Just another one I’m catching up on from 2013. In August, missionaries in Albania sent this note to reader Maksim, who forwarded it to me, with a link to the following development. I don’t know whether this has been resolved yet or not:

“Church of the Dormition in Permet in southern Albania…Hopefully this will be reversed by the national government, but please remember the church of Albania in your prayers.”

Albania Seizes Orthodox Church
(Greek Reporter, Aug. 20, by Maria Korologou)

Tension still prevails in Përmet in Albania, where hundreds of Orthodox residents of the town came into conflict with the forces of private police that were lined up outside the Church of Virgin Mary.

The church was taken over in a violent way some days before following the orders of the municipal authorities.

Photos of the scene showed crews building a brick wall at the entrance to prevent people from using the church as well as using sheet metal around columns.

The municipality sent private police to the church in order to implement a Supreme Court decision concerning the returning of the church building to the municipal authorities who maintain that the place belongs to them and that it is a cultural center.

However, according to the Orthodox Church of Albania, and as it is widely known, the building was confiscated by the Communist regime in 1968 an was turned a cultural center as were hundreds of other churches in the country.

Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania, talking about the incidents of Aug. 16, spoke of “a very sad incident” and reminded, among others, the agreement of 2010 between the government and the religious communities in the country for returning to them all the religious institutions.

Christians violently ousted from Church in Premeti; Orthodox Archbishop of Albania urges calmness and respect to rule of law (tovima.gr, Aug. 22)

The Christian Orthodox Church of Albania has condemned the violent ousting of clergy and believers from a temple in Premeti, during the celebrations for the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on the 16th of August, by private security guards and municipal authorities.

Worshippers and clergy refusing the leave were violently removed by municipal police, while religious artifacts such as religious icons and utensils were confiscated. On Monday local residents reacting clashed with police outside the church, demanding that they be allowed to resume services.

The church was evacuated under the pretext of following a court order, which stated that the building be returned to municipal authorities. According to Albanian legislation, the building must function as a culture center.

During his lecture at the Cathedral Temple in Tirana, the Archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Albania Anastasios commented that the ousting harkened back to the communist era in Albania, when religious beliefs were banned. He also demanded that the Albanian government fulfill its 2009 promise to return seized church assets.

Regarding the legal pretext, Archbishop Anastasios explained that the Albanian [government] recognized that the cultural center was built on top of a Christian holy temple and handed it over to the Church in exchange for the cost of converting it. In the past the Church has repeatedly been vandalized, with the clergy alleging the attacks have municipal backing.

The spokesman of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece Mr Konstantinos Koutras commented that the violent ousting of the clergy and believers from the temple “are unacceptable, condemned and without any legal backing”.

The violence was also condemned by former President of Albania and outgoing Prime Minister Sali Berisha.