Italo-Albanian Catholic Church
|Italo-Albanian Catholic Church|
|Orientation||Eastern Catholic, Byzantine Rite|
Eparch of Piana degli Abanesi
Eparch of Lungro
Abbot Ordinary of Santa Maria di Grottaferrata
|Associations||Congregation for the Oriental Churches|
|Region||Southern Italy, Sicily|
|Origin||June 2, 1784
Ordinariate of Silicia appointed
|Separated from||Eastern Orthodox Church|
|Branched from||Roman Catholic Church|
|Merge of||Roman Catholic Church|
|Ministers||82 priests, 5 deacons|
|Other name(s)|| • Byzantine-Catholic Ecclesiastic Bodies in Italy
• Italo-Albanian Greek Catholic Church
*Italo-Albanese Catholic Church of the Byzantine Tradition
• Italo-Greek-Albanian Byzantine Catholic Church
*Byzantine Italo-Greek-Albanian Catholic Church
• Italo-Greek-Albanian Catholic Church
• Italo-Albanian Byzantine Church
• Italo-Greek Catholic Church
|Official website||Eparchy of Lungro
Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi
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The Italo-Albanian Catholic Church (Italian: Chiesa cattolica italo-greca; Albanian: Kisha Bizantine Arbëreshe), also referred to as the Italo-Greek Catholic Church and other variants, is one of the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches which, together with the Latin Church, compose the Catholic Church. It is a particular Church that is autonomous (sui juris) and its members are concentrated in Southern Italy, Sicily and Malta and use the Byzantine Rite.
The Italo-Albanian Church is in communion with the Pope of Rome, and then to the Catholic Church, but follows the ritual and spiritual traditions that are common in most of the Orthodox Church. Church members are the descendants of the exiled Albanians fled to Italy in the fifteenth century under the pressure of the Turkish persecutions in Albania and the Balkans. The Albanian population in Italy has maintained over the centuries until today the language, customs and religious rites of origin.
Name of the Church
Italo-Albanian Catholics are of three ethnic groups: the original Greek-speaking inhabitants of the Greek colonies in Lower Italy and Sicily, Levantine colonies & Balkans Greeks & Albanians and those Italians who changed over to the Greek Rite since the Byzantine period. As such this particular church is also referred to by the name Italo-Greek Catholic Church, which is derived from the Italo-Greek (Italo-Græcus) demonym for the first two group of Greeks in Italy. In the fifteenth century, the original Italo-Greeks were gradually being Latinized but through an influx of Albanians of the Byzantine Rite, the church began to once again flourish. As a result, it is referred to as Italo-Albanian Catholic Church or as the Italo-Albanian Greek Catholic Church. In these names, "Greek" refers to the Byzantine Rite and the "Italo-" and "Albanian" components refer to the nationalities and languages used in the liturgy, although Greek is the historical liturgical language.
It is difficult to say whether the Byzantine (Greek) Rite was followed in any diocese of Southern Italy or Sicily before the eighth century. But the gradual hellenization of those regions, as well as the founding of numerous Greek monasteries, must have affected liturgical life. The spread of Greek monasticism in Italy received a strong impulse from the Rashidun Caliphate invasion of Levant and Egypt, and later from the ban on religious images or icons. The monks naturally retained their rite, and as the bishops were not infrequently chosen from their number, the diocesan liturgy, under favourable conditions, could easily be changed, especially since the Lombard occupation of the inland regions of Southern Italy cut off the Greeks in the South from communication with the Latin Church.
In Italy, before the arrival of the Albanians, was the presence of numerous Byzantine and Eastern Orthodox Church. But already in 1300, were almost all Latinized last Byzantine stronghold in Italy. The arrival of the Albanians reported the Eastern Christian faith in the West, giving lifeblood to the Italo-Greek spirituality now dying.
When, in 726, Leo III the Isaurian, by a stroke of his pen, withdrew Southern Italy from the patriarchal jurisdiction of Rome and gave it to the Patriarch of Constantinople, the process of hellenization became more rapid; it received a further impulse when, on account of the Muslim occupation of Sicily, by Greeks and hellenized Sicilians repaired to Calabria and Apulia. Still it was not rapid enough to suit the Byzantine emperors, who feared lest those regions should again fall under the influence of the West, like the Duchy of Rome and the Exarchate of Ravenna. Finally, after the Saxon emperors had made a formidable attempt to drive the Greeks from the peninsula, Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas and the Patriarch Polyeuctos made it obligatory on the bishops, in 968, to adopt the Byzantine Rite. This order aroused lively opposition in some quarters, as at Bari, under Bishop Giovanni. Nor was it executed in other places immediately and universally. Cassano and Taranto, for instance, are said to have always maintained the Latin Rite. At Trani, in 983, Bishop Rodostamo was allowed to retain the Latin Rite, as a reward for aiding in the surrender of the city to the Greeks. About the middle of the eleventh century, however, Bishop Giovanni II joined the schism of Constantinople Patriarch Michael I Cerularius. In every diocese there were always some churches which never forsook the Latin Rite; on the other hand, long after the restoration of that rite, there remained Greek churches with native Greek clergy.
The restoration of the Latin Rite began with the Norman conquest in the eleventh century, especially in the first period of the conquest, when Norman ecclesiastics were appointed bishops. Another potent factor was the reform of Pope Gregory VII, who in his efforts to repress marriage among the Latin clergy found no small obstacle in the example of the Greek priests. However, he and his successors recognized the Byzantine Rite and discipline wherever it was in legitimate possession. Moreover, the Latin bishops ordained the Greek as well as the Latin clergy. In the course of time the Norman princes gained the affection of their Greek subjects by respecting their rite, which had a strong support in the numerous Basilian monasteries (in the fifteenth century there were still seven of them in the Archdiocese of Rossano alone). The latinization of the dioceses was complete in the sixteenth century. Among those which held out longest for the Byzantine Rite were Acerenza (and perhaps Gravina), 1302; Gerace, 1467; Oppido, 1472 (when it was temporarily united to Gerace); Rossano, 1460; Gallipoli, 1513; Bova (to the time of Gregory XIII), etc. But even after that time many Greek priests remained in some dioceses. In that of Otranto, in 1583, there were still two hundred Greek priests, nearly all native. At Reggio, Calabria, Count Ruggiero in 1092 had given the Greeks the church of S. Maria della Cattolica, whose clergy had a Protopope, exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop; this was the case until 1611. In 1695 there were in the same dioceses fifty-nine Greek priests; after thirty years there was only one. Rossano still had a Greek clergy in the seventeenth century. The few native Greek priests were afterwards absorbed in the tide of immigration (see below). Of the Basilian monasteries the only one left is that of Grottaferrata, near Rome. In Sicily the latinization was, for two reasons, accomplished more easily and radically. First, during the rule of the Muslim most of the dioceses were left without bishops, so that the installation of Latin bishops encountered no difficulty; secondly, the Normans had come as liberators, and not as conquerors.
Important Greek colonies, founded chiefly for commercial reasons, were located at Venice, Ancona (where they obtained from Clement VII and Paul III the church of S. Anna, which they lost in 1833, having been declared schismatical in 1797), Bari, Lecce (where, even in the nineteenth century, in the church of S. Nicola, Divine worship was carried on in the Greek tongue, though in the Latin Rite), Naples (where they have the church of SS. Pietro e Paolo, erected in 1526 by Tommaso Paleologo Assagni), Leghorn (where they have the church of the Annunziata, 1607).
In Rome, where Greek was the official language of the Church until the third century, there was always a large colony observing the Greek Rite. From the end of the sixth century until the ninth and tenth there were several Greek monasteries among which were Cella Nova, near S. Saba; S. Erasmo; San Silvestro in Capite; the monastery next to Santa Maria Antiqua at the foot of the Palatine. Like other nations, the Greeks before the year 1000 had their own schola at Rome. It was near the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Even in the pontifical liturgy - at least on some occasions - a few of the chanted passages were in Greek: the custom of singing the Epistle and Gospel in both Latin and Greek dates from that period.
Besides the first large emigration of Albanians which took place between 1467 and 1470, after the death of the celebrated George Castriota Scanderbeg (when his daughter, who had become the Princess of Bisignano, invited her countrymen to the Kingdom of Naples), there were two others, one under Ottoman Empire Sultan Selim II (1566–1574), directed to the ports along the Adriatic Sea and to Livorno; the other about 1740. In the course of time, owing to assimilation with the surrounding population, the number of these Italo-Greeks diminished, and not a few of their villages became entirely Latin.
To educate the clergy of these Greeks, Pope Gregory XIII founded in 1577 at Rome the Greek College of St. Athanasius, which served also for the Greek Catholics of the East and for the Ruthenians, until a special college was instituted for the latter purpose by Pope Leo XIII. Among the alumni of St. Athanasius was the celebrated Leo Allatius. Another Greek-Byzantine ecclesiastical college was founded at Piana degli Albanesi in 1715 by P. Giorgio Guzzetta, founder of an Oratory of celibate Greek-Byzantine clergy. At Firmo the seminary of SS. Pietro e Paolo existed from 1663, erected by the Propaganda to supply priests for Albania. It was suppressed in 1746. Finally Pope Clement XII, in 1736, founded the Corsini College in the ancient Abbey of San Benedetto Ullano in the charge of a resident bishop or archbishop of the Greek Rite. Later it was transferred in 1794 to San Demetrio Corone, in the ancient Basilian monastery of S. Adriano. Since 1849, however, and especially since 1860, this college has lost its ecclesiastical character and is now secularized.
The Italo-Greeks are subject to the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishops; several times, but in vain, they have sought exemption. However, the popes have long wished them to have a titular archbishop, resident in Rome, for the ordination of their priests, and to lend splendour to Divine service. The first of these was Gabriele, titular Archbishop of Mitylene. Naturally, the position of a people whose rite and discipline differed in many points from those of the surrounding population, required special legislation. Pope Benedict XIV, in the Bull "Etsi pastoralis" (1742), collected, co-ordinated, and completed the various enactments of his predecessors, and this Bull is still the law.
On February 6, 1784, the Ordinariate of the Albanians in Sicily was created, with Bishop Papàs Giorgio Stassi, titular Bishop of Lampsacus, first holding that position. By 1909, a Ordinary for the Greeks of Calabria was residing at Naples. The twentieth century saw the foundation in 1919 of the Eparchy of Lungro in Calabria, which serves Byzantine-Rite Albanians in mainland Italy, and on October 26, 1937 of the Eparchy of Piana dei Greci for those in Sicily promoted from the Ordinariate of Sicilia. One month before the foundation of the Eparchy of Piana dei Greci in 1937, the Byzantine-Rite Monastery of Saint Mary of Grottaferrata, not far from Rome, was given the status of a territorial abbacy, separating it from the jurisdiction of the local bishop. In October 1940, the three ordinaries held an inter-eparchial synod for preserving their Byzantine traditions and unity with an Orthodox Church of Albania observation delegation. On October 25, 1941, Eparchy of Piana dei Greci was renamed as Eparchy of Piana degli Abanesi /Eparhia e Horës së Arbëreshëvet.
In 2004 & 2005, a second inter-eparchial synod was held in three sessions approving 10 documents for "the synod’s theological and pastoral context, the use of Scripture, catechesis, liturgy, formation of clergy, canon law, ecumenical and interreligious relations, relations with other Eastern Catholic Churches, re-evangelization and mission." Submitted to the Holy See and were still in dialogue as of Mid-2007 in regards to their promulgation.
There are three ecclesiastical jurisdictions composing the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church:
- Eparchy of Lungro
- Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi
- Territorial Abbacy of Santa Maria of Grottaferrata
The eparchies themselves have not been organized as a Metropolitan church, and remain on an equal footing, directly subject to the Holy See. These eparchies allow the ordination of married men as priests, and they also govern a few Latin Rite parishes within the respective territories of the eparchies.
Outside of Italy, there are two Italo-Greek communities in the United States: Our Lady of Wisdom Church in Las Vegas, under the jurisdiction of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix, and Italo-Greek Catholic Mission of Our Lady of Grace in New York, under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.
As of 2010, the Church's membership was estimated at approximately 61,000 faithful, with two bishops, 45 parishes, 82 priests, 5 deacons, and 207 religious brothers and sisters.
Territorial Abbacy of Saint Mary of Grottaferrata
|Territorial Abbacy of Saint Mary of Grottaferrata
Beatissimæ Mariæ Cryptæferratæ 
Santa Maria di Grottaferrata
The cathedral of Exarchial Monastery of St. Mary of Grottaferrata
|Ecclesiastical province||Holy See|
|Denomination||Italo-Albanian Catholic Church|
|Cathedral||Exarchial Monastery of St. Mary of Grottaferrata|
|Patron saint||Nilo da Rossano|
|Abbot Ordinary||Sede Vacante|
|Emeritus Bishops||Emiliano Fabbricatore|
The Territorial Abbacy of Santa Maria of Grottaferrata is the only Italian Basilian Order of Grottaferrata monastery and a territorial abbacy and the only remnant of the once-flourishing Italo-Greek monastic tradition. The Italo-Albanian Basilian Order of Grottaferrata is the religious order of the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church. It is located in Grottaferrata, Rome, Lazio, Italy. The Abbott Ordinary Emiliano Fabbricatore is also the Superior General of Italian Basilian Order of Grottaferrata.
It was founded in 1004 by St. Nilus of Rossano, a monk of Greek descent from Calabria, and has remained in continuous operation since then. It is the only one of the Italo-Greek monasteries that has survived. Most of them gradually fell into decadence, and the final blow came with their being taken over by the Kingdom of Italy when it secularized religious orders in 1866. Only the Grottaferrata monastery, considered a national monument, was allowed to continue, with the monks as its guardians. In the course of time, the civil authorities have allowed them increasing independence.
In 1880 the Holy See ordered the liturgy of the monastery to be purged of the Latin elements that had been introduced over the centuries. Vocations were sought no longer from the general Italian population, but instead chiefly among Italo-Albanians, and the monks set up new monasteries in Sicily and Calabria. On November 1, 1571, the Italian Basilian Order of Grottaferrata was established. On September 26, 1937, the Abby was made a Territorial abbacy.
- Albanian Byzantine Catholic Church
- Albanian Orthodox Church
- Griko people
- Arbëreshë people
- Byzantine Rite
- Oriente Cattolico (Vatican City: The Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Churches, 1974)
- Annuario Pontificio
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- "The Italo-Albanian Catholic Church," in The Eastern Christian Churches: A Brief Survey, by Ronald Roberson, on the CNEWA website.