It was 82 years ago, April 12, 1937, when the Ecumenical Patriarchate bestowed the status of Autocephaly to the Church of Albania.
This date marked a very important historical event for the Orthodox Christians of the neighboring country.
The Patriarchal Tomos for the recognition of the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Albania was signed in the presence of the Patriarch of the time, Benjamin, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, as well as the new Bishop Christophoros of Tirana.
The times after the granting of Autocephaly were difficult, because the atheist state of Hoxha that had risen to power, after the end of the War, turned against the Church, imprisoning Christophoros, who died in prison.
According to the decree of 1949, the Church’s property was nationalized. The same year, the state itself proclaimed Paisios Vondicas, Bishop of Korca until then, as Archbishop of Tirana, who held ordinations.
The new Synod, which was considered as anti-canonical, suspended any relation with the rest of the Orthodox Churches. In 1966 Paisios passed away and Damianos of Gjirokastra was proclaimed as the new Archbishop.
In 1967, during the 5th Congress of the Communist Party, it was declared that Albania was “the first atheist state in the world”.
Any kind of worship was abandoned and there followed defrocking of the clergy, persecutions, the churches became cultural centers or storages and the anti-religious propaganda culminated.
Archbishop Damianos, who opposed the pogrom against the Church, was arrested and sent to prison in 1967, where eventually he died in 1973, at the age of 80 years old.
When the Marxist regime fell, in January 1991, the Ecumenical Patriarchate appointed Bishop Anastasios Giannoulatos as a Patriarchal Exarch, with the principal aim to reestablish the Orthodox Church of Albania and re-evangelize the Orthodox Christians.
In June 24, 1992 the Patriarchal Synod elected Anastasios as Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania.
Regeneration has begun ever after. Anastasios of Albania, despite the opposition of extreme circles, entrenched with excess love, patience, endurance, prayer, spirit of cooperation and unity, and strengthened by his hope in God, attempted and achieved the revival of the Orthodox Church of Albania.