Albanian-American Community of Illinois/
Address: PO BOX 34575, Chicago, IL 60634 |Phone: (312) 662-3892 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
January 23, 2014/
The Albanian American Community of Illinois (AACI) demands the resignation of Yannoulatos/
We, representatives of Albanians of Illinois are raising a matter of great concern to Albanians in Illinois, and, we believe, to fellow Albanians everywhere. It is our understanding from press reports that Archbishop Anastasios will be bestowed an honorary degree by Fordham University. Yannoulatos is a Greek citizen who has been involved in Albania’s political affairs, while serving Greek interests. Yannoulatos now serves as Archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Albania. The Albanian American Community in Illinois is concerned by Fordham University’s “honoris causa” conferral ceremony to Anastasios Yannulatos and demands his resignation.
Albania is a multi-religious country and is notably the birthplace of Mother Teresa, a very important figure for worldwide peace. Although Orthodox Albanians make up only 20% of Albania’s population, Albanians worldwide are equally proud of Fan S. Noli, the founder of the Independent Albanian Autocephalous Church. Fan Noli is also a prominent national figure for Albanians. The history of the Albanian nation indicates that for thousands of years, we have not been assimilated, surviving from various occupations and cultures. Unfortunately, the history of orthodoxy in Albania, is washed with blood and martyrdom of Albanians fighting to keep the Albanian language in Albanian churches. Many priests were murdered in the early 20th century because they spread the gospel in Albanian. For centuries Albanians as a compact ethnic group, have genuinely respected all religious forms and sects; this is reflected in the good relations that Albanians have with each other. These specifics are also indicated in the accounts of U.S. and British travelers who traveled through Albania since the 1800’s. In short, Albanians know well to live in harmony with other Albanians regardless of their religious faiths.
Nearly 100 years ago, thanks to the religious freedoms in United States of America, many Albanian immigrants established and founded the first Albanian Orthodox Institution in Boston which was opposed to being dependent on the Greek Church. The Bylaws of the Independent Albanian Orthodox Church clearly require that its bishop and leaders be of “Albanian blood and origin”. In 1991, Yannulatos, was temporarily tasked with the recovery and the preparation of a new Albanian Archbishop for the recovering Albanian Church. The task of preparing the successor was to educate and help the next Albanian bishop to run. 23 years have passed and Anastasios Yannoulatos, a Greek bishop and a proclaimed super-intellectual, has failed to adequately prepare an Albanian bishop for his replacement.
Yannoulatos’ anti-Albanian attitudes have been observed ever since he occupied the seat of the Independent Albanian Orthodox Church in the early 1990s. This Church was later renamed Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania – perhaps to indicate that is no longer in possession by Albanians. Since 1991, the Albanian Orthodox Church has been taken over by this Greek prelate who has increasingly caused a rift and discontent among Albanians. Anastasios speaks about resurrection while his Church administration has appropriated monuments of historic and national importance for Albanians and replaced them by building Greek cemeteries in Albania.
Albania has always been a faithful, pro-American ally and unquestionably, Albanians worldwide continue to be grateful to the United States as the champion of democracy and human rights in the world. Greece
and Archbishop Anastasios have not recognized yet Kosova as an independent country and it has not even recognized the genocide against Albanians of Chameria. Historically, the Greek Church did not agree to hold masses in the Albanian language and this is reflected today, as the Albanian Cham Orthodox minority is not officially recognized. For Albanians, Anastasios’ mission is seen as the furtherance of Greek chauvinistic politics through religious means. Albanians have accepted many charities and gifts by Yanulatos and are very thankful. Yet the Church administration does not disclose the funding sources. Some have demanded that a governmental financial audit take place to investigate his funding sources, however it has been said that he is very politically connected in Albania.
Plenty of evidence exists which implicates Yanoulatos as a political agent who serves Greek interests. Under his 23-year tenure, the Church has purchased hundreds of acres of land in southern Albania and has exhumed bodies from secular cemeteries. In 1914 and 1940, Greek soldiers occupied and massacred unarmed southern Albanian villagers. Yanoulatos’ religious enterprise has rebuilt new cemeteries in Albania in the same sites, by claiming them to belong to the same Greek soldiers who massacred Albanians. The purposes of the above Anti-Albanian activities are clear to us, to create a sense of Greek omnipresence in Albanian lands and disrupt the religious harmony that exists in Albania. A few of his reportedly anti-Albanian activities include:
He attempted to take away lands from public Albanian schools in Elbasan and institutions elsewhere to build more churches and Greek schools
He has refused to take part in interfaith prayers for the victims of the Greek Genocide in Chameria.
He has not released any sources of funding for building many churches and Greek schools in Albania.
He has organized masses in Albania and Greece where it was openly advocated for the annexation of Albanian territories to Greece as “Northern Epirus”.
In the past several months, Yannoulatos has instigated interreligious hatred and has provoked hate against Albanians; Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn members like Christos Pappas and Greek extremist groups have praised Yannoulatos as their spiritual leader.
In addition, “His Beatitude” continuously makes false claims that Orthodox Albanian citizens are persecuted and attacked. Unsurprisingly, since Yanoulatos’ ascent to the role of Archbishop, a growing sense of distrust exists now between Albanians and Greeks. Today there are over 3 million Greek citizens of Albanian ancestry who live, work, and prosper in Greece. Albanians have very positive relations with the Albanians of Greece, Arbëresh/ Arvanites, and Chams and want to maintain them as such.
Many doctorates and honoris causa degrees in philology, literature, etc. have been awarded to Yanoulatos in several countries during his travels abroad. We hope that Yanoulatos, this ostentatious Greek bishop who boasts about his international fame, take some lessons of humility and warm-heartedness from figures like Mother Teresa and his Holiness Dalai Lama. Simply put, this controversial Greek prelate in Albania is viewed as an agent representing the interests of Greece worldwide and not those of Albanians. In short, Yanoulatos’ presence in Albania is not approved by the Albanian American Community in Illinois and not worthy of any recognition as he has created more discontent among Albanians of all denominations present in Albania.
To be clear, this statement is not to be taken as an attack against Greek people or Orthodoxy. This written statement is testimony that the Albanian people will stand in protest to any malevolent and chauvinistic intentions that aim to cause any divergence among Albanians and their neighbors in the Balkans. Albanians love, respect, and accept all people of the different faiths or lack thereof, as we bind ourselves under the honorable code of the Albanian Besa. We strongly oppose Yannoulatos’ presence in Albania and demand his immediate departure from The Albanian Orthodox Church.
Albanian American Community of Illinois