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Archbishop Damian (Albanian: Kryepeshkop Damian, secular name Dhimitër Kokoneshi; 1886 - October 8, 1973, Pogradec) was the primate of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania since April 1966 until February 1967 when the religion was abolished in Albania.
Kokoneshi was born in Mokër, near Pogradec in Albania, previously known as the Ottoman Empire in 1886. He descended from a family of Vlach roots. His early education included the Normal School of Monastir in 1896, and the Academy of Theology in Ioannina in 1925. On 27 November 1918, the Émigré Albanian Orthodox clerics signed a petition sent to the US President Woodrow Wilson asking support for the Autocephaly of the Albanian Church, based on the fact that Albania was an independent country. The petition was signed by Father Theofan Stilian Noli, Father Damian Kokoneshi, Father Naum Cëre, Father Vasil Marko Kondili, Father Pando Sinica, and Father Vangjel Çamçe (Agathangjeli). The petition was supported again by the Albanian Church Assembly ("Kuvendi Kishëtar") on 30 July 1919 in Boston, MA. It would be the Congress of Berat of 12 September 1922 where the Autocephaly was proclaimed de-facto leader.
Kokoneshi was well known in his native region, in 10 February 1942 he lead a delegation of Mokër leaders to a meeting with representatives of the National Liberation Movement. The meeting lead to the formation of partisan battalion in the region, and Kokoneshi (back then referred as Papa Dhimitër Kokoneshi) joined the movement. Similar to his predecessor, Paisius (Vodica), Kokoneshi and the new regime showed mutual support and respect.
In January 1948, with the rank of archpriest, he visited Moscow as a member of the Albanian Orthodox Church delegation.
In 1952, Kokoneshi was consecrated bishop of Gjirokastra. In 1958 he visited the USSR again with a delegation of the Church of Albania.
In April 1966, after the death of Archbishop Paisius, the Holy Synod of the Albanian Orthodox Church elected bishop Damian as Archbishop of Tirana and all of Albania.
He was arrested in 1967 during the beginning of the massive anti-religious campaign of that time in Albania. Religion would be abolished in Socialist People's Republic of Albania and many clerics would be arrested and imprisoned. Properties of the four religion communities would be confiscated. Many of the clerics who were spared were required to work at menial jobs.
According to Elsie, Kokoneshi died in prison in November 1973.[need quotation to verify] According to other sources, and at most likelihood, he was arrested and shortly imprisoned, and after that released to retire at his home in Pogradec where he died in October 1973. Orthodox world got to know of his death only in May 1974. The pro-communist background and the age helped the Archbishop against any severe persecution, which was common to the high level clerics those days.
- La Civiltà cattolica, Issues 3727-3732 IV (3730), Nov 19, 2005, p. 348, ISSN 0009-8167
- Llazi Tona (March 2009), Ne labirinthet e monumenteve kulturore, historike te perbotshme (in Albanian) (3 (119)), Gazeta Mokra, p. 5, retrieved 2014-01-22
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- Глава VII. Албанская Православная Церковь
- Këshilli i Qarkut Korçë: Figura të shquara të Qarkut të Korçës të dekoruara në vitin 2001-2012 (in Albanian)