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Other Eastern Catholic Communities

There are about 2,000 Belarusan Greek Catholics outside the country. The best organized communities are in London and Chicago, and a new parish was founded in Belgium in 2003.

c. Georgians: Catholic missionaries began to work in the Georgian kingdom in the 13th century, setting up small Latin communities. A Latin diocese existed in Tbilisi from 1329 to 1507. In 1626 missionaries began to work specifically with Georgian Orthodox faithful [see the Orthodox Church of Georgia]. In 1845, the Russian government, which had controlled Georgia since 1801, expelled the Catholic missionaries. But in 1848 Tsar Nicholas I agreed to the creation of a Latin diocese at Tiraspol with jurisdiction over Catholics in the vast southern regions of the empire, including Georgia.

A small community of Armenian Catholics existed in Georgia since the 18th century. Because the tsars forbade their Catholic subjects to use the Byzantine rite, and the Holy See did not promote its use among the Georgians, no organized Georgian Greek Catholic Church ever existed. In 1920 it was estimated that of 40,000 Catholics in Georgia, 32,000 were Latins and the remainder of the Armenian rite. However, a small Georgian Byzantine Catholic parish has long existed in Istanbul. Currently it is without a priest. Twin male and female religious orders “of the Immaculate Conception” were founded there in 1861, but have since died out.

After Georgia became independent again in 1991, the Catholic Church was able to function more freely, and a sizeable Armenian Catholic community began to resume a normal ecclesial life.

d. Albanians: The first community of Byzantine Catholic Albanians was a small mission along the coast of Epirus that existed from 1628 to 1765. A second group was established in about 1900 by a former Albanian Orthodox priest, Fr. George Germanos. By 1912 his community numbered about 120 and was centered in the village of Elbasan. In 1938 monks from the Italo-Albanian monastery at Grottaferrata came to assist them. An Apostolic Administration of Southern Albania was set up for the community in 1939, and was temporarily placed under the pastoral care of the Apostolic Delegate in Albania, Archbishop Leone Giovanni Nigris. By 1945 it had about 400 members, but in that year Archbishop Nigris was expelled from the country.

The group vanished after Albania was declared an atheist state in 1967. In 1996 Hil Kabashi was appointed the first bishop of the Apostolic Administration since 1945, but its faithful, which number about 3,500, are almost entirely of the Latin rite. The only exception is a small parish that is associated with a community of Basilian Sisters of St. Macrina located in Elbasan at the site of the earlier mission.

Last Modified: 26 Jun 2008

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