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Diocesan Communique - On the most recent media attack on the Serbian Orthodox Church’s holy sites in Kosovo and Metohija

13. September 2020 - 11:53

Press Release from the Diocese of Raška-Prizren

On the most recent media attack on the Serbian Orthodox Church’s holy sites in Kosovo and Metohija

In today’s issue of Koha (Time), one of the most respected and widely distributed daily newspapers in Kosovo, and which, at one time, sought to further the building of a democratic society and developing tolerance among Kosovo’s various communities, once again published an article which openly and unabashedly spreads ethnic and religious hatred against the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija and against our spiritual and cultural heritage.

https://kossev.info/koha-prisvajanje-srednjovekovnih-arberijskih-spomenika-na-kosovu-od-strane-srba/ 

(https://www.koha.net/kulture/237073/pervetesimi-nga-serbet-i-monumenteve-mesjetare-arberore-ne-kosove/)

Bedri Muhadri, a history professor, wrote the openly propagandistic article, and without any evidence or rational argumentation makes the claim that the Serbian Orthodox Church’s (SOC) holy sites in Kosovo are in fact Arbëresh (medieval

Albanian), and that they are in fact usurped Roman Catholic churches, a claim which is not supported by any independent, recognized international historical authority. The message is clear. The SOC is to depart from Kosovo and Metohija together with its monks and faithful, so as to “liberate” its centuries-old holy sites, which are to become Albanian monuments. As an addition to the ethnic cleansing of 200,000 Serbs and non-Albanians from Kosovo in and after 1999, we are now witnessing an increasingly active denial and “cleansing” of Serbian cultural identity and our Church, all under the watch of the international community, with the purpose of erasing every trace that Serbs ever existed in a region where they have clearly been for centuries.

Prof. Muhadri’s pseudo-historical claim is nothing new, and has been repeatedly promoted in the last several decades by several Kosovo Albanian writers who view the SOC’s holy sites as the biggest obstacle to realizing their idea of an ethnically pure Albanian Kosovo. And yet, neither Prof. Muhadri nor any other like-minded historian offers any explanation for why Albanian extremists ruthlessly destroyed the same churches and monasteries which they now lay claim to themselves, why they would break crosses, dig up Christian graves, desecrate crucifixes and icons, if they are really so proud of their supposed Christian tradition. Such atrocities did not take place during the tragic civil wars of the 1990s following the breakup of Yugoslavia, when, unfortunately, places of worship of all faiths were destroyed. Rather, in Kosovo, these acts of desecration took place after the end of the war, in 1999 and in the years following, in the presence of international NATO forces, who are thus witnesses to such unprecedented acts vandalism and destruction. It is precisely because of such acts of violence at the hands of Kosovo extremists and a certain number of politicians who came out of their ranks that an entire annex of Martti Ahtisaari’s 2008 plan for Kosovo is dedicated to the protection of Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries in Kosovo, which are unanimously recognized by the international community as being the SOC’s heritage. Even though some of the principles of the Ahtisaari Plan are included in Kosovo law, they are generally not respected, and are especially threatened by hate speech in the media, which is regularly published in several Kosovo media outlets, authored by several local historians.

Kosovo’s lack of adherence to its own laws and court decisions was recently one of the main topics at the meeting between the Belgrade and Priština’s leaders and the American President, where all signatories bound themselves to respecting religious freedom and the rights of the SOC. Unfortunately, with articles like the one just published in Koha, we are forced to conclude that Prof. Muhadri, along with the other sponsors of this cultural genocide, are not supporters or allies of the European Union or of the United States, as Prof. Muhadri and his cohort openly advocate for the erasing of the Serbian Orthodox identity of the centuries-old churches and monasteries here, while the E.U. and U.S. both have strong traditions of religious freedom and respect for cultural diversity. This program of erasing the Serbian identity of Kosovo’s churches and monasteries by claiming they are Albanian Catholic is all particularly unseemly given that it runs in direct conflict with the Vatican’s own clear and unequivocal stance on the matter. Last year, in response to a letter from the SOC Patriarchate in Belgrade decrying the misuse of the remains of an Orthodox Church in Novo Brdo on the part of local Albanian Catholics, the Papal Nuncio responsible for Kosovo, Archbishop Jean-Marie Speich, conveyed Pope Francis’s unambiguous stance that Kosovo’s Roman Catholics are not to participate in such politicized acts which endanger inter-Christian relations in Europe as well as inter-ethnic peace in Kosovo.

