Albania: A Church making a comeback

The Church has been implanted in Albania since the early centuries of the Christian era.

The Marian shrine of Our Lady of Shkodra, one of the best known in the country, dates back to the sixth century. Albanians have always nourished a particular devotion and love for the Virgin Mary. Numerous shrines have been erected throughout the nation, oftentimes on mountain slopes or lowland crossroads. This shrine lies beneath the old Illyrian fortress of Shkodra and houses the painting of Our Mother of Good Counsel. Copies of the image are found in homes throughout Albania, often decorated with flowers and greenery as a sign of homage and devotion.

The history of the Albanian Church is punctuated by terrible persecution:

  • Particularly in the fifteenth century, when Albania was invaded by the Turks, Christians suffered greatly under the domination of the Ottoman Empire. The last stronghold of Albanian resistance was Shkodra. At that time, it is believed that the miracle of the "relocation" of the icon of Our Lady of Good Counsel took place. One day during the siege of Shkodra two escaping Albanians stopped at the Church to pray Our Lady for their safe journey. While praying, they noticed that the painting suddenly moved off the wall. They followed the painting all the way to Rome, where the image disappeared. Later they heard that a miraculous image had appeared in Genazzano, a nearby town. They rushed there and discovered the painting. The two Albanians settled and made Genazzano their home.
  • Much more recently, the Church of Albania was forced to go in hiding for the fifty years of communist dictatorship, which lasted until 1992.

During his pilgrimage to Albania in the aftermath of the fall of communism, April 25, 1993, Pope John Paul II said:

"The Eucharist in back in your land. The Church is returning."

He ordained four bishops, thereby ending fifty years of silence and martyrdom.

People will remember that Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was born in Skopje, Albania. Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhui, the future Mother Teresa, left home in 1928, for the Loreto Convent in Dublin, Ireland, where she received the name of Teresa after Saint Therese of Lisieux. She journeyed to Calcutta in 1948, answering the “call within a call,” which was to give rise to the Missionaries of Charity family of Sisters, Brothers, Fathers, and Co-workers.

Mother Teresa was beatified on October 19, 2003, by Pope John Paul II. The world famous Albanian nun is one of the greatest figures of the Universal Church in the twentieth century ...

In a nutshell, the Church of Albania today is a church embedded with Marian devotion, is still suffering, yet it is making a comeback.