Archbishop Vinzenz Nikolaus Prennushi of Tirana-Durres, who fell victim to the oppressive Communist dictatorship, will be beatified as a martyr.
(Rome / Tirana) The former Archbishop of Durazzo, Msgr. Vincent Nicholas (Vincenc Kolë) Prennushi is to be beatified along with 37 companions this upcoming November 5th. The archbishop of the Franciscan Order was tortured to death in 1949 by the Co
mmunist authorities in Albania.
In 1944 in the wake of World War II, Albania was taken over by the Communists.Within a short time the Chinese Communist Party established a dictatorship under the leadership of Enver Hoxha on the Stalinist model. In 1947 the Catholic Archbishop Prennushi of Durazzo (today, the Archdiocese Tirana-Durres) was arrested as an "enemy of the people".
Communists Tortured Archbishop Death
Hoxha demanded the Archbishop turn away from Rome and the submit to the Communist regime. Msgr. Prennushi was expected to give his name for the establishment of a National Church obedient to the regime. Despite severe torture, the archbishop refused until he succumbed to the consequences of severe beatings on 19 March 1949.
This coming November 5th, the Skutari born Msgr. Prennushi, who was born on September 4, 1885, along with 37 companions, will be beatified as martyrs in the square in front of St. Stephen's Cathedral of his birthplace, as Pope Francis announced in a letter to the Albanian Bishops. During the beatification process, the martyrdom of 38 Catholics was established and recognized by the pope.
Archbishop Prennushi entered the Franciscan order in 1900. He studied theology in Salzburg, where he also professed perpetual vows and was ordained in Innsbruck in 1908 as a priest.
Eliminated Church hierarchy
With the violent death of Archbishop Prennushi, the diocese of Tirana-Durres remained, like the other Albanian diocese, vacant until the end of the communist dictatorship. Only in December 1992 was a new Chief Shepherd appointed and enthroned after more than 43 years, with Archbishop Rrok Kola Mirdita. Archbishop Mirdita died on 7th December of a stroke. A successor has not yet been appointed.
The beatification rite will be presided over by Cardinal Angelo Amato. The canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta is foreseen for September, who was also Albanian.
With Archbishop Prennushi. another bishop, Msgr. Frano Gjini is to be beatified by Lezha (Alessio). Bishop Lezha fell on March 8, 1948, a victim of the communist regime.
Ten percent of Catholics
The other new saints are priests and members of various religious orders, Jesuits, Franciscans, diocesan priests and four lay people, three men and a woman. Almost all the new martyrs are Albanians, two are German, a Jesuit was Italian, plus some Croatian priests. "The missionaries and the Church in Albania had testified to their love for Christ to martyrdom under torture."
The grave of Archbishop Prennuschi is located in St. Lucia Cathedral of Durres.
A good ten percent of Albanians profess the Catholic faith. Once at the beginning of the communist dictatorship, the Catholic hierarchy was eliminated and new appointments to diocese were prevented by Rome, and the full religious prohibition took place in 1967. Only around 20 Catholic priests survived the communist tyranny in the underground or in jail.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: Vatican Radio / ReligionenLibertad
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