After a year of restoration work, the Monastery of the Poor Clares in Albania, called “St. Clare’s,” was inaugurated on October 29, 2005.
The monastery is in the heart of the city of Scutari, in the north of Albania. The building was the seminary of the Friars Minor, but it was taken over in 1946 by the Communist Regime and made the headquarters of the Albanian political police. It became the operative center of brutal, political, religious persecution.
After the fall of the Communists, the structure continued to house the police and was used as a city prison. Finally, in 1997, it was given back to its old owners, the Friars Minor.
After long restoration, the building was given to the Poor Clares in 2005. The new community is made up of Poor Clares from Albania and Italy.
The monastery rises up over one of the places of martyrdom in Albania: up to some 10 years ago, men and women suffered torture for the faith in this place. From the same place today, the Poor Clares praise God in prayer and witness and represent a sign of hope for a people which, through great effort and intense suffering, are trying to reconstruct their difficult history.
In the work of restructuring the old building, the Friars Minor wished to preserve one wing of the prison in which thousands of people had been detained and hundreds of priests and religious martyred. Signs and symbols of the faith left by the prisoners remain on the walls of the cells.
In addition, the setting up of a memorial museum is planned to provide, through the writings and images, future generations with knowledge of the crimes committed against the faithful of Albania by the dictatorship.The Secular Franciscans of Scutari, Albania, have, therefore, decided to open the doors of the old prison twice a week to all who wish to know about the atrocities of the religious persecution.
–From Around the Province, the weekly newsletter of the Sacred Heart Province, edited by Benet Fonck, OFM.