By Fatjona Mejdini
The Roman Catholic archbishop of Shkoder-Pult in northern Albania said he will not allow any more church wedding ceremonies on Sundays because he wants believers to attend Mass instead.
The archbishop of Shkoder-Pult, Angelo Massafra, announced on Thursday that from January 1, he will not allow people to get married on Sundays, causing surprise and some dismay among Catholics in Albania.
Artur Jaku, a priest in Shkodra, told Albanian Public Television, RTSH that the most important reason was that on Sundays, Catholics should go to Mass.
“A traditional Sunday for us Catholics is to attend Mass, and with weddings celebrations on the same day, the couple and all their family and friends could not attend,” Jaku said.
Another reason was the fact that every Sunday in summer months in the main Catholic cathedral, 15 to 20 couples take their wedding vows.
“It’s really a large number to be given the care they deserve during the ceremony,” Jaku said.
He also suggested that the Sunday weddings in church are a custom that Catholic Albanians only embraced at the beginning of the 1990s.
“Celebrating a marriage in church on Sundays is a new thing; Albanians in the past used to do it on Mondays. Now they have a chance to return to the old tradition,” he said.
However some Albanians expressed bemusement on social networks about the decision.
One social media user said the decision was odd, arguing that a wedding is a sacred occasion.
“There should not be a more cheerful moment for the church… It has to be always ready to serve people and not to impose limitations,” he wrote on Facebook.
Another called the decision a mistake.
“Sunday is a beautiful day to celebrate love in church, it shouldn’t be changed,” social media user wrote.
Others mentioned the fact that the Vatican never has stopped people marrying in church on Sundays and expressed concerns that the change could make couples decide not to hold their weddings in church.
However, not everybody was against the decision.
Klevis Paloka, a Catholic, told BIRN that it was correct because Sunday Mass is the most important event for a believer.
“The wedding can be organised on another day. In the Bible it does not say that it has to be on Sunday, but it says that that is a day to be dedicated only to God,” Paloka said.
The Shkodra area is considered the most important centre for Albanian Catholics, and they make up around of 47 per cent of the local population, while Muslims make up 45 per cent.
The Shkoder-Pult archbishop is one of two in Albania, alongside the archbishop of Tirana-Durres, while in the rest of the county, the Catholic Church is organised into dioceses.