Greek Orthodox Church Of Epirus
History of Epirus and
its canonical Orthodox Church
On February 17, 1914, Northern Epirus, land of Greek language and culture and of Orthodox religion, which the European powers had attributed to the Albanian state, which became independent from Turkey in 1913 due to international pressure exerted by the then Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy, proclaimed its independence in Gjirokastra and established a provisional insurrectional government. In fact, the borders of the Albanian state had been outlined by the European Powers without taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the Greeks of northern Epirus who found themselves incorporated, against their will, into the Albanian state with a Muslim majority.
This independence was recognized with the Protocol of Corfu, signed on May 5, 1914 by the representatives of Italy, Austria-Hungary, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, Albania and the revolutionary government of North Epirus. See the text of the Protocol of Corfu in “Treaties and Conventions between the Kingdom of Italy and the other States”, volume 23, published by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Some historians have erroneously spoken of a North-Epirot republic for this state, in reality the provisional government of North Epirus never proclaimed a republic. In this regard, it is good to read the proclamation of independence.
The text, written in literary Greek, is available at the Research Foundation on Northern Epirus (IBE) in Ioannina, Greece. It speaks unequivocally of independence and, in addition to the Provisional Head (Provisional Head, not President) of the State, Giorgio Cristaki Zografos is signed as Ministers by the Orthodox Metropolitans Basilio of Drinopolis, Germano of Koritsa, Spiridione of Bella and Konitsa. Reading the document in the original language is very interesting: the independent state is not qualified as δημοκρατία -democrazia, a term which in Greek means republic, but πολιτεία-politeia, which means democratic government, that is, wanted by the people. It is evident, from this linguistic choice, that the insurgents have not founded a republic and, in fact, in the text there is no mention of a republic, moreover the provisional head of state exercised more powers as a monarch than as a president. Among other things, he is defined in the text as ̀̀ηγεμών eghemòn, which means Governor, Regent, even Prince, in literary Greek, the language in which the text is written, but not President.
Patriot Giorgio Cristaki Zografos, Provisional Head-Regent, he was later proclaimed King of Epirus by the country's Orthodox metropolitans. In this regard, read Olga Nassis, degree thesis The divided Epirus and the Greek minority of Albania.
Doctor Nassis, an Italian of an Epirot father, went to Greece to carry out her research and had the opportunity to speak with Greek-Epirot exponents, who provided her with part of the documentation used for the thesis. (See also Claude Chaussier, Le Royaume d'Epire, son Historie et sa Monarchie au XXI siècle, Brussels, 2003, p. 61.) During these events, one can see what was also written by the expert on Balkan history, Honorable Michele Rallo. Filiation of the Provisional Government of North Epirus (which arose after the Greek evacuation of the territories that the protocol of Florence had assigned to the nascent Principality of Albania) the Kingdom of Epirus was proclaimed in March 1914, and its crown was attributed to noble Gheòrghios Kristaki Zogràfos; he was an exponent of that political current which in Athens was headed by King Konstantìnos I and which opposed the renunciate attitude of the government of Elefthèrios Venizèlos.
It can be concluded that the designation of Zogràfos was piloted by King Constantine, in order to balance the action of the Venizèlos government. However the denomination was not Kingdom of North Epirus, but Kingdom of Epirus. This certainly did not constitute a manifestation of hostility towards the Hellenic motherland, but the clear claim of a precise specificity in the context of the Megàli Idèa, the Panhelenist “great idea”. It was also, at the same time, a clear distancing from the Venizelist government of Athens, inclined to abandon the North Epirot territory to its destiny in order to obtain - according to British wishes - the withdrawal of Italy from the Dodecanese. Thus, the formation of the Kingdom of Epirus was greeted by the hostility of the Greek government.
On the contrary, and significantly, he could count on the unconditional support of the Orthodox Church. In fact, not only were the three Epirot Metroplitans presiding over the assembly that proclaimed the Kingdom, but it was later the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople himself who formally recognized the new State entity, and who solemnized it with the attribution of autocephaly to the Epirot Orthodox Church under the high protectorate of King Zogràfos. (For autocephaly: see Claude Chaussier's studies).
It is hardly necessary to note that, in the Balkan world, the recognition of the Orthodox Church had infinitely more value than that of this or that government, and that therefore the proclamation of the Epirot autocephaly represented a definitive sanction of the legitimacy of the Kingdom of Epirus.
Furthermore, the granting of autocephaly can be considered today as proof of the effective constitution of the Kingdom. In fact, the Orthodox religious authorities would never have granted this attribution to a simple autonomous governorship. As for the government of Athens, it will continue to look at the Kingdom of Epirus with great distrust; not only for the North Epirot question itself, but rather for the manifest will of the small Kingdom to extend its authority and its representativeness to the whole of Epirus, a region that the Greek side simply wanted to include in the national territory, without the recognition of any particularity, of any specificity and, above all, of any autonomy.
In our opinion, it was precisely the fear of an Epirot secession that also convinced King Constantine of the opportunity to circumscribe the episode, and to induce him - probably - to ask the faithful Zogràfos to step aside and forget his royal investiture. Geòrghios Kristaki Zogràfos was therefore disciplined in the shadows, he agreed to go and fill the role of Foreign Minister in the Constantinist government of Dimìtrios Gùnaris (April 1915), and there was no longer any talk of a Kingdom of Epirus, at least officially. The Kingdom, however, followed the fate of the Provisional Government of North Epirus, and waned with the military occupation of the North Epirus territory by the Albanians (November 1916). Since then and until the 1990s, the representation of the North Eirota statehood was ensured by the Orthodox Church and by the resistance movements to the Albanian communist regime, which promoted the activity of governments in exile. Finally, after a long break, the formal throne of Epirus was assigned - precisely by the resistance movements - to Prince Alèxandros (nephew of Queen Geraldina of Albania), who in 2001 abdicated in favor of an Italian nobleman, Prince Davide Pozzi Sacchi of Santa Sofia.
Jurisdictional Canons, Statutes And Canonical Guidelines Issued, Book Published
In March of 2021, Metropolitan Melchizedek had issued jurisdictional Canons, Church Statutes and other guidelines for the Holy Orthodox Autocephalous Church Of Epirus. This handy reference book is now available through booksellers or directly via Amazon under ISBN 979-8721505058:
The Holy Canons Of The Orthodox Church.
Jurisdictional Canons And Guidelines Statutes
Of The Holy Autocephalous Church Of Epirus