Albania comes back from Crucifixion
At First Things, Fr Benedict Kiely described the resurrection of Albania’s Catholic Church. It had a lot to recover from: “In 1945, when the communists seized power in Albania, the Church began to be persecuted with a ferocity not seen since the first centuries of Christianity.”
The despot Enver Hoxha declared Albania the world’s first atheist state – and he hated the Church most of all. Priests were rounded up and sent to camps.
“The Catholic Cathedral in Skhodra, the centre of Catholicism in Albania, was turned into a gymnasium, and other churches were bulldozed and eliminated.” Only in utmost secrecy, away from the authorities’ watchful eye, could the faith be practised.
But Hoxha’s totalitarian state reached deep into society – a third of citizens were either imprisoned or interviewed by the secret police – and even into the home: children were told to inform on their parents at any sign of religious practice. “The most barbaric and demonic tortures were devised: priests were drowned in latrines, and a young religious novice, Maria Tucci, died after being tied in a sack with a wild animal.”
Yet in 1991, when the communist regime collapsed, “something truly remarkable occurred”. A Church re-emerged: it turned out that priests had managed to set up a secret seminary, and the laity had held on to their rosaries.
Fr Kiely recently met Fr Gjergj Simoni, “who suffered 10 years in prison for ‘writing literature against the regime’… When I asked Fr Simoni how he had survived, he pointed up and said, ‘Through the grace of God.’”
Getting community wrong and right
At LifeSite, Joseph Shaw asked whether we’d got community all wrong. “The kind of community being promoted in many parishes today,” Shaw wrote, focuses on getting people involved in parish ministries. But that could just create “an elite of clericalised laity”, in which “in reality, the ‘involved’ people are the ones leading the ministries, who have privileged access to the pastor. The more these individuals are made to feel special, the more everyone else is left out in the cold.”
But real communities, Shaw wrote, were shaped by “markers of Catholic identity and solidarity, such as all Catholics eating fish on Fridays; the distinctiveness of Catholic worship; and shared values, life commitments, and understanding of history”.
The reassuring hopefulness of priests
“When I feel panicked about the future of the country and the future of the Church,” wrote Simcha Fisher at Catholic Weekly, “I try to spend some time with priests.” You might expect them to be hopeless: priests faced “every kind of insult, assault, frustration, and spiritual infestation”. And yet “the holiest priests I know are placid. Not complacent, but full of a strange and contagious hope.”
Fisher contrasted these hopeful priests with the “celebrity fear-mongers” who drum up anxiety about the Church.
They “may not exactly be wrong, but they are wrong-headed, and they have nothing to offer but fear”.
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