Albanian Orthodox celebrate Centennial Year in Boston

On Sunday March 9, 2008, His Grace, Nikon, Bishop of Boston, New England and the Albanian Archdiocese of the Orthodox Church in America welcomed hierarchs, clergy and faithful to Saint George Cathedral in Boston to commemorate the Centennial Year of the Archdiocese and the beginning of the apostolic mission of its founder, the late Archbishop Fan Noli.

His Beatitude, Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana, primate of the Orthodox Church of Albania attended to homage to Noli’s memory. Bishop Nikon transmitted the greetings of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman and his brother bishops of the Holy Synod on this auspicious occasion. In addition, His Grace Bishop Ilia (Katre) of Philmelion and of the Albanian Diocese under the Ecumenical Patriarchate concelebrated the liturgy, assisted by numerous clergy. Many hundreds of diocesan lay leaders and faithful gathered for worship. As March 9 was also the Sunday of Forgiveness in the Orthodox Church, the day before the beginning of Great Lent, Bishop Nikon and BISHOP Ilia issued a joint Centennial Encyclical

Archbishop Fan NoliThe first liturgy in the Albanian language was first celebrated in Boston by then priest—and later Archbishop—Fan Stylian Noli in March, 1908. It was a significant moment since his homeland had been subjugated for five centuries under Ottoman rule, during which time the use of the vernacular had been suppressed. The movement in the U.S. helped foster the independence of Albania in 1912 and the formation of an indigenous and autocephalous Albanian Orthodox Church in the homeland.

After graduating from Harvard in 1912, Noli would later become Albania’s first democratic premier in 1924. A prodigious scholar, Fan Noli would translate many liturgical books and hymnals from Greek first into Albanian, and later into English. As well, he became a noted translator of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Cervantes and Longfellow into Albanian, after returning to Boston to oversee his U.S.-based church. His doctoral thesis at Boston University on Albania’s 15th Century national hero, George Castriioti Skanderbeg became a classic, Noli’s scholarly work, entitled Beethoven and the French Revolution, for the New England Conservatory of Music was later published and received accolades from George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Mann and Jan Sibelius.

Saint George Cathedral and Noli’s connection became a symbol for democracy in the homeland when the Balkan nation began to shed its Communist past in 1990. The church’s current pastor, the Very Rev Arthur Liolin was the first clergyman to enter the formerly atheist Albania in 1988, helping to foster improved relations with the U.S. Today, Albania has emerged from its isolation and is considered one of the staunchest allies of the U.S. in the Balkans, while also seeking membership in the European Union.

The March 9th celebration welcomed guests at Anthony’s Pier 4 on Boston harbor. The proceedings were aired on the BBC and the Voice of America’s TV. The Centennial year continues with the opening of an Exhibition in Boston on May 4, and shall culminate with a Grand Gala at the World Trade Center on September 27, 2008.

A photo gallery of the Centennial Year celebration at St. George Cathedral
may be viewed here.

Centennial Encyclical

“I was glad when they said, let us enter into the House of The Lord” (Psalm 122)

The Year 2008 marks a century of ministry of the Albanian Orthodox apostolate in North America. For the first time, divine services were celebrated in Albanian in order to serve Orthodox Christians in their own language as the first parish was organized in Boston. Our first priest and, later hierarch, Theophan Stylian Noli began an extraordinary and multifaceted ministry in 1908 that served his people here and in the homeland in prodigious ways.

Over the course of the decades that followed, we have witnessed the rise of multiple jurisdictions, the intrusion of secular revolutions abroad as well as their effect on the faithful here; the intersect of political and patriotic considerations that challenged our communities and often divided them. As with all temporal struggles, we have experienced pain as well as triumphs, losses as well as epiphanies. During the last ten decades, we have learned many lessons and we have fallen short in embracing one another more fervently. Our separations have been due as much to circumstances as to ourselves. We have shared our experience with others, since we are both singular as well as similar to others. We have been passionate and reasoned, strident and flexible in seeking ways to overcome differences. Yet times of disunity have never clouded, nor prevented our predecessors from fulfilling their episcopal roles before Christ to go forth, teach, baptize and serve those entrusted to us and to our forebears.

At this time, we remember with prayer our guiding hierarchs, Bishop Theophan (Noli), Bishop Mark (Lipa), Bishop Stefan (Lasko) and the many priests and lay men and women of our shared and faithful flock who have gone before us to their rest. May their memory ever be eternal.

Despite the many challenges faced by us all, the clergy and faithful have always remained focused on their primary duty: the proclamation of the Gospel and the salvation they attain through the redemptive act of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We commemorate and celebrate this centennial moment with humility: recalling all that has gone before with the hope that we remain true to the aspirations and needs of future generations, yet to be saved, nurtured and nourished.

As those entrusted by God’s Grace to shepherd our communities, we take this opportunity to witness together and to say together with love and hope, that we are one in Our Lord, one in the Eucharist and one in the sentiment that we leave this day a better place for the generations to come. “How good it is when brothers dwell together in unity.” (Psalm 133)

On the Sunday of Forgiveness, the 9th Day of March in the Year of Our Lord, 2008 at the Cathedral of Saint George in Boston, Massachusetts.

With Archpastoral Blessings,

+NIKON Bishop of Boston, New England and the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America +ILIA Bishop of Philomelion Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America