Serbian patriarch visits Albania, nationalists protest

Tirana, June 2, 2014

Patriarch Irinej (Tanjug, file) Patriarch Irinej (Tanjug, file)
Leaders of Orthodox Christian churches - including a delegation of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) headed by Patriarch Irinej - were in Albania on Sunday.

They consecrated the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in the country's capital, Tirana.

The consecration service - a major event for all Orthodox churches - was led by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Albania's Balkanweb reports.

Also taking part in the service were the patriarchs of Jerusalem and Serbia, the archbishops of Cyprus, Athens, Warsaw and Tirana, as well as representatives of the patriarchs of Moscow, Bulgaria, Georgia and Antiochia.

According to a statement of the Albanian Orthodox Church, the consecration of the cathedral is not only a special blessing for Albania's Orthodox Christians, but also a reaffirmation of Orthodox Christianity worldwide.

The complex of the new Resurrection of Christ Cathedral, situated in downtown Tirana, includes the Chapel of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, a bell tower and the Cathedral center, and symbolizes the rebirth of the autocephalous Albanian Orthodox Church.

A youth festival concert outside the cathedral, scheduled for Sunday evening, will be attended by Albanian President Bujar Nishani, Parliament Speaker Ilir Meta, Prime Minister Edi Rama and opposition leader Lulzim Basha, who is also mayor of Tirana.

Basha is scheduled to receive the leaders of the Orthodox churches on June 2.

Nationalists protest

Members of Albania's nationalist Red and Black Alliance on Sunday gathered in protest against the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) delegation that attended the ceremony on Sunday.

The delegation, headed by Patriarch Irinej, also included Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral, who is also the archbishop of Cetinje.

The police arrested several protesters, detaining six of them, Albania's Balkanweb reported quoting Alliance activists.

Alliance activists opposed the participation of the SPC dignitaries as they said the church "ignores Albanian history and considers Kosovo to be part of Serbia," and also believes that "Serbia is better off without European Union membership than without Kosovo."

They particularly blame Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama for inviting SPC representatives to attend the consecration of the cathedral, which they see as "an unprecedented move."

The nationalist Red and Black Alliance advocates "a uniform Albanian state where everyone is equally Albanian by ethnicity and there are no divisions into a majority and minority," Tanjug reported.

The Alliance has maintained close ties with Kosovo's radical Self-Determination movement, led by Albin Kurti, Albanian media have reported.



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