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Jesuits News Culture Tirana: new cultural centre and bookshop inaugurated

Tirana: new cultural centre and bookshop inaugurated

On Saturday morning, Fr. Sosa visited the industrial outskirts of Tirana, the parish’s pastoral focus area. He met with two families, listened to them and blessed them. In the community, “he shared a fraternal moment about the mission in Albania: the consolations and desolations”. In the afternoon, Fr. Arturo Sosa SJ inaugurated the new cultural centre of the “Sacred Heart” parish in Tirana.

“A project that has been anticipated for years and is finally coming to fruition, born out of the need to have spaces next to the church to better carry out pastoral and social activities,” the Superior, Fr. Zef Bisha, said. In 1939, when the church was built, the Jesuits had already planned a centre for cultural and social activities, but this was never realised due to the outbreak of war.

“The church is located in the heart of Tirana,” he says, “a rapidly expanding city that has grown from 350,000 inhabitants in 1991 to more than a million today. It represents more than a quarter of Tirana’s population, 15% of whom are Catholic. The church is also frequented by people of other denominations.

Many were present. The presence and unity of the religious leaders was significant: the Imam of Albania, the world representative of the Bektashi, some Orthodox and Evangelical Christians, together with several ambassadors and representatives of the community. There was a private meeting with the Archbishop of Tirana, Archbishop Arjan Dodaj, and then the ceremony took place.

“Today is a great celebration,” Fr. Zef, highlighted “not only for us, but also for the whole city, because it will have a new centre for social, cultural and spiritual formation, and a new architectural work, I would say a work of art, which will beautify and enhance the street of Kavajës. We thank God and the sensitivity of so many benefactors and supporters”.

The centre, named after Fr. Giuseppe Valentini, one of the foremost experts of the Albanian language and culture, aims to be a place where people can meet “to promote dialogue between secular thought and the values of the Christian tradition, to educate university students with an open and critical spirit, to create a more cohesive parish community, and to listen to those who need material or psychological assistance or who seek protection from various forms of abuse”.

It is built on two floors in an L-shape form with an internal courtyard next to the church and with a similar architectural design of the church.

The library

On entering one finds the library, which aims to spread the values of the Society of Jesus to the general public.

“Before communism,” the superior recalls, “the Jesuits in Shkodra ran a publishing house and a printing press, with the intention of contributing above all to the growth and maturation of the religious culture of the Albanian people. Since the fall of communism, many people have felt the need for the growth of religious culture. Hence the decision to open the Catholic library Genizah. The commitment is to collect publications on the Christian faith, to become a cultural reference point for all those, Christians and non-Christians, who wish to know or rediscover the richness of the faith, life and culture of the Catholic Church”.

Publications in different languages will be available, organised according to the four Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society, a reading area and a children’s corner. “Together with the adjoining rooms,” he explains, “it will be a meeting place for writers, conferences and dialogue on topics related to the promotion of human dignity”. At the side of the courtyard, there is a small room intended as a listening centre. A larger room, which can be divided into two, will be used for cultural and educational activities and as a study room for university students.

The premises on the upper floor will be rented out to support the activities of the centre and the community in general. Part of this space will be used by an association that provides musical training for disadvantaged children and young people. Also on the first floor is a small office for the Jesuit organisation in Albania. The centre also has two underground floors for parking.

Fr Giuseppe Valentini SJ

He was a leading expert on the Albanian language and culture, with an extraordinary knowledge of its customs and traditions.

A teacher of literature and science at the Xaverian College and Seminary, he founded several journals, was elected a member of the Institute of Albanian Studies in Tirana in 1940 and secretary of the General Council of the Centre for Albanian Studies of the Italian Academy. He wrote many books which made him famous.

He continued his research and studies even when he was expelled from Albania. In 1950 he was appointed director of the International Centre for Albanian Studies in Palermo and resumed publishing on Albania. The publications that followed were The Law of Communities in the Albanian Legal Tradition published in 1956 and The Law of the Albanian Mountains in the Reports of the Flying Mission 1880-1932 published in 1969. Both reports describe the life of the Albanians in the mountains and the work carried out by the Fathers during the “Flying Mission”.

From 1968 to 1973 Fr Valentini published the two volumes of the Acta Albaniae Juridica and then the thirty volumes of the Acta Albaniae Veneta, saec. XIV et XV, a work that made Fr. Valentini internationally famous. Fr. Giuseppe also made a great contribution to the spiritual and intellectual formation of young people, a spiritual formator not only of clerics but also of lay Catholics and Muslims.

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