Unfortunately, Prof. Muhadri is but one of many of the loud voices propagating this idea for years in all spheres of Kosovo society, teaching it to younger generations, attempting to present historical falsifications as facts, despite the fact that every one of our frescoes, icons, manuscripts, together with numerous documents, testimonies of foreign travelers and historians, Turkish fermans, and other historical documents all unequivocally and unambiguously state that these holy sites were built by the Serbian Orthodox rulers of the Nemanjić dynasty, and that these have been Orthodox houses of worship in continuous use for centuries. The historical see of the SOC is even located in the Peć Patriarchate, where the graves of our archbishops and patriarchs from centuries ago can be seen even today. It is simply ridiculous to enter into a discussion on this issue, just as it is ridiculous to have to prove today that the earth is round.

Therefore, our Diocese along with the entire Serbian Orthodox Church remains firmly committed to its position that our holy sites in Kosovo and Metohija must not only be physically protected from violence and potential terrorist attacks, but also from aggressive institutional pressures and lawlessness on the part of Kosovo institutions, and especially from the hate speech which is spread via certain Kosovo media outlets. On account of these present realities, we will repeat once again that the issue of protecting our holy sites must absolutely be included in the context of the Brussels Dialogue, irregardless of where the conversation leads in terms of a political resolution. The SOC’s holy sites must be granted a special type of protection from these and other malevolent attacks, which endanger the safety, basic religious freedom, rights, and identity of both our Church and people in this region where we have lived for centuries.

Our holy sites are absolutely Serbian Orthodox and it will remain such as long as the last monastic is alive, as long as our priests and faithful are here. History cannot simply be erased with political directives, since we do not live in Enver Hoxha’s communist Albania, but in the 21st century. We have always taken the stance that our churches and monasteries should be places which are open to all people of good will, no matter their religion or ethnicity, that they should be places of reconciliation. Such was the case with Visoki Dečani Monastery, which during the war in 1999 offered protection to 200 Albanian refugees, while also protecting numerous persecuted Serbs, Roma, and Gorani. We would also truly wish that Kosovo Albanians recall the illustrious example of their forefathers, the honorable Albanian tribal leaders who protected Dečani Monastery and the Peć Patriarchate from those who would do the monastics violence, often without concern for their own lives. We would hope that Kosovo Albanians would not take as examples the so-called “heroes” of the last twenty years, who threw grenades at Dečani Monastery, who wrote Islamist graffiti on its walls and in various ways threatened the monks. Our Diocese has continuously worked for the building up of peace and dialogue, and in the same spirit we would especially now like to address young Kosovo Albanians with the message that the future must be built upon tolerance and knowing and respecting those who are different.

In any case, disgracefully scandalous articles such as the one in Koha contribute nothing to the creation of a democratic society with equal rights for all, and moreover, demonstrate the need for further long-term protection for SOC holy sites, regardless of the flow and outcome of the political dialogue. As to whose agenda Prof. Muhadri and Koha are serving, and whom they wish to harm; any intelligent and good-intentioned reader can discern for themselves. As the Ancient Romans would say, Sapienti sat (A word to the wise is enough).

 

Diocese of Raška-Prizren
Serbian Orthodox Church
12 September 2020
Gračanica Monastery

 

Bishop Teodosije turned back from Jarinje administrative pass to Kosovo: Unpleasant behavior by the chief of customs who used no protective mask

13. August 2020 - 23:19

Bishop Teodosije turned back from Jarinje administrative pass to Kosovo: Unpleasant behavior by the chief of customs and no protective measures

The Bishop of Raska and Prizren Teodosije was turned back at the Kosovo side of the Jarinje crossing while traveling from Raska towards Gracanica. The Bishop was traveling alone and he was not allowed to cross because he was transporting two buckets of honey as a gift for the Gracanica monastery. Bishop Teodosije said that this was the first time in twenty years he was turned back at the crossing and the first time he was subjected to unpleasant behavior of customs officers. He also said that the person who identified himself as the customs supervisor communicated with him without respecting pandemic safety measures – with no mask or physical distance.
 
