The Founding Bishop and the Communist Dictator
Theophan (Fan) Noli founded the Albanian Orthodox Church, served as Prime Minister for a short period in the pre-Zogian Albanian government, and was one of the founders of Vatra – the advocacy organization of Albanians abroad.
Depending on who is keeping score, these may have been the least of his accomplishments. He was a polyglot, and translated classical literature like Cervantes into Albanian. He wrote books of philosophy in Albanian and English. He translated church liturgies from Greek into Albanian. And then he translated those liturgies into English.
Noli’s beliefs always included more emphasis on a united Albania than pitting Albania’s religions against each other as they were in other Balkan nations. To this end, he seemed suspiciously supportive of the communist dictator Enver Hoxha, who was fairly benign to him personally, but ruthlessly banned all expressions of religion in his Albania. Noli’s friendliness to Hoxha was fruitless in gaining traction for religion in the country, but it did get him the nickname “The Red Bishop.“
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