Catholicism, Culture, Conversion: The History of the Jesuits in Albania (1841-1946). By Ines A. Murzaku. [Orientalia Christiana Analecta, 277.] (Rome:Pontificio Istituto Orientale. 2006. Pp. 282, 13 pages of photographs. Paperback.)
The book by Ines A. Murzaku, an associate professor of religious studies at the Graduate School of Theology, Seton Hall University, as well as a lecturer at the Centto per l'Europa Centro-Orientale e Balcanica of the University of Bologna, is an original and valuable contribution to the knowledge of the Balkans, in particular of the former Roman province of Illyricum. The work fills a significant gap in our understanding of the lands we can daily hear about in the media. The book, which is her doctoral dissertation prepared at Pontificio Istituto Orientale in Rome, is focused on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The contents, however, especially in the introduction, provide a wider view and set a more complex and broader historical and geographical frame for further discussion. According to her mentor, Professor Constantin Simon, S.J., her findings are "in a certain sense the first fruits of learned scholarship issuing forth from a new and free, post-Communist Albania," as well as a great success for the Pontifical Oriental Institute. Her work "represents a water-shed in the history of the institute, founded expressly to aid the suffering Christians of Eastern Europe" (p. 23). It is quite natural then that her treatise was included in the distinguished "Orientalia Christiana Analecta" series published by the Institute.
The work is a fruit of many years' study, above all of primary sources, unpublished and recorded in different writings and languages.They were scattered in different archives around Albania (Archive of the History Institute, Albanian Academy of Sciences) and in Italy, foremost in the archives of the Jesuit communities (the central archives of the Jesuit Order in Rome and in the Archive of the Venetian Province, Gallarate, Varese). An integral part of the thesis are the twenty-nine photographs taken from the Archivum Photographicum Societatisjesu, which supplement the findings of the treatise.
In the introduction, the author presents the Albanian Catholic Church through the centuries in a professionally faultless, fluent, and pleasant language. She begins with the last period of the Byzantine Empire and the imminent destruction of the Church brought about by intensive Islamization of the Ottoman Empire. …