The Bishop himself confirmed the information for the KoSSev portal. He is currently staying in North Mitrovica, after returning to Raska where he left the gift, after which he passed the crossing.
 
He was searched both times. According to the Bishop, he was subjected to unpleasant behavior by the customs chief on duty at the Jarinje crossing tonight.
 
„This was the first time in 20 years that someone has turned me back at the crossing. I did not expect that. I was alone in the car. I was traveling from central Serbia to the Gracanica monastery, and I was bringing two buckets in the car as a gift for the sisterhood,“ Bishop Teodosije told KoSSev tonight.
 
He added that the situation was very unpleasant when they pulled him over and started searching the car, at the indignation of the travelers who happened to be at the crossing at the time.
 
The Bishop said that the situation turned even more unpleasant when they told him to stand aside and wait for, as he was told, the shift supervisor to arrive.
 
„The shift supervisor told me I had to go back even though the value of the goods in my car did not exceed €150, even without the possibility of paying taxes. I replied – ‘Sir, you are turning me back, but why are you talking to me at a distance of half a meter without a mask and while jeopardizing my health?“ The name of the arrogant officer was Mehmet Kela.
 
After the Bishop pointed out they weren’t respecting the measures (no mask etc), the customs officer – whom, the Bishop was told was the shift supervisor – just waved his hand.
 
The Bishop argued that, at his warning, the customs officer the Bishop was told is the shift supervisor just waved his hand.
 
„Apart from the fact that they did not respect the preventive measures, it was especially unpleasant and disappointing that I felt a certain dose of animosity towards me in their behavior tonight.“
 
On the other hand, the Bishop pointed out that other Kosovo police officer who were present (some of them Serbs) behaved very correctly toward him, adding that they just „shrugged their shoulders.“
 
He stressed that a similar situation happened 20 days ago to another priest of the Raska-Prizren Diocese, who was also prevented from transporting a small package intended for the church from central Serbia to Kosovo.
 
Bishop Teodosije said that he will be getting in touch with the OSCE Ambassador, Jan Braathu, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo, Goran Rakic regarding the matter.
 
In the meantime, KoSSev asked the Kosovo Police for a comment on the allegations of Bishop Teodosije.
 

COMMUNIQUE: Renewed Continuation of Illegal Construction work on Decani-Plav Highway within Visoki Dečani Monastery's Special Protective Zone

13. August 2020 - 19:01

Renewed Continuation of Illegal Construction work on Decani-Plav Highway within Visoki Dečani Monastery's Special Protective Zone

Despite Kosovo’s Law on Special Protective Zones explicitly forbidding building highways and transit roads through Special Protective Zones, the unambiguous stance of the Law’s Implementation Council, and the position of international representatives in Kosovo that the construction of a Dečani-Plav highway through the Monastery’s Protective Zone constitutes an illegal act, the local Kosovar authorities in Dečani, together with the support of the authorities in Priština, have once again begun intensive construction work on the road WITHIN the Monastery’s Protective Zone.

 
 
So far, there have been many attempts to destroy the Protective Zone’s integrity with various illegal activities, but now, intensive construction work has been shamelessly undertaken without any attempt at hiding what is going on, with the purpose of building the illegal road and thus endangering Visoki Dečani Monastery in a lasting, long-term way. At present, heavy machinery (excavators, backhoe loaders, and road compactors) are operating within the Monastery’s Protective Zone, the previously existing retaining wall has been removed, and the road is being significantly widened. Freight trucks belonging to a construction firm named Lika are presently bringing in coarse gravel, which excavators then distribute over the road, and road compactors then flatten down. The road is being widened by several meters from its previous width, thus becoming essentially a category one highway. Wide drainage pipes have been installed in multiple places. Due to the shaking of the ground caused by the large number of heavy construction vehicles passing by each day, damage to the 14th century church itself and monastery buildings is already possible. Neither the Commission for Protective Zones, nor international representatives, nor Visoki Dečani Monastery itself were informed of the resumption of construction work on the road. 
 
