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The Eastern Catholic Churches / The Italo-Albanian Catholic Church

The Italo-Albanian Catholic Church

Number of faithfulapprox. 56,000
Title of First Hierarchnone (two bishops reporting directly to the Holy See)
See of the First HierarchBishoprics in Lungro and Piana
Current incumbentBishop Donato Oliverio of Lungro, born 1956, in office since 2012; Bishop's See of Piana currently vacant
Bishops and dioceses2 bishops; 2 dioceses + Territorial Abbey of Grottaferrata
Liturgical languageGreek, Albanian, Italian
Presence in Austriaunknown
Presence in Germanyunknown

The rich legacy of the Byzantine tradition in southern Italy resonates with the Italo-Albanian Church. In the first millennium of the Christian era, southern Italy and Sicily had large Greek-speaking populations due to close ties with ancient Greece. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Byzantine Emperor Leo III replaced the papal jurisdiction of the region and placed southern Italy and Sicily under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The connection with Constantinople led to a heyday of Byzantine Christianity in southern Italy, which only ended with the conquest of the region by the Normans in the 11th century and the subsequent reintegration into the Latin Patriarchate. In the period that followed, Byzantine Christians were placed under Latin bishops which lead to their gradual Latinization.

However, during the 15th century the Byzantine heritage was revived when scores of Orthodox Albanians, fleeing their country from the Turkish conquerors, settled in Italy. Against the resistance of the Latin local bishops, the Roman popes supported the preservation of the Byzantine rite from the 16th century. In the 18th century, Italo-Albanian seminaries were established in Calabria and Palermo, and in the 19th century, the Byzantine rite was finally recognized as equivalent to the Latin. At the beginning of the 20th century, two dioceses for the Italo-Albanians were founded: in 1919 an eparchy for the Italian mainland based in Lungro (Calabria), in 1936 a second for the faithful in Sicily based in Piana. In 1937 the monastery of Grottaferrata, in which the Byzantine rite of Greek tradition is still maintained, was raised to the status of a territorial abbey.


  • O’Mahony, Anthony: The Italian-Albanian Church. A Study in Modern History and Contemporary Ecclesial Context, in: One in Christ 44 (2010) No. 1, 113-132.
  • O’Mahony, Anthony: Between Rome and Constantinople – The Italian-Albanian Church. A Study in Eastern Catholic History and Ecclesiology, in: International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church 8 (2008) 232-251.