The Four Albanian Popes

Pope Saint Eleutherius  (175-189)
Pope Saint Caius  (283-296)
Pope John IV  (640-642)
Pope Clement XI  (1700-1721)

In the official newspaper of the Vatican in Rome, L’Osservatore Romano*, Giovanni Armillotta published an article titled “Pope Clement XI and the Albani Family” in which he stated that the prominent Albani family in Italy was founded by two Albanian brothers, George and Filip of Michele dei Lazi, who fought the Turks alongside the 15th century Albanian folkhero, Gjergj Kastrioti, known in Europe as Scanderbeg (1405-1468).  As a military leader of outstanding capabilities, Scanderbeg united hitherto warring Albanian clans into a common army to battle the invading Turks thus preventing the Ottoman Empire from extending into Europe.

The Albani brothers took the name “Albanesi” that George’s son, Altobello (1454-1564) had changed to “Albani”. In addition to Pope Clement XI  (1700-1721), Armilotta  states that the Albani family produced other illustrious personages who became cardinals, diplomats, and important statesmen including Giovanni Girolamo (1509-91) cardinal, Orazio (1576-1653) statesman, Anibale (1682-1751) cardinal, Alessandro (1692-1779) cardinal,  and Guiseppe (1750-1834)  cardinal.

Armallota concludes his article in L’Osservatore Romano by stating that “even before Clement XI (1700-1721), we find there were three other Pontiffs of Albanian origin: Saint Eleutherius (175-189), Saint Caius (283-296), and Pope John IV (640-742)”.

Pope Saint Eleutherius  (175-189)**
Eleutherius spread the Bible to many countries of the Roman Empire. While the legend that an English king Lucius sought baptism from Eleutherius may be fiction, the pope sent a mission to the British which was then a Roman province.  He is believed to be the first Albanian pope.

Pope Saint Caius  (283-296)
Caius decreed that before a man would be bishop, he must first be porter, reader, exorcist, acolyte, sub-deacon, deacon, and priest. He divided the districts of Rome among the deacons. It was during the pontificate of Caius that Diocletian ascended the imperial throne.

Pope John IV  (640-642)
John IV did not forget his native land which was being harried by Serbs. He sent funds to Dalmatia to help redeem the poor natives who had been carried off by barbarians. He also secured relics from the its troubled churches  and built a church in Rome to house them.

Pope Clement XI  (1700-1721)
Born in Urbano, Italy, of the Albani family whose forebears fought for the Turks for 25 years alongside the 15th century folkhero of the Albanians, Scanderbeg thus preventing the Ottoman Turks from overunning Europe. Clement XI also fostered foreign missions but was unsuccessful in converting  Czar Peter the Great.

* L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO  Year CXL -N 139 (42.777), Vatican City,  Wednesday, June 20, 2001
**  See Frosina infobit:  Saint Eleutherius: the First Albanian Pope.

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