IDEOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF BISHOP NOLI’S LITURGICAL TRANSLATIONS INTO ALBANIAN AND ENGLISH
Fan Stylian Noli (1882-1965) published around fifty books. Half of his publications are translations of liturgical texts from Greek into Albanian and English, including musical settings in both languages, a translation of the New Testament into English for liturgical use, and a complete translation of the New Testament and the Psalms into English. In addition, Noli arranged and translated into Albanian and English two catechism books.
All of this liturgical translation work of Bishop Fan Noli’s will be the subject of this paper, especially the ideological nuances that these translations contain.
After the 1940s, hundreds of articles and books were published about Noli, and many authors are still investigating different aspects of his life and work: his language, poetry, translations of world literature, historical works, politics, etc.
Noli’s Albanian translations of liturgical texts, used today in Albania and in the United States, are the only ones that exist. Even the recent liturgical publications of the Orthodox Church in Albania are mere adaptations of Noli’s original translations. His English publications of the Liturgy and the New Testament are still used by most of the Albanian Orthodox Churches in the United States and in some other parishes in different jurisdictions.
While there is a large bibliography regarding Noli’s life and secular works, it is nearly impossible to find even one work pertaining to his religious publications in either Albanian or English. Furthermore, there is no work about Noli as a bishop and leader of the Church in Albania and in the United States. There are several reasons for this gap in Noli’s bibliography.
1. After World War II, Albania was governed by a Communist regime that discouraged all references to religion, including the sacred texts of all the religions practiced in the country. Bishop Noli’s secular works, however, were taught in the Albanian schools during the dictatorship (1945 – 1991) and he was considered by the regime as a forerunner of Communism in Albania; during this period very few Albanians knew that he was a bishop. Furthermore, in 1967, Enver Hoxha’s government forbade religion by law. Consequently, up to the 1990s, Albania did not have any works on Noli’s liturgical translations or his ecclesiastic career.
2. While in Albania it was impossible to produce any work in this area, there was not the same degree of censorship of religious publications in Kosova. However, liturgical translations are a very specific field of scholarship and no Kosovar author had an interest or the background to deal with them. Most importantly, Kosova does not have an Albanian Orthodox community. Also I do not know of any studies of Noli’s liturgical translations by Albanian authors in Macedonia, which most likely shared a similar situation with Kosova.
3. Another reason for this bibliographical gap is the current situation in Albania. For nearly fifty years under the communist dictatorship, there were no Religious Studies in Albania; and for twenty-four years, there was not even a Sunday school. As a result, contemporary Albanian authors are not able to understand liturgical texts, or read liturgical Greek and Byzantine Music, and do not have the religious background with which to approach Noli’s translations, in either Albanian or English.
Most Albanian authors avoid mentioning Noli’s liturgical translations which they associate with “religion and its stereotypes,” a subject not worthy of scholarly attention. This attitude is supported by the general ridicule in Albania of the idea of Noli, a man who “did not believe in God,” being a bishop; the influence of Socialist Realism, as an institutional ideology on Albanian cultural and literary life for almost fifty years, which is is still alive today…
4. One of the few theologians to survive the dictatorship in Albania was the late Greek-Albanian Dhimitër Beduli, and he was the only scholar with the theological and liturgical background to read Bishop Noli’s ecclesiastical work. He started to publish a critical study of Noli’s liturgical translations in the early 1990s from the Orthodox point of view. But Beduli was accused by Albanian nationalists of denigrating Noli’s work and his publication was stopped.
It is difficult to speak objectively in Albania, or in Albanian, about Noli’s life and work. Many have glorified him as an anti-Greek hero and a great man of history and of letters, a man whom no Albanian would criticize, unless “they have been paid by the Greeks.” In the case of the late Beduli, this would be factually true, though he was being paid for his theological assistance to the Greek Archbishop Anastasios, not for writing articles against Bishop Noli.
5. The Albanian Orthodox Church itself has never encouraged research about Noli’s ecclesiastical career. The largest Albanian Orthodox community outside of Albania is the Albanian Archdiocese in America, under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), where Noli’s English and Albanian liturgical translations are in use. The Albanian Archdiocese is run by a single family in a business fashion: Bishop Nikon Liolin and Chancelor Fr. Arthur Liolin, both men without theological studies or intellectual curiosities.
Bishop Nikon, a light reader and a heavy smoker who speaks no word in Albanian or Greek, does not have to explain why Noli’s translations should be used in Church… The elder brother, Fr. Arthur, who speaks some Albanian but does not read Greek, believes that Noli’s English translations should be used in all Albanian parishes in the United States. This is a response to those Albanian parishes that have hired non-Albanian priests, mostly OCA converts who have found easy employment without professional standards and who prefer to use other English translations.
6. There is a well-known Albanian Community of Byzantine rite in Southern Italy, the Arbëresh or Greco-Albanese. A strong spiritual connection links the Greek Catholic Albanians of Italy with other Albanians worldwide and the original texts used for worship by them and by the Albanian Christian Orthodox are the same. Yet, Arbëresh authors make very few and obscure references to the subject of Noli.
7. A negative factor is the attack on Noli by contemporary Greek authors writing about Albania. They approach Bishop Noli with the same confrontational attitude that the Greek Church had towards Noli in the 1920s.
Professor Apostolos Glavinas of the University of Thesssaloniki is the only Greek scholar who provided any source material for those interested to finding Greek references to the Orthodox Church of Albania. He did the only significant research on the history of the Albanian Church, yet from a narrow point of view. He describes Noli at best as “an adventurer” and he states that “The Orthodox Albanians did not have the right to be separated from the Patriarchate and proclaim their Church as Autocephalous.” The traditionalist Greek professor condemns Bishop Noli because he worked for the “nationalisation” of the Orthodox Church in Albania. Glavinas, who does not read any Albanian, disavows Noli’s translations because he replaced Greek words with Albanian or foreign ones.
8. The Archbishop of Albania Anastasios Yannoulatos, a former Greek Professor of the University of Athens who was sent to Tirana by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to become the Primate of the Albanian Church, does not allow any research on Bishop Noli’s work, since he is considered an enemy of the Patriarchate and of the Church of Greece. Therefore any author working under Archbishop Anastasios’ jurisdiction (or under his political and, especially, financial influence) cannot express views about Noli that are contrary to those held by the Greek Church.
I believe that this bibliographical vacuum regarding Bishop Fan Noli’s ecclesiastical work has a political ground, which is what has motivated me to write this paper. The empty Albanian “fanolism” and nationalism on the one hand, and the anti-Albanian Greek campaign, on the other, are the main obstacles to approaching Noli’s church contribution with an objective eye.
Bishop Noli’s liturgical translations in Albanian and English are worth reading for the first time as a source of his ideology. He has influenced the political, religious and the intellectual life in Albania as few other men have in Albanian history. Nevertheless this does not prevent us from viewing Fan S. Noli in his human dimensions…
© Foti Cici
 Giussepe Ferrare “La Chiesa Ortodossa Albanese,” Oriente Christiano, Rome, XVIII (4) 1978; Peshkop Lefter Fortino, “Fan Noli dhe trashigimi arbëresh i Liturgjisë së Shenjtë të Joan Gojartit,” Flamurtari i kombit, 1982, p. 34.
 Γλαβίνα Αποστόλου, Η Ορθόδοξη Αυτοκέφαλη Εκκλησία της Αλβανίας, Θεσσαλονίκη, 1998, Δ’ έκδοση. The 4th revised edition of Apostolos Glavinas’ book has been translated from Katharevousa to Demotic.
 Ibid. p.53.
 Ibid. p.32.