Albanian Roots Meeting With Bishop Joan Pelushi And Archbishop Nikon Liolin

Albanian Roots attended a last-notice meeting that was also attended by the administration of Archbishop Janullatous. Janullatous himself was not present but his representatives where there in his behalf. Let it be understood that Janullatos is an Archbishop of the “Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania” in the country of ALBANIA.

The representatives that were there to represent him were Bishop Joan Pelushi, Archbishop Nikon Liolin, and many other orthodox followers/businessmen of the Albanian Orthodox communities in the North East. Bishop Pelushi is the metropolis of the city of Korça and is in the order of Janullatosi’s church. Bishop Nikon Liolin is from Boston and is the head Bishop of the “Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America”; which is one of three ethnic dioceses of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). These two churches have NO OFFICIAL affiliation. In fact, the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America was created by Bishop Fan Noli and intentionally joined the OCA in order to be an independent orthodox entity in America with Albanian Orthodox roots.

The meeting went on for hours in which members of the Albanian Roots and their supporters where “requested” to cancel the rally. Regardless of the matter that their requests were a violation of our constitutional right to voice our concerns about our community, the Albanian members of the Orthodox Church were “appalled” that Albanian Roots was being bold enough to intervene in their affairs. This raises a lot of questions about the future of the Albanian Orthodox Church with the major one being, why is there a concern about our peaceful demonstration? Are they worried that this may actually raise awareness to what is actually taking place within our churches? Why is a Bishop form a different church order representing an ARCHBISHOP of a different order of another country?

During the meeting, Albanian Roots was hoping to hear more about what Janullatos has done for the orthodox community in Albania that deserves such a high praise. In actuality, we were repeatedly lectured on the rebuilding of many orthodox churches in Albania. Considering that Albania has a separation of Church & State, it does not fund religious entities. On the other hand, the country of Greece has NO separation of Church & State, in which the Archbishop derives from. Albanian Roots supporters were curious to identify where the funds for rebuilding these churches was coming from, but no one seemed to provide a solid transparent answer. We are led to believe that Janullatos has built over 130+ churches and renovated hundreds more in the span of 22 years entirely from the masses of the orthodox community in Albania.

It seemed a bit difficult to believe given the small size of the orthodox community in a developing country such as Albania. In fact, Albanian Roots had recently been made aware from openly made remarks that Albanian businessmen as well as Greek businessmen have “donated” in the reviving of these churches in Albania. There are no laws in “donating” to religious organization, but are we blindly expected to believe that these “good Samaritans” are simply just donating to the Albanian Orthodox Church in Albania without expecting anything in return? This declaration is very hard to swallow. Maybe not so much in America, but in the Balkans, we are well aware of how things work. Nevertheless, there has been little transparency in providing financial documents to defend where the funding for the churches is coming from. It is hard to accept these claims when Janullatos’s work has never been made public, other than what has been provided to us from a few of his supporters. Is this not in our “affairs” to know?

The Albanian people cannot be expected to turn a blind eye and ignore the past history of the chauvinistic Greek Church. Let us not forget that it was the refusal of a proper Christian burial to an Albanian Orthodox named Kristaq Dishnica by the Greek Orthodox Church in Boston that lead to the birth of our Albanian Orthodox Church in Albania, as well as in America. Should we not be concerned that there has been a Greek-born Archbishop that has led our orthodox churches in Albania for the past 22 years?

Knowingly recognizing that Greece is a state where Greek identity is rooted into its Greek Orthodox religion, one cannot be a citizen UNLESS he is baptized as a Greek Orthodox with a Greek Orthodox name. Should we not be concerned that a Bishop from the Greek Orthodox Order found a loop-hole and was made an Archbishop of the Albanian Orthodox Church? Are we naively going to believe that the reason this man was appointed was strictly to reform the Albanian Orthodox church without having any Greek Orthodox influence during the development whatsoever?

Regardless that it was unconstitutional by the Albanian Orthodox Church’s bylaws, we are lead to believe that Albanians had to accept a Greek born bishop to become Archbishop because “none of the Albanian priests met the qualifications to perform the duties of an Archbishop”. It has been over 22 years since Archbishop Januallatos has been the head of the Albanian Orthodox Church and only 4 of the 8 Holy Synod’s are Albanian. The Shen Vlash Theological University was established in Durres in 1996 and in the past 18 years there has been very few priests ordinate into the Bishop status. In fact, many Albanian Orthodox Churches in America ( in the OCA order) have requested more Albanian priests and Bishops, but very few have been provided to them. More than 90% of the priests of the 14 Albanian Orthodox Churches in America are American born of none-Albanian ethnicity.

As the meeting progressed, to make matters worse, the Archbishop’s supporters informed us that the Albanian Orthodox Church’s bylaws have been revised to reflect that Article 16 no longer requires an Archbishop to be of Albanian blood; but it does require him to be an Albanian citizen. Thus making it an open invitation to ANYONE “qualified” to come in and run the Albanian Orthodox Church. This revised clause is further proof that the Archbishop does not have the Albanian community’s best interest in mind. In fact, it is a direct contradiction to the Churches initial constitution written by our forefathers to restrict the infiltration of the Greek Orthodox Order.

The revision that Archbishop Janullatos has made clearly hinders the INDEPENDENCE of the Albanian Orthodox Church. Worse enough, we are aware of the stories we here about the Hellenization of southern Albania. We have had numerous accounts of people contacting Albanian Roots and informing us that the Orthodox churches are being built in Bektash or non-religious communities. We know of the various accounts of the Janullatos- ran-church offers Vllachs of orthodox origins a Greek citizenship and Pensions. They essentially turn these citizens to Non-Albanians to leverage the Greek minority percentage within Albania. The churches ran by Janullatos are offering educational & occupational benefits in Gjirokastera. The desperate and naive citizens have limited options and follow, convert, and fall into the web of the propaganda that is fed to them. There should be no awards of “Peace “for such actions.

Albania use to be a land of religious tolerance… In fact it was the first of its kind. It has now become evident that the Archbishops campaign is causing separation among different faiths and religious tension is rising. The truth is, slowly but surely, the Albanian Identify of the Albanian Orthodox Church in Albania is diminishing. If this path continues, the only thing Albanian about the Church is going to be its name.

Should we not be concerned? Most of our history as Albanians is fighting of intruders, it’s in our blood. As such, this infiltration, we will also fight. At the end of the meeting when Albanian Roots finally asked if the next Archbishop in the Albanian Orthodox Church would be ethnically Albanian, the answer was “possibly, more than likely”. When we asked if there was a chance that he would be Greek, they went silent. Perhaps sometimes we say it all when we say nothing at all. But in the end, Albanian Roots will be here to raise its voice and speak up.

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