The Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania (Albanian: Kisha Orthodhokse Autoqefale e Shqipërisë ) is one of the newest autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches, having only been established in the 1922 by the fathers of the Albanian Orthodoxy Fan Noli, Visarion Xhuvani, et al. Since its beginning it has had a difficult time.
The church suffered during the Second World War, and in the communist period that followed, especially after 1967 when Albania was declared an atheist state, and no public or private expression of religion was allowed.
The church has, however, seen a revival since religious freedom was restored in 1991, with more than 250 churches rebuilt or restored, and more than 100 clergy being ordained.
In 1967, inspired by China's Cultural Revolution, Hoxha closed down all churches and mosques in the country, and declared Albania the world's first (and only) atheist state. All expression of religion, public or private, was outlawed. Hundreds of priests and imams were killed or imprisoned. .
The Ecumenical Patriarch appointed Anastasios to be the Patriarchal Exarch for the Albanian Church. Bishop of Androutsa Anastasios before his appointment was dividing his time between his teaching duties at the University of Athens and the Archbishopric of Irinoupolis in Kenya, which was then going through a difficult patch.
He was named Archbishop of Tirana on 24 June 1992 and enthroned on 2 August 1992. Though at first seen by the Albanian state as a possibly dangerous Greek nationalist, Anastasios has gained respect for his charity work and now is recognised as a spiritual leader of the Albanian Orthodox Church, although many are still not comfortable having a Greek primate in their own country.
Archbishop Anastasios insisted from the start that the church that was to be revived would be an Albanian Church, but has greatly increased Greek influence in the church. Liturgical books and other literature were produced in the Albanian language between between 1910 and the 1940s. There are very few Albanian publications after his enthronement, while the Orthodox Albanians continue to use the New Testament published by the British & Foreign Bible Society in 1879. This is a dialectical translation in Gheg, while most Albanians use standard Albanian in their daily life and activity. There is now a new translation of the Bible produced by the Albanian Bible Society translated from Italian, and a New Testament translated from the Greek by the Interconfessional Bible Society of Albania.
While most parishes use Albanian, Greek is also used in the ethnically mixed areas, where Greek or Vlach may be the dominant language. The biggest problem is in the south-eastern city of Saranda, where Albanian liturgy is not allowed in the city's main church, alienating a heavy part of the city's Orthodox population.