in the name of their beliefs in God, but nonetheless stood indomitable, and enriched, with eternally illuminating values, the altar of the national martyrs”, - stated Mr. Berisha.
The representatives of the religious communities expressed their gratitude towards the government for the assistance it has provided during all the time.


Isidor Koti
Translated by Juliana Pici
Edited by Anastasia Pamela Barksdale

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