Video of Albanian priest blessing sports betting shop goes viral

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 1, 2018 13:00

Story Highlights

  • In a reaction after the video went viral, the priest said his blessing had been misinterpreted and that he did not bless gamblers, but the business and investment under a ritual meant to bring good luck and prosperity

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TIRANA, Feb. 1 – A video featuring an Albanian Orthodox priest blessing a sports betting shop in the city of Korça, southeastern Albania, went viral this week in Albania, causing hilarity among viewers and being misinterpreted as a gamblers’ blessing.

Spiro Katundi, a 63-year-old priest was shown this week in a video, singing prayers and blessing a sports betting shop among about a dozen of young men as football matches and game results and betting odds aired live on the bar’s monitors, leaving viewers stunned about the message and meaning of the blessing at a time when all major religions preach against gambling.

In a reaction after the video went viral, the priest said his blessing had been misinterpreted and that he did not bless gamblers, but the business and investment under a ritual meant to bring good luck and prosperity.

“I don’t go to sports betting to bless gamblers, I only go to bless their business as long as they use it for good purposes,” the priest told a local TV.

“The misinterpretation is a result of lack of knowledge. That’s only a blessing for goodness and prosperity. We only convey God’s blessing,” he added.

According to him, the Orthodox Church has a number of blessing rituals involving buildings that start with the laying of foundations.

“We respond to people for the investment they have made and give our blessing so that they prosper. Then, whoever uses the business for good purposes, may they prosper, otherwise only God knows what can happen to them,” he added.

The 63-year-old priest used to be part of the comedy theatre in Korça under communism when Albania banned religion for more than two decades before deciding to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an Orthodox priest in the early 1990s when the communist regime collapsed and freedom of religion was restored.

Gambling is a booming business in Albania and varies from casinos to sports betting. Thousands of betting shops are scattered across the country, with Albanians estimated to spend more than €100 million annually. A gambling law, which has been in force for several years, bans people under 18 from entering betting shops. Regardless, teenagers are often seen there.

Albania is a secular country that has a long tradition of religious tolerance and coexistence that is praised internationally as an example to be followed.

According to the latest 2011 census, Sunni Muslims constitute nearly 57 percent of the population, Roman Catholics 10 percent, Orthodox Christians nearly 7 percent, and the Bektashi, a form of Shia Sufism, 2 percent. The rest belong to either smaller groups or are non-religious.

The Orthodox Church rejects the census numbers as underrepresented, claiming that about a quarter of Albania’s population is Orthodox Christian.

Surveys show residents of Albania to be among Europe’s least religious people in terms of practicing any of the country’s main four faiths.

In 1967, religious practices were officially banned in then communist Albania, making the country the first and only constitutionally atheist state to ever exist. Religious activities resumed just before the fall of communism in 1990.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 1, 2018 13:00