Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana is the primate of the Orthodox Church of Albania and one of the most passionate advocates for mission work in the Orthodox Church today.
The brief YouTube documentary above gives you some sense of his ministry and accomplishments. As a young theologian and then clergyman, he organized numerous missionary and humanitarian efforts. He served as a bishop in Africa, founding schools, ordaining African clergy, and overseeing a significant expansion in the Orthodox Church’s effectiveness and vitality.
Then, he came to Albania. Philip Jenkins, professor of history at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion, wrote in a recent article that the Archbishop’s tenure in Albania represents one of the greatest success stories of any religious leader in the modern-day Balkans. Here’s Jenkins:
When he took office in 1992 he faced a nightmare situation. His see had been vacant since 1973, and virtually all its institutions formally closed. Albanian Orthodoxy survived in a diasporic existence, with its overseas capital in Boston. The country’s Orthodox Church, claiming the loyalty of perhaps 15 percent of the population, faced extinction.
First and foremost, Anastasios is a polymath scholar, with interests in history, linguistics, and comparative religion, but it is difficult to imagine any religious leader accomplishing so much practical real-world good in such a short time. In 20 years he reorganized several hundred parishes, a process that often demanded whole new buildings. Monasteries flourish once more. The archbishop restored the theological academy and seminary and ordained hundreds of new priests. A whole range of Orthodox media now operate, including newspapers and radio stations.
The church’s social outreach and charitable works have been spectacular. The results include new schools and medical clinics, which serve people without regard to religious affiliation. When the wars in former Yugoslavia drove thousands of refugees into Albania, the Orthodox Church took the lead in humanitarian efforts, with Muslims the main beneficiaries. Anastasios works for harmony with the country’s other faiths, including its majority Muslim population and its crucial Sufi orders.
It’s an amazing story — one that hopefully can be emulated throughout the Church.
Watch the documentary on Archbishop Anastasios and let us know what you think of his ministry.
Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.