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11 July 2001

WCC general secretary Konrad Raiser visits Albania

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Dr Konrad Raiser, left Geneva on Wednesday 11 July for a four-day visit to Albania, at the invitation of the country's autocephalous Orthodox Church. The visit will include meetings with the head of the Orthodox Church, Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durrės and All Albania.

Raiser hopes this visit will give him a "deeper understanding of the complex situation in the southern Balkans". Following his meeting with representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church in February of this year and conversations with representatives of the Macedonian Orthodox Church during the inter-religious round table on the situation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Raiser wants to explore how the WCC can continue to accompany and contribute constructively to developments in the region.

The WCC general secretary also wishes to express his "respect and admiration" to the head of the Orthodox Church, Archbishop Anastasios, for his "outstanding achievement" in rebuilding the Orthodox Church, which is undergoing a vigorous revival after years of communist oppression. "As its spiritual head, Archbishop Anastasios has also lent his services as an intermediary and peace-maker in the various crisis situations affecting the country and the region," Raiser said. Among the topics the two leaders will discuss will be the question of religious renewal in a non-religious, post-communist society.

Besides his conversations with Archbishop Anastasios and representatives of the Orthodox Church, Raiser will also talk to young people at a church summer camp, before going on to visit a monastery and a theological school.

Meetings with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the Muslim - Sunni and Bektashi - communities are also planned. Talks with the Albanian president, Rexhep Meidani, and prime minister, Ilir Metya, have yet to be confirmed, on account of the election process.

The Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania has been a member of the WCC since 1994. Archbishop Anastasios was elected to the WCC Central Committee, the organization's governing body, in 1998.

Note for editors: Photos on Albania can be found on the WCC website
A WCC video in English entitled "Living Church: Faith and Dreams in Albania" is also available. A description and order form can be found on the WCC website
A book on the subject is in preparation.

For more information contact:
the Media Relations Office
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.