Bishop Zef Simoni wrote several books, including Lights in the Darkness, whilst imprisoned by the Communist authorities in Albania.
- Author Bishop Zef Simoni
- Pub Date 01/01/2019
Bishop Zef Simoni was born on 1 December 1928 Bishop Zef Simoni in Shkodër (also known as Shkodra, or Scutari), the principal city of northern Albania and the main centre of the country’s minority Catholic population. He grew up and was educated in the city. In 1946 he was in the seventh grade at the Franciscan high school when the school was closed by the communist authorities which had recently come to power throughout the country, and several of his teachers were summarily tried and executed. He was able to complete his higher studies in pedagogy in the capital city, Tirana, and afterwards he returned to Shkodër to become a teacher himself. The communist regime focused particularly on schools and the educational curriculum in order to wage its war against religious belief, so by his choice of career he had already taken a place in the front line of the resistance. By 1959 teachers had been banned from attending Church, but by then he had already discerned his vocation to the priesthood and was secretly following a course of preparatory studies in the Archbishop’s residence in Shkodër. He was ordained clandestinely on 9 February1961. From that time until the eventual collapse of communism in 1991 there would be only one further priestly ordination in the whole of the country. Fr Simoni remained in Shkodër and continued to work closely with Archbishop Ernest Çoba who had ordained him. The period from 1967 to 1977 marked an intensification of the persecution against the Church and many priests were arrested, summarily tried and executed or imprisoned. On 3 April 1976 Archbishop Çoba was arrested together with Fr Simoni and two other priests. A year later they were all sentenced to long prison sentences. Fr Simoni wrote several books, including Lights in the Darkness, while in prison. Due to a gradual relaxation of the persecution he was released from labour camp several years early in 1987. With the fall of communism in 1991 he was nominated Parish Priest of the Cathedral Parish in Shkodër, and the following year he was appointed Vicar General of the Archdiocese. On 25 April 1993 he was ordained by Pope Saint John Paul II in Shkodër Cathedral as its Auxiliary Bishop, and he spent the next ten years in very active ministry in the city and surrounding villages. He died on 21 February 2009.