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Roman Catholicism in Albania

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Roman Catholicism in Albania

The information in this article is from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica and it is largely outdated. For current information, see Katholische Kirche in Albanien.
Part of a series on
Albanian culture
Albanian language
Catholic Cathedral of St Paul, Tirana
Distribution of Catholics in Albania as according to the 1918 census. Data unavailable in the South and East due to political instability.

The Roman Catholic Church in Albania is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope in Rome. All Albanians were Orthodox Christians until the middle of the 13th century when some of the Ghegs were converted to Catholicism as a mean to resist the Orthodox Slavs.[1][2][3]

According to some sources around 16.8%-17% of the population of Albania is Catholic,[4][5] but in the 2011 census the percentage of Catholics was 10.03%[6] due to emigration, especially to Italy. (Although this may be an undercount; the Albanian Orthodox Church,[7] the Greek minority, and the Bektashi community have all complained of being severely undercounted in the census.)[8] Catholicism is strongest in the northwestern part of the country, which historically had the most readily available contact with, and support from, Rome and the Republic of Venice. More than 30,000 Albanian Catholics are located in south Montenegro in Albanian Municipalities, such as Tuzi, Ulcinj (Albanian: Ulqin), Bar (Tivari) and Plav (Plava). The region is considered part of the Malsia Highlander region of the seven Albanian Catholic tribes. The region was split from Ottoman Albania after the First Balkan War and permanently lost following WWII.

In certain periods there have also been Catholics in the south of Albania. There are three distinct periods where this occurred. The first was during the period of the Kingdom of Albania, in the 1300s, when the areas of Vlora and Butrint (near modern day Saranda) became Catholic, but they later reverted to Orthodoxy. Then, later, during the 1500s and 1600s, Himara was Catholic. Nowadays Catholicism has also grown in the South, once again especially in the area of Vlora County.

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 17th century, when persecutions by the Muslim lords set in motion the apostasy of many Albanian villages.
  • The College of Propaganda at Rome, especially prominent in religious and moral support of Albanian Catholics. During the 17th and 18th 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.[9]

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.[10] In 1872, Pius IX caused a second national synod to be held at Scutari, for the renovation of the popular and ecclesiastical life.


Location of Diocese

The country is currently split into two Ecclesiastical provinces each headed by Archbishops - Shkodër-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.[11]

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 (Shkodër) in 387, suffragan to the Bishop of Thessaloniki, Primate of all Illyricum. In the 6th century Shkodër 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, Shkodër was suffrage of the Bishop of Duklja, in present-day Montenegro. In 1867 Shkodër 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 Shkodër between the present day villages of Drisht and Prekal - dates back to 899, when a Bishop of Pult was appointed as a suffragan to the Bishop of Duklja. The Diocese was once divided into Greater Pult and Lesser Pult but eventually merged with Shkodër in 2005. Drisht, a village north of Shkodër, also used to be a separate Bishopric. The Diocese of Sapë (Sappa) - covering the region of Zadrima between Shkodër and Lezhë - dates back to 1062, and that of Lezhë (Alessio) to the 14th century.[11] The Archdiocese of Durrës was created in the 13th century 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.[12][13]

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 Kosovo) 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 Gusinje and Plav. 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 Đakovica 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 Bojana and the port of Ulcinj. She could not have aspired even to these, had not Russia, favoring the cession of Albanian-inhabited lands to its client state Serbia, which shared with Russia common bonds of Orthodoxy and Slavic culture.


Distribution of Catholic believers in Albania as according to the 2011 census.

No clear statistics of any Turkish empire province has been assimilated. What is known though is that before the independence of Albania from Turkey, when the country had 1,500,000 inhabitants, the population's religious percentages were as these: 65% [5][14][15]

The CIA World Factbook uses the figures from the 1939 Census of 70% Muslim, 20% Eastern Orthodox Christian, and 10% Roman Catholic.[16] In the 2011 census the declared religious affiliation of the population was: 56.7% Muslims, 13.79% undeclared, 10.03% Catholics, 6.75% Orthodox believers, 5.49% other, 2.5% Atheists, 2.09% Bektashis and 0.14% other Christians.[6]



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).

See also


  1. ^ Leften Stavros Stavrianos (January 2000). The Balkans Since 1453. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 498.  
  2. ^ Hugh Chisholm (1910). Encyclopaedia britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. Encyclopaedia Britannica. p. 485. Retrieved 18 July 2013. The Roman Catholic Ghegs appear to liave abandoned the Eastern for the Western Church in the middle of the 13th century 
  3. ^ Ramet, Sabrina P. (1989). Religion and Nationalism in Soviet and East European Politics. Duke University Press. p. 381.  
  4. ^ a b "Religious Freedom Page". Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  5. ^ a b [1]
  6. ^ a b Albanian census 2011
  7. ^ "Official Declaration: The results of the 2011 Census regarding the Orthodox Christians in Albania are totally incorrect and unacceptable". Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  8. ^ "Final census findings lead to concerns over accuracy". Tirana Times. 19 December 2012. 
  9. ^ Neber, in K. L., XI, 18, 19
  10. ^ Coll. Lucensis Conc. Recent., I, 283 sq
  11. ^ a b Catholic Church in Albania, Catholic Hierarchy, accessed on 2008-06-14
  12. ^ Archdiocese of Scutari, Catholic Encyclopedia via, accessed on 2008-06-15
  13. ^ Initiative for Making the Passage, Albanian, accessed on 2008-06-15
  14. ^ [2]
  15. ^ "Atheist Statistics | Agnostic". Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  16. ^ 2009 CIA World Factbook


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