The Diocese of Raška-Prizren and Visoki Dečani Monastery, in whose protective zone this international highway is being built, condemn this flagrant and audacious violation of the law, which damages one of the most important UNESCO sites in this region of the Balkans. This sort of behavior on the part of Kosovo institutions clearly shows not only the lack of readiness on the part of Priština institutions to protect this important monastery and world heritage cultural site, but also represents a flagrant violation of existing Kosovo laws which harms the Monastery’s  already endangered natural surroundings, which will have incalculable consequences. 
 
 
This is not the only instance of laws and court decisions of Kosovo being violated to the Monastery’s detriment, since, for four years now, the municipal authorities have refused to implement the Constitutional Court in Priština’s decision which confirmed the Monastery’s property rights. Such blatant hostile behavior and the destruction of the Monastery’s natural surroundings on the part of Kosovo institutions is a sure indicator of the extreme danger in which Serbian religious and cultural heritage in this region finds itself. The Diocese and the Monastery would both like to point out that the position of international institutions and the Implementation Council for Special Protective Zones is that the already-begun bypass road which avoids passing through the protective zone should be completed, such that the damage to the Monastery currently taking place would be prevented.
 
The Diocese of Raška-Prizren will again contact all relevant international representatives in Priština and abroad with the request that work on the road be immediately ceased, and that the damage already inflicted would be repaired by returning the road to its original width and that the Monastery would be protected from any further aggressive behavior on the part of Kosovo authorities.
 
DIOCESE OF RAŠKA-PRIZREN
13 August 2020
 
(The latest situation on the site, with photos and videos recorded today, 13 August, after visiting the Special Protective Zone of Dečani Monastery)
 

 
 
 
 

 

Response of our Diocese to inaccurate reports put out by several Kosovo media outlets concerning the ringing of church bells during Coronavirus pandemic

14. April 2020 - 15:40

Response from the Diocese of Raška-Prizren to inaccurate reports put out by several Kosovo media outlets concerning the ringing of church bells

13 April 2020

We are truly greatly surprised and disappointed by an article which appeared today in several Kosovo media outlets under the title, “Serbian Church in Priština combats COVID-19 with unproven Russian methods.” The article mentions that residents of the neighborhood surrounding the church are allegedly “disturbed by the noise” created by the bells. This content was posted by various Kosovo media outlets including state-owned RTK, as well as other outlets such as Telegrafi, Bota Sot, Kosovarja, etc. The article includes a statement from a Agim Musliu, a reported “security expert,” who says that all this is actually a “primitive and provocative Russian method.” Musliu continues on to speak of “disinformation coming out of Russia,” claims that “individuals from the Serbian intelligence service are active in all the churches [in Kosovo],” and concludes that “wherever the Serbian intelligence service is active, we can be sure their Russian counterpart is as well,” and that, according to Musliu, this is why all this is a campaign to create chaos orchestrated by Moscow.”

During this tragic period of the Coronavirus pandemic, we in the Diocese of Raška-Prizren of the Serbian Orthodox Church regard this article with great concern and disappointment, as it goes far beyond the bounds of responsible, professional journalism and instead represents an example of the intentional, contrived targeting of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija, which has existed on this territory for centuries. First of all, it must be pointed out that the practice of ringing bells in churches did not begin in Russia, but rather in Italy, in Campania in the 5th century, and that Christians, be they Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant, throughout the world for centuries have rung bells not only to announce the beginning of church services, but also in periods of catastrophe, pestilence, and great suffering. For example, during the current global pandemic, all churches in Amsterdam have been ringing their bells as a sign of solidarity.

The reason for all this is, of course, first and foremost to remind people to pray, to encourage solidarity, to stop one’s regular activities for at least a moment and remember God, regardless of one’s particular faith or religious confession. We attach below a short list of Western websites which show quite clearly that the current practice of ringing church bells during the pandemic has been introduced in Western Christian countries, especially Roman Catholic ones. This is something being done in America, Canada, France, Australia, the Philippines, and many other countries, not just in Orthodox areas. Moreover, the ringing of church bells is similar to the Muslim call to prayer which happens five times per day: they both have the primary purpose of calling the people to prayer, something which should not be controversial to anyone who believes in God and who respects others. By ringing our bells, we demonstrate the solidarity which our church feels for all the people of Kosovo, regardless of their faith or language, since we are all equally threatened by the current pandemic. As the bells are rung, we pray for all the sick, and not only those close to us, but whoever is sick and suffering the world over, and for those who selflessly are caring for the sick in hospitals, and we offer up our prayers that God would soon bring this epidemic to an end, and that life would return to normalcy.

The ringing of church bells, just like the call to prayer heard from minarets, is regulated by the laws of Kosovo in terms of decibel level, and any well-intentioned reader can discern for themselves that the sound impact of our bells is no more than that created by the call to prayer emanating from the dozens of mosques found in larger towns in Kosovo. Church bells are a part of European civilization, of the continent on which we all live, and it is quite unfortunate that from Kosovo we are hearing certain voices claiming this is disruptive. In any case, Bishop Teodosije has made the decision that St. Nicholas Church in Priština shall cease the frequent ringing of its bells, even though the parish priest, Fr. Saša Mitrović, affirms that no one from the neighborhood has complained to him about the bells, and that even some of the church’s neighbors have actively expressed their support for ringing the bells.

Our Diocese sincerely hopes that in this period of worldwide humanitarian crisis, there will be no more articles such as this one, nor commentaries from uninformed and obviously ill-willed “experts,” but rather that this latest period of suffering would bring us all to greater solidarity and unity, that we would all have more mutual understanding, that we would all be able to overcome our political and inter-ethnic differences. This is neither the time nor the place to busy ourselves with political or ethnic disagreements, when there are so many sick among us, especially the elderly. In time of crisis, we must always be together and united, and above all we must be good neighbors to one another and allow a spirit of tolerance to prevail, for we all live in a region where different faith communities have lived together for centuries, and this we must do in a spirit of peace and mutual respect.

Issued by the Office of the Diocese of Raška-Prizren

 

LINKS - How ringing bells is used during the Covid-19 pandemic in the Western Christian world:

 
Bells of hope: Churches ring out during Covid-19 crisis
 
Church bells ring to unite prayers against pandemic
 
Church Bells peal simultaneously vs Covid-19
 
Chicago church bells ring a call to prayer 5 times a day
 
Montreal church bells will ring to comfort people worried about Covid-19
 
French church bells ring in show of solidarity during Coronavirus pandemic
 
Catholic churches… and Park Ridge churches of various faiths ring for Covid 19 patients, helpers

Bishop Teodosije at the New Year Reception: To do all which is in our power that neighbor never turns against one’s own neighbor and brother

15. January 2020 - 16:18
Bishop Teodosije of Raška and Prizren served today 14 January (1st January according to the Julian Calendar) the Holy Liturgy at the small church of St. George (14th century). Fr. Sava the Abbot of Dečani Monastery, Fr. Michael the Abbot of the Holy Archangels as well as priests and professors of the Prizren Serbian Orthodox Seminary concelebrated the Liturgy. At the end of the servece the Bishop read the prayer of blessing on the occasion of the beginning of the New Year. 
 
 
At the traditional New Year reception which was organized in the Bishop's residence next to St. George's church in Prizren, Bishop Teodosije reminded his guests that regardless of different calendar traditions the celebration of Christmas and the New Year holidays presents us with an opportunity to strengthen our mutual respect and peace.
„We cannot glorify God if we don’t work on peace on earth and good will among peoples. That is the goal of all humankind, particularly here in Kosovo and Metohija where, 20 years after the armed conflict in which many innocent people suffered, which we remember and honor regardless of their ethnicity or religion, we must make efforts that a neighbour never turns against one’s own neighbor, and a brother against his brother“, said Archbishop Teodosije today in Prizren.
 
During his welcome note at the traditional Orthodox New Year’s reception in the Diocese’s seat, he emphasised the importance of respecting one another, various traditions in order for every one to live in peace and understanding.
„We cannot have outword peace unless we first have it in our hearts. This is the reason why there are so many misfortunes and wars and suffering in the world because instead of finding peace in our hearts, human beings see enemies in their neighbours“, said Teodosije. „Because wherever there is peace and love towards the neighbour we will make space for God to dwell among us,“ he added.
 
 
Beside the hosts from the Diocese of Raška and Prizren, the New Year reception was attended by representatives of the Muslim, Jewish and Protestant community in Kosovo, including the head imam of Prizren ef. Orhan Bislimaj and the president of the Jewish community Mr. Votem Demiri. There were also representatives of international diplomatic missions (Embassies and liaison offices), international organizations in Kosovo including KFOR, OSCE, EU Office, EULEX, UN representatives, the members of the Kosovo police unit for protection of holy sites, representatives of the civil society as well as Serb representatives who have particularly supported the work of our Church.
 
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Your Excellences,
 
I am taking this opportunity to express my distinct pleasure that we have gathered today at the seat of our Diocese of Raška and Prizren, one of the oldest institutions in this region, in order to celebrate the beginning of the New Year of the Lord 2020 (according to the Julian Calendar). Many of you celebrated these holidays two weeks ago and we celebrate them these days, everyone according to one’s own tradition. Respecting one another let us not forget that our God is teaching us to respect Him who has created us all to live in peace and understanding.
 
The angelic hymn “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Still resounds in hearts of us Christians who have recently celebrated the Nativity of Christ – Christmas. Indeed, we cannot glorify God if we don’t work on peace on earth and good will among peoples. That is the goal of all humankind, particularly here in Kosovo and Metohija where, 20 years after the armed conflict in which many innocent people suffered, which we remember and honor regardless of their ethnicity or religion, we must make efforts that neghbor never turns against one’s own neighbor, and brother against his brother. God gave us enough earth, sky, water and fields to live in peace respecting one another and thus showing respect to God, our common Creator.
 
In order to be able to live in peace we first must acquire that true peace in our hearts, the peace that comes only from God and his love and in this peace to be able to recognize all people around us as created by God to be our eternal brothers. That is why we cannot have outword peace unless we first have it in our hearts. This is the reason why there are so many misfortunes and wars and suffering in the world because instead of finding peace in our hearts, human beings see enemies in their neighbors, repeating the horrible crime of Cain against Abel.
 
That is why we pray for that true peace of God, to reign in us and the whole world and to witness it in every place and every occasion. Only then we would be able to say that we are true servatns of God, because wherever there is peace and love towards the neighbor we will make space for God to dwell among us.
 
At the beginning of the New Year 2020 we pray to God to grant us a year peaceful and blessed and that we resolve all disagreements through dialog and understanding of one another, not though conflicts; to do all which is in our power that the society in which we live here in Kosovo and Metohija would truly become home for all its residents regardless of our ethnicity or regligious tradition, so that everyone would be safe and could have better future, particularly the young people.
 
Happy and blessed New Year of the Lord. Peace and blessing be unto you from God.
 
Prizren 1/14 January 2020
 

Bishop Teodosije of Raška-Prizren - We are deeply appalled by the draconian verdict against Ivan Todosijević

5. December 2019 - 20:41

With regard to the verdict of the Basic Court in Pristina against Ivan Todosijevic, former Minister of Administration and Local Self-Government in the Kosovo Government, who was sentenced to two years of imprisonment for making a public statement on the 20th anniversary of NATO bombing in Zvecan in March 2019, Bishop of Raška-Prizren Teodosije made the following statement:
 
"We are deeply appalled by the draconian verdict of the Basic Court in Pristina against Ivan Todosijevic who was punished with two years of imprisonment sentence for his verbal statement. With all due respect for all war and post-war victims in Kosovo and Metohija, it is unacceptable for Serbs to be draconianly punished on one hand, while at the same time members the former KLA, who are suspected of numerous crimes against non-Albanians but also their own compatiots, not only remain untouchable, but are treated as heroes, despite most severe expressions of ethnic and religious intolerance against the Serbian people. Not to mention blatantly racist statements against our people and harsh insults of Serbian religious feelings and dignity in certain Kosovo media. Double standards have no place in a legal society anywhere in the world including here. That is why our people see this verdict as one of the forms of pressure and intimidation.
 
The treatment of Ivan Todosijevic's statement as a verbal delict unfortunately brings us back to the darkest times of the communist dictatorship and opens the space for further ethnic discrimination. In this respect, we sincerely hope that this verdict will be quashed in appeal process.
 
Once again, in countless occassions, we appeal on everyone to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and work to build peace and good neighborly cooperation for the benefit of all citizens. "
 
Diocese of Raška-Prizren
December 5, 2019

With blessing of Bishop Teodosije Dečani monks brought aid to the suffering people of Albania after the earthquake

4. December 2019 - 19:43
Arrival to St. Vlash Monastery near Durres
 
Two Dečani monks, Fr. Andrej and Fr. Petar, with the blessings of Bp. Teodosije of Raška-Prizren and of Abbot Sava, visited their Orthodox brothers and sisters in Durrës and Tirana who have been in very difficult straits following the recent destructive earthquakes that have struck the region. That morning, they first visited the Theological Academy and Orphanage of St. Basil and Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery, both located near Durrës, where they were warmly received with much gratitude by Bishop Nikolla of Apollonia and Fier, and Abbess Rakela.
 
 
With Bishop Nikolla, abbess Rakela and Fr. Seraphim from Ardenica Monastery at St. Vlash
 
Our monks brought both monetary and food aid, since around 200 people, both Muslims and Christians, who live near the Monastery and the Academy in Durrës have been left homeless because of the earthquake. Our monks also conveyed the solidarity which Orthodox Christians in the Diocese of Raška-Prizren share with their suffering brethren in Albania. Additionally, two days after the destructive earthquake, His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia sent out a message of solidarity. Bishop Teodosije also sent a message of support, which is what was the impetus for our first humanitarian aid mission in Albania, and hopefully soon we will be able to send more help to the suffering people of Albania. (Message of Patriarch Irinej to Archbishop Anastasios http://www.spc.rs/eng/molitveno_saucheshtshe_albanskom_arhiepiskopu_narodu)
 
Fr. Andrej and Fr. Petar with children at the Orphanage at St. Vlash Monastery, Albania
 
Archdeacon Spiro Topanxha welcomed our monks in Tirana and showed them the city’s churches, as well as an Orthodox social services center with a play area for children, where children are cared for by Orthodox volunteers. Everyone expressed their thanks for our concern and prayers for their Church and people. Our monks were supposed to be received by Archbishop Anastasios as well, but he was occupied at the time as Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro had also personally brought humanitarian aid to the Albanian people from his diocese.
 
With Archdeacon Spiro Topanxha and Nathan Hoppe
 
According to a post on the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Albania’s official Facebook page, apart from messages of support from other Orthodox churches following the destructive 26 November earthquakes, they also have begun to receive material aid as well. Their post states that a load of food arrived at St. Basil’s in Durrës from Dečani Monastery in Kosovo, along with €2,000 to help those who are in need. The post continues on to say that aid had also arrived from Montenegro along with Metropolitan Amfilohije. Additionally, more material aid arrived from Kythros, Katerini, and Platamonas in Greece, which was collected by the faithful there and sent via the Greek Macedonian Center for Emergency Aid. More help is being gathered in other parts of Greece as well following a special appeal from Archbishop Anastasios of Albania on Greek television. From the FB page of the Archdiocese of Albania https://www.facebook.com/121840944657599/posts/1423589344482746/
 
News from Decani Monastery website: 
 
Fr. Andrej with the children at the Orphanage
 
 
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