Roman Catholicism in Albania

:"The information in this article is from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica and applies to Albania as it stood at the time of writing. For current information, see "

The Roman Catholic Church in Albania is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope and curia in Rome.

Around 10% of the population is Catholic — the third largest religious denomination after Islam and Orthodoxy.

There are five dioceses in the country, including two archdioceses plus an Apostolic Administration covering southern Albania.

For four centuries, the Albanian Catholics have defended their faith with the aid of:

*The Franciscan missionaries, especially since the middle of the seventeenth century, when persecutions by the Muslim lords set in motion the apostasy of many Albanian villages, particularly among the Greeks.

*the College of Propaganda at Rome, especially prominent in religious and moral support of Albanian Catholics. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, particularly, it educated young clerics for service on the Albanian missions, contributing then as now to their support and to that of the churches.

*the Austrian Government, which gave about five thousand dollars yearly to the Albanian missions, in its role of Protector of the Christian community under Turkish rule. Apropos of the Austrian interest in Albania, it may be stated that it is the Austrian ambassador who obtains from the Sultan the Berat, or civil document of institution, for the Catholic bishops of Albania [Neber, in K. L., XI, 18, 19] .

The Church legislation of the Albanians was reformed by Pope Clement XI, effecting a general ecclesiastical visitation (1763) by the Archbishop of Antivari, at the close of which a national synod was held. Its decrees were printed by Propaganda (1705), and renewed in 1803 [Coll. Lucensis Conc. Recent., I, 283 sq] . In 1872, Pius IX caused a second national synod to be held at Scutari, for the renovation of the popular and ecclesiastical life.


The country is currently split into two Ecclesiastical provinces each headed by Archbishops - Shkodrë-Pult in the north and Tiranë-Durrës in the centre and south. Shkodrë-Pult has two suffragan Diocese for Lezhë and Sapë. Tiranë-Durrës has one suffragan Diocese for Rrëshen as well as metropolitan authority over the Byzantine Rite Apostolic Administration of Southern Albania, also known as the Albanian Greek-Catholic Church. [ Catholic Church in Albania] , "Catholic Hierarchy", accessed on 2008-06-14]

{| class= "wikitable" border= "0"! Name !! Area !! Catholic Population !! %
Archdiocese of Shkodrë-Pult || Shkodër || 133,000 || 65%
Diocese of Lezhë || Lezhë || 85,000 || 71%
Diocese of Sapë || Zadrima, Vau-Dejes || 90,000 || 45%
Archdiocese of Tiranë-Durrës || Tirana || 105,000 || 9%
Diocese of Rrëshen || Rrëshen || 57,000 || 24%
Apostolic Administration of Southern Albania|| Southern Albania || 3,000 || 0.2%

The first known Bishop of present-day Albania was Bassus, who was made Bishop of Scutari (Shkoder) in 387, suffragan to the Bishop of Salonica, Primate of all Illyricum. In the sixth century Scutari became a suffrage of Ohrid, in the present-day Republic of Macedonia, which was made the Primate of all Illyricum, and by the early Middle Ages, Scutari was suffrage of the Bishop of Doclea, in present-day Montenegro. In 1867 Scutari was united with the Archdiocese of Antivari (Bar, Montenegro), but split in 1886, to became a separate Archdiocese once again with suffragan bishops in Lezhë, Sapë and Pult.

The Diocese of Pult (Pulati) - a region north of Shkoder between the present day villages of Drisht and Prekal - dates back to 899, when a Bishop of Pulato was appointed as a suffragan to the Bishop of Doclea. The Diocese was once divided into Greater Pult and Lesser Pult but eventually merged with Shkoder in 2005. Drisht, a village north of Shkoder, also used to be a separate Bishopric. The Diocese of Sapë (Sappa) - covering the region of Zadrima between Shkoder and Lezhë - dates back to 1062, and that of Lezhë (Alessio) to the 1300s.

The Archdiocese of Durrës was created in the 1200s as the Bishopric of Albanopolis. It united with Tirana in 1992. The Diocese of Rrëshen was split off in 1996.

The Apostolic Administration of Southern Albania was created in 1939.

Other former ancient Diocese in Albania were Dinnastrum and Balazum. [ [ Archdiocese of Scutari] , "Catholic Encyclopedia" via "", accessed on 2008-06-15] [ [ Initiative for Making the Passage] , "Albanian", accessed on 2008-06-15]

The role of Albanian women

In Scutari the Catholic women, as well as the Muslim woman (Muslimah), go veiled. The Albanian woman works unceasingly in the field and in the home. Every household care devolves upon her in the frequent absence of the men, who are either regular or irregular fighters in the Albanian bands. The women are dressed in tight skirts of light colour striped with black, and their heads and shoulders are covered on feast days with masses of gold and silver coins. In the Catholic churches, the women appear unveiled, and the humbler class generally remove their shoes at the entrance.

The Cathedral of Shkodër

The service in the Cathedral of Shkodër is most impressive, although primitive to an extreme degree. There is little quiet, for the congregation rasps out the responses with a fervour that precludes either modulation or rhythm, and the incessant rattle of the coins on the women's clothing as they bend forward and again kneel upright accompanies every intonation. The scarlet colour predominates in the altar decorations as well as in the clothes of the worshipers.

Christian development

The admirable work of the friars in dispelling the old vendetta custom is one of the chief factors in the evolution of this semi­barbaric race. The Albanians of today give the same promise of a vigorous Christian development as the Franks of the time of Clovis I, and it is characteristic of their steadfastness that no bribes or threats have succeeded in drawing them from their first allegiance. Every other race in the Balkans, with the exception of the Croats and the Slovens, went over to schism, but the Roman Catholic faith remained secure in the fastnesses of northern Albania. When one recalls that to adopt Islamism meant to become a lord and a recognized warrior, while to remain Christian meant to become a slave, deprived of the right to carry weapons, it is easily seen why so many Albanian tribes fell away.

The Mirdite tribe

The Mirdite tribe, the only tribe where the Albanian language and religion is still the same as centuries before. The oldest families (which are brothers in the same time) are: Oroshi (leading family of the Mirdite), Kushneni and Spaqi. Fandi and Dibri family were hosted by the Mirdite (they came from southern Kosova) later when those two tribe didn't want to obey the rules of the Ottoman Empire,thus, the perfect place for this was Mirdite.

The Mirdites are known for their continuous fights against different invaders, especially with Ottoman Empire and Slavic Countries such as Serbians.

The Congress of Berlin and Albanian resistance

The revival of the national aspirations of Albania dates from the Congress of Berlin (1878), when Austria, in order to compensate Serbia and Montenegro for her retention of the of Bosnia and Herzegovina, thought to divide the land of Albania between them. The Turks secretly fostered the opposition of both Musulmans and Catholics, and the Albanian League was formed "for the maintenance of the country's integrity and the reconstitution of its independence".

The territories allotted to Serbia were already occupied by her troops when resistance broke forth, and the idea of dislodging them had to be abandoned; but Montenegro was unable to obtain possession of her share, the rich districts of Gusinie and Plava. The Albanians, undaunted by the unexpected opposition of their former allies, the Turks, now forced by Russia to assist Montenegro, stood against all their enemies with a determination that baffled and dismayed Europe. Mehemet Ali was routed, his house at Diakovo burned down, and himself massacred.

The Albanians had much to avenge. They had not yet forgotten the war of a century before when their women flung themselves by hundreds over the roads near Yamina to escape Ali Pasha's soldiers. The Turks finally relinquished their efforts to quell the movement they had themselves helped to bring about, and Montenegro had to contend itself with the barren tracts of the Boyana and the port of Dulcigno. She could not have aspired even to these, had not Russia, anxious to spread the doctrines of "Orthodoxy", advocated the dismemberment of Catholic and Mussulman Albania in favour of the Serbian race.


It is difficult to get the exact statistics of any province of the Turkish Empire; estimates on the population of Albania vary from 1,200,000 to 1,600,000, of which 1,500,000 are strictly Albanian. In the Kirchenlex [Freiburg, 1899), XI, 18] , Father Neher estimates the population at about 1,400,000, one million of which is made up of Mussulmans. There are 318,000 members of the Orthodox Church, and about 120,000 Catholics. It must be added that there are in Greece proper about 250,000 Albanians, and in Italy about 100,000, the latter being all Catholics. In summing up the characteristics of the race, there are two points on which travellers invariably agree: the chivalry toward the weakest of even the unreclaimed Albanian, and the spotless chastity of their women. For the rest, human life is as cheap as in all lands where individuals must depend on themselves for preservation. (See ANTIVARI, SCUTARY, Durazzo, and the other dioceses of Albania.)


*William Martin Leake, "Travels in Northern Greece" (London, 1835)
*Élisée Reclus, "The Earth and its Inhabitants" (New York, 1895, Eng. tr.): Europe, I, 115-126
*Gustave Léon Niox, "Péninsule des Balkans"
*Edith Durham, "Travels"
*John Gardner Wilkinson, "almatia and Montenegro" (1848)
*Herder, Konvers. Lex., s. v.
*Ami Boué, "la Turquie d'Europe" (Paris, 1889)
*Alexandre Degrand, "Souvenirs de la Haute-Albanie" (Paris, 1901)
*Emanuele Portal, "Note Albanesi" (Palermo, 1903)

The documents of the medieval religious history of Albania are best found in the eight volumes of Daniele Farlati, "Illyricum Sacrum" (Venice, 1751- 1819). See also Augustin Theiner, "Vetera Monumenta Slavorum meridionalium historiam illustrantia" (Rome, 1863 sqq.). Ecclesiastical statistics may be seen in O. Werner, "Orbis Terrarum Catholicus" (Freiburg, 1890), 122-124, and 120; also in the "Missiones Catholicæ" (Rome, Propaganda Press, triennially).

ee also

*Roman Catholicism by country
*Albanian Byzantine Catholic Church


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