Tirana, Albania, July 11, 2023
After more than 30 years of bureaucracy and great patience, the Albanian Orthodox Church is celebrating the return of another one of its churches.
The 17th-century St. Procopios Church in the capital city of Tirana was seized by the communist regime of Enver Hoxha, who ruled Albania from 1944 until his death in 1985, and turned into a restaurant.
But finally, the building has been returned to the Church, and on July 8, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in honor of its patron saint, the Great Martyr Procopios of Caesarea, reports the Orthodoxia News Agency.
The feast was served by His Grace Bishop Asti of Byllis, vicar of the Archdiocese of Tirana, together with clergy of the diocese. The primate of the Albanian Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan Anastasios, was also present.
The St. Procopios Church is one of many that were seized and repurposed as places of entertainment under the communist regime. Located within the Tirana Park, the authorities decided to turn the church into a restaurant, and thus it escaped the fate of many other churches that were simply destroyed.
Since the fall of communism in Albania 30 years ago, the revived Church has been in a struggle with the state to get its own property back. The Archbishop referenced these difficulties in his short speech at the feast, calling the faithful to praise God for the great joy of the return of one more church.
He recalled how the Church held a procession from the Annunciation Church to the St. Procopios Church 30 years ago, when it was still a restaurant. They told the employees of the restaurant that the Church would help them find new jobs. However, the state gave the Church many problems, and the church and plot of land weren’t returned to the Albanian Church until this year.
There are plans to build a new church on the site.
And while giving thanks for the St. Procopios Church, Abp. Anastasios also emphasized that the state continues to hold a considerable number of Church properties, 30 years after the fall of the communist government.