Archd., 2; dioc, 4; a.a. 1; abp., 3; bp., 3;
parishes, 123; priest, 133 (43 dioc., 90 rel.);
p.d.,1; sem., 45; bros., 18; srs., 406; bap.,
5,415; Caths., 495,000 (15.7%); tot . pop.
Republic in the Balkans, bordering the Adriatic
Sea; capital, Tirana. Christianity was introduced in
apostolic times. The northern part of the country
remained faithful to Rome while the South broke from
unity following the schism of 1054. A large
percentage of the population was to become Muslim
following the invasion (15 century) and long
centuries of occupation by the Ottoman Turks. Many
Catholics fled to Southern Italy, Sicily and Greece.
In 1945 , at the same time of the communist takeover,
an estimated 68 percent of the population was Muslim;
19 percent was Orthodox and 13 percent, Roman
Catholic. The Catholic Church prevailed in the North.
During 45 years of communist dictatorship, the Church
fell victim, as did all religions, to systematic
persecution: non-Albanian missionaries were expelled;
death, prison sentences and other repressive measure
were enacted against Church personnel and laity;
Catholic schools and church were closed and used for
other purposes, and lines of communication with the
Holy See were cut off.
In 1967, the government, declaring it had
eliminated all religion the country, proclaimed
itself the first atheist state in the world. The
right to practice religion was restored in the late
1990. In March 1991, a delegations from the Vatican
was allowed to go to Albania; later in the year
diplomatic relations were established with the Holy
See at the request of the Albania prime minister.
Pope John Paul II made a one-day visit to the country
Apr. 25, 1993, during which he ordained four bishops
appointed by him in December 1992 to fill long-vacant
sees. Restoration of the church is a slow and
difficult process. The first Albanian cardinal was
named in November 1994.
In early 1997, rioting occurred after thousands if
Albanians lost their investments in collapsed pyramid
schemes, and in southern Albania, churches and
mosques were looted and vandalized. Although
Catholics are a minority, they are well respected,
including for their work in the education and health
fields. Albanians welcomed hundreds of thousands of
ethnic Albanians from Kosovo during Yugoslav
persecution in 1999.
(The above exert comes from Our Sunday
2004 Catholic Almanac and is used on this
web site with the publisher's permission.)