Letter to His Reverend Eminence, Cardinal Francis Spellman – 10.5.1949

This letter was written to his Reverend Eminence. Although there is no name on this letter, it is addressed to a ‘powerful son’ of the  Great America and referred to the recipient as Reverend Eminence.

Because of the time frame of this letter and the contents one can deduct that the recipient is most likely Cardinal, Archbishop Francis Joseph Spellman, who was nominated as such and served New York from 1946-1967.

(English Translation follows)


Most Reverend Eminence,

do not think it strange if you see a native son of small Albania confidently addressing you; a small but very ancient nation whose troubled history is not only little known but often misunderstood. Set over the centuries on the spiritual borders between east and west, it functioned with untamed courage to be carved on the cliffs of a world from which ominous dark forces, unleashed from remote Asian steppes, pressed towards Europe. It was crushed five centuries ago with the death of our hero Skanderbeg and again five years ago when the waves of Panslavism broke every stronghold in Eastern Europe, but it did not lose its ancestral characteristics and I will not despair for the future. One hundred and thirty thousand Catholics are among the Albanians who, with miraculous tenacity while maintaining the religion of Rome, have maintained strong ties with the West. Over the centuries my ancestors were faced with the grave tragic task of acting as leaders of the fearless Catholic bloodlines and the painful chronicles of my family are still fresh from the recent blood shed.

My firstborn Mark, thirty years old, in August 19471, fell fighting against the red government in my Mirdizia and my third son Alessandro followed his fate in September 19482. They never bowed to the bloody communist regime, created, supported and directed by the emissaries of Moscow, and they wanted, with the sacrifice of their young lives, affirm the right to live and die as free men and to profess and practice freely the religion preserved intact with epic struggles in our hearts from father to son.

But all Albanian Catholicism has been severely affected. Large are, for a numerically small nation, the number of victims, but the loss appears much more serious if one takes into account the quality of them.

The most noteworthy for political and cultural social merits have been suppressed. Of the 120 priests who made up our Catholic clergy in 1943; 50 were violently eliminated, including an archbishop and two bishops; 30 languishing in horrible prisons and forced labor camps; the rest lives scattered, trying to keep the flame of faith alive with the constant danger of life. The behavior of the Albanian Catholic clergy in the midst of torture and gallows remains legendary in Albania, which is also a land where strong people are not in short supply. Yet, all this is very little known in the western world and unfortunately also in Catholic countries not far from Albania.

Don’t be surprised, Most Reverend Eminence, if I dare to turn to you, a powerful son of the Great America, who cannot remain insensitive to the misfortunes of a small people yearning for freedom, but at the same time prince of that Church that unites us in the same flame and in the same aspirations. The other Albanians make relief appeals to other authorities and other American bodies, I, on behalf of the Catholics of Albania direct my plea for above all moral support from you, who is also our prince in the name of Christ. One of your authoritative words spoken at the right time may perhaps decide the fate of our unfortunate country which, torn in mind and flesh by the Muscovite tyranny, runs the risk, freeing itself of it, of falling into other deadly dangers looming north and south of Albania. We want to return independent from the West and not become appendages to other Balkan problems.

I know perfectly well that you, the Most Reverend Eminence, are busy and concerned with far more important problems than this one of the tiny Albanian nation and the one hundred and thirty thousand Catholics included in it. Yet, I do not despair that my anguished invitation to defend and support us can move your generous heart and persuade you to dedicate a single hour of your precious time to us and to our undeserved sufferings and advise us on how to alleviate them, by talking about Albania and her immense desire from freedom to those who can facilitate their return to the harmony of the western people.

As for us Catholics, we turn to you, Most Reverend Eminence, today in the harsh contingencies of this prolonged exile and we hope for a better tomorrow when we return to our homeland and together with the surviving brothers we will strive to heal the wounds and rebuild our schools and our religious institutions.

Perhaps this humble appeal of mine seems to you an act of audacity. I justify it to You with the blood that my family has shed today, as in the centuries, for the common Faith that embraces us and above all the desire to make myself useful, as it is my duty, to the Catholics of Albania who honor me with their trust and put much hope in my too modest work.

Allow me to report here some personalities of the Clergy who can give you comprehensive information on today’s Albanian situation: S.E. Archbishop G.B. Nigris of Propaganda Fide and P. Martegani of the Civilta Cattolica, as well as the Vatican Secretary of State.

Also, Msgr. Ildebrando Antoniutti, Apostolic Delegate in Canada, knows me and matters relating to Albania.

Accept, Most Reverend Eminence, the sincere expression of my deep devotion.

Gjon Marka Gjoni
Prince of the Mirditi
Rome 5 October, 1949
Via Tevere 31

1Correction-June 1946

2Correction – August 1947