Abbot Defends Kosovo's Christian Patrimony

Decries Destruction of Churches and Monasteries

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ROME, NOV. 20, 2009 ( The artistic, religious and cultural patrimony of Christianity in Kosovo should be on an endangered list, according to a Serbian Orthodox abbot who is calling on Europe to do more to protect the heritage.

Bishop Teodosije Sibalic, abbot of the monastery of Visoki Decani, spoke out about the destruction of churches and monasteries in a statement for a press conference Tuesday in the Italian Chamber of Deputies.

The meeting was organized by the Save the Monasteries association, an Italian group of experts trying to safeguard and promote historical and religious sites, with a specific regard to the Christian heritage in areas of crisis.

The bishop himself was not able to attend the meeting because of the funeral services of His Beatitude Pavle, the Serbian Orthodox patriarch of Belgrade who died Sunday at 95.

But in his statement, Bishop Sibalic said that the end of the civil war and NATO’s peacekeepers have been unable to bring «true peace and liberty for the Orthodox Christian community.»

Despite Kosovo’s Muslim majority, the bishop said that the great number of Orthodox churches and monasteries in the region make it an important spot for the Serbian Orthodox Church.

«It isn’t exaggerated to state that for us, Kosovo represents a second Holy Land, a sort of ‘Serbian Jerusalem,'» Bishop Sibalic stated.

He lamented that since the end of the war, some 150 churches and monasteries have been damaged.

«Geographically, Kosovo is part of Europe, but it is difficult to imagine a European future for this region if violations of the religious, civil and human rights of the Orthodox Christian community and the destruction of Medieval monuments — symbols of our spirituality and culture — continue,» the abbot contended.
Prolonging hatred

The bishop acknowledged that «the Albanians suffered much during the war,» but he said that vengeance on the Orthodox now «will prolong hatred and rancor.»

And he said, «the appeals of Albanian leaders and intellectuals continue to be disregarded.»
«The European countries must insist more forcefully so that respect for law and order and compliance with democratic standards are the main criteria for their political support,» the bishop encouraged. He proposed that international aid should be conditioned on the «return of those who have been expelled, the restoration of homes, and the protection of places of worship.»
«The only way to achieve the region’s political stability,» he affirmed, «is to obtain an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina based on respect of the international conventions and on the right of citizens to civil, human and religious liberties.»

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