Archbishop Rrok Mirdita, founding father of Albania’s religious rebirth, dies at 76

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 11, 2015 12:11

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  • Archbishop Mirdita, who was 76, suffered a stroke, according a statement by the church.

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Archbishop Rrok Mirdita. (Photo: Archives)

Archbishop Rrok Mirdita. (Photo: Archives)

TIRANA, Dec. 7 – Archbishop Rrok Mirdita, the ethnic Albanian priest from New York who became the first leader of Albanian Catholics after the fall of communism, has died at a Tirana hospital, where he was receiving treatment following a stroke. He was 76.

Mirdita served as archbishop for Tirana and Durres, Albania’s largest cities, and had been a fixture of Albanian public life for a quarter of a century

Honors and praise poured in for the late archbishop who is seen as one of the founding fathers of religious rebirth in Albania following the oppressive years of the atheist communist regime.

At St. Paul’s Cathedral, which the archbishop helped build, the country’s leaders paid tribute the late archbishop

President Bujar Nishani said Rrok Mirdita’s work had promote values of peace and brotherhood.

“Rrok Mirdita served not only the interests of Albania’s Catholics, but those of religious harmony too,” said Albania’s head of state.

Born on Sept. 28, 1939, Klezna, Kingdom of Yugoslavia (in what is today Montenegro), he served as the Catholic Archbishop of Durrës-Tirana, and the Primate of Albania.

He was ordained a priest on July 2, 1965, aged 25, and served in ethnic Albanian parishes in Bronx and Westchester counties of New York.

On Dec., 1992, aged 53, he was appointed the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tirana-Durres and consecrated on April 25, 1993 by Pope John Paul II.

On his initiative, St. Paul’s Cathedral was built in Tirana. Its triangular architecture, according to the Archbishop’s idea, symbolizes the cohabitation of Islam, Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism in Albania.

About 10 percent of the population of Albania is Catholic, according to the 2011 census, and Catholics make up the majority of the population in Albania’s two northwestern counties, Shkodra and Lezha.

Mirdita, together with the late Chief Mufti Haviz Sabri Koci of the Muslim Community of Albania, Archibishop Anastasius of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania and the late Dede Reshat Bardhi of the Sufist Bektashi Order are viewed as the founding fathers of religious rebirth in Albania, following the oppressive years of the atheist communist regime which declared religion to be illegal.  

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 11, 2015 12:11