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American Religious Refuge From Communism: An Albanian Catholic’s Story

7:14 AM, Sep 14, 2012 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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Given the extreme antireligious hostility of Albanian communism, Sinishta’s work provided a significant record for commentators like Robert Royal, president of the Washington-based Faith and Reason Institute. Dr. Royal drew on Sinishta’s Fulfilled Promise in his authoritative volume The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, which described the Communist onslaught on the Albanian Catholics as “tantamount to obliterating Albanian culture.”

Gjon Sinishta died in 1995. He lived to see the fall of communism in Albania in 1991, preceded by an event that filled him with hope: the first open Catholic mass in the country, led in 1990 by Dom Simon Jubani, a cleric imprisoned from 1967 to 1989 (and who died last year at 84). The mass took place after 5,000 communicants gathered at Jubani’s home. Sinishta was overjoyed to see that religious ardor had not been extirpated by communism. He was also deeply concerned for the fate of Kosovo, and would doubtless have celebrated its liberation by NATO forces in 1999.

Sinishta’s name is widely known among Albanians today. He is the subject of a biographical study by Albanian author Matish Shestani. Sinishta’s work is continued in Albania by another Catholic writer, Primo Shllaku, and more.

Thanks to the USF libraries, Sinishta’s main work will now be preserved for all those concerned that the cruelties of communism not be forgotten. But above all, Gjon Sinishta and his work offer us a memorable example of America’s history as a protector of religious freedom.

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