Russian Patriarch Kirill Makes First Visit to Muslim Majority Albania: Symbolism in the Orthodox Church
The Russian Patriarch Kirill, the highest ranking Bishop in the Russian Orthodox Church, made the first official visit to Albania on April 28. The visit lasted three days and was a symbol of solidarity and respect.
Patriarch Kirill was welcomed by the leader of Albania’s Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Archbishop Anastasios. The leaders gave a joint mass at the Cathedral of the Trinity in Tirana where the Archbishop discussed his book Unto the Uttermost Part of the Earth’, devoted to understanding the Orthodox mission going forward. The Archbishop later noted it was a “historical peace visit” and “of remarkable importance”.
On April 30, the President of Albania, Ilir Meta, hosted an official dinner to welcome the Patriarch. Meta said that “This is a historical act that goes beyond the borders of Albania’s orthodox believers…”. The Patriarch also met with the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama.
The visit was an international symbol of religious acceptance, because the majority of Albania’s population is Muslim. As of 2018, approximately 58% of the citizens are Muslim, 18% are Christian, and 25% are of another or no religion.
Historically, the Albanian and Russian orthodox communities found themselves in solidarity after enduring similar experiences of oppression and persecution under Communist regimes. In Albania the Communist regime banned practices of religion in 1967. Subsequently, churches and mosques were turned into shopping centers. Thus, the visit of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, is a symbol of unification and of a shared mission forward for the Orthodox community in Eastern Europe.