October 1, 2012

Albanian Catholic leaders warned they would excommunicate anyone involved in the traditional gjakmarrja, or blood feud, after complaints of worsening violence.

“People kill without hesitation in this bloody, barbaric system of revenge, often justifying their actions from a centuries-old tradition,” Archbishop Angelo Massafra of Shkoder told a Sept. 18 news conference to present a pastoral letter against the blood feud.

“They attach more importance to human tradition than the law of God, and through their murderous behaviour trample on the Gospel of Life and Cross of Christ,” he said.

Massafra said church leaders were alarmed at priests’ reports of an upsurge in murders during 2012, as well as worsening “domestic violence, (use of) force in relations between people and acts of revenge.”

He said they decided to issue the excommunication decree after the killing of a 17-year-old girl.

“The Church’s doors will remain open to those who repent and help calm the hearts of people,” said Archbishop Massafra.

“But every person of the Catholic faith who kills for motives of vendetta will be excommunicated.”