The Orthodox Church of Albania
When the communist government in Albania began to disintegrate in 1990, the long period of religious persecution came to an end. Since no Albanian Orthodox bishops had survived, in January 1991 the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which had granted autocephalous status to the Albanian Church, appointed Metropolitan Anastasios of Androusis, a Professor at the University of Athens, as Patriarchal Exarch in Albania. It was his task to oversee the process of the canonical reconstruction of the autocephalous Albanian Orthodox Church. On June 24, 1992, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elected Anastasios as Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania and named three other bishops (also Greek nationals) for the remaining Orthodox dioceses in the country. Although the government did not recognize the appointment of the other three bishops, Anastasios was enthroned the following August. In July 1996 the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceeded to the ordination of the three other bishops it had named for Albania. But the government refused to allow them to enter the country and insisted that ethnic Albanians be appointed to those positions.
The position of Archbishop Anastasios as head of the Albanian Orthodox Church was threatened in late 1994. In October President Berisha stated that the Archbishop had only been appointed temporarily, and the government proposed a new draft constitution which required that the heads of large religious communities be Albanian citizens who were born in the country and who had resided there permanently for at least 20 years. But when the referendum on the new constitution was held on November 6th, it was defeated by 60% of the vote. By December relations between the Orthodox Church and the state had improved, but the position of the Archbishop still seemed uncertain. Tension between the Greek and Abanian governments over the status of the Greek minority in the country complicated the position of the Archbishop, who is an ethnic Greek. The 1989 census indicated that there are just under 60,000 Greeks in Albania, but the great majority of the Orthodox in the country are ethnic Albanians.
The impasse over the appointment of new Albanian Orthodox bishops was resolved in 1998. With the mutual consent of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Orthodox Church of Albania and the Albanian government, two of the previously ordained bishops resigned their offices, and one of them (Metropolitan Ignatios of Berat) was enthroned on July 18th. On the same day, Archbishop Anastasios and Metropolitan Ignatios met in extraordinary session with two representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and elected two new ethnic Albanian bishops: Archimandrite John Pelushi (43 years old) was elected Metropolitan of Korça, and Fr. Kosma Qirjo (77 years old) was elected Bishop of Apollonia. Thus a full Holy Synod of the Albanian Orthodox Church was formed. In 2000, Bishop Kosma died, leaving only three bishops in the country. On November 11, 2006, the Holy Synod elected three archimandrites to the episcopate. They were consecrated before the end of the year, raising the number of Albanian Orthodox bishops